The issues with back pain and mattresses
A Wall Street Journal article based on a time usage poll conducted by the US Labor Department in 2016 concluded that Americans are sleeping more and working less. Per the study, Americans were spending an average of 8 hours and 50 minutes in bed. This is over a third of our lives spent prone on a mattress that most just grab from a mattress store and don’t touch for a decade.
It is a common rule of thumb to not skimp on items that separate you from the ground. Namely shoes, tires, and mattresses. For those who find themselves suffering from back pain, this rule of thumb should ring especially true. Some people purchase secondhand mattresses from Craigslist and throw a mattress topper onto them. Others spend time researching reviews, only to purchase the review-inflated cheap memory foam blocks from Amazon. If you or your partner suffer from back pain and are skimping on your mattress, you’re only making the problem worse.
Taking the time to perform due diligence on finding the best mattress for back pain can do wonders to alleviate future issues. Luckily, we have done a lot of the research for you, and have narrowed down our findings to what we consider the three most effective options. Our hope is that once you have finished reading, you will be armed with the knowledge necessary to find the ideal mattress to alleviate your back issues.
Expert opinions on back pain and sleep
Sleep experts in the past have frequently advised that the firmer a mattress is, the better it will be in suppressing existing back pain. However, a recent Harvard Health survey revealed that those with back issues sleeping on firmer mattresses often had the poorest sleep quality. Additionally, there was little difference in sleep quality between those using firm mattresses, and those using medium-firm.
These sleep professionals also suggest testing several options to select the best choice to fit your individual needs. There was a time when this meant taking a trip to one of many mattress stores, and spending your day lying on dirty mattresses while a commission-driven salesperson talks your ear off. Additionally, what might be comfortable for five minutes in a mattress store may not result in a good night’s sleep at home.
The drive for online consumer satisfaction, however, has revolutionized the $7 billion per year mattress industry. Gone are the days of trips to the mattress store. Instead, shoppers can easily order a mattress online, have it shipped to them overnight, and if they are unsatisfied, return it in a set timeframe at no cost to them.
But how to best keep your head above water in a sea of mattress options? Continue reading for more information, deeper dives into several comparisons, and our suggestions for the best mattress for back pain.
Factors to take into consideration
When hunting for a mattress to alleviate back pain, there are three major factors that need to be considered. These are:
You want a mattress that is a combination of firm and soft. It needs to be firm to support the lumbar region if you sleep on your back or side. It also needs to be soft enough to contour to your body shape, regardless of your sleep position. Mattresses that are too firm push against the spine. Mattress that are too soft lack ample support for the sleeper. It is suggested to go with a mattress labeled as medium-firm.
Many mattresses consider themselves a combination of mattress styles. This can cause more harm than good, as innerspring coils can lead to restlessness and pain points when sleeping. The best option to avoid this is to go with a memory foam mattress. These provide motion isolation while maintaining proper firmness levels necessary to ensure proper back support.
Trial Period Offered
While this might seem like nothing more than a bonus, mattress selections are one of the major areas where a money-back guarantee is worth its weight in foam. The three mattresses we have categorized as the best for back pain have trial periods ranging from 100 days to 365 days. This means users have at least three months to test their mattress to see long-term effects on their spinal health.
Price to Quality
Of course, you can go out and purchase a $7,000 mattress that will meet almost all your comfort needs. However, if a $700 mattress gets you to 95 percent satisfaction, is the extra $6,300 worth it? At the same time, if a $1,200 mattress and a $1,000 mattress provide similar levels of comfort and sleep quality, what to do then? This is when taking all considerations into effect will greatly assist.
Deep research on your future mattress is important. Your new mattress is a product that will be in direct contact with your body for thousands of hours. When you suffer from extensive back pain, proper information can mean the difference between a comfortable break from pain issues and a disdainful all-night nightmare.
The Best Type of Mattress for Back Pain
Sleep comfort professionals agree; high-quality memory foam mattresses are the best bet for restful sleep in those suffering from back issues. Ergonomically, and regardless of sleep position, the cradling effects and high isolation of motion make memory foam the strongest choice. Memory foam does an incredible job of hugging the curvatures of the spine, while remaining firm to support the musculature of the back.
Maintaining alignment and natural curvature of the spine while asleep is crucial. Not doing so welcomes exacerbation of already existing symptoms. There are three curves in the spine, all providing vital life processes and all at risk for serious long-term injury:
- The cervical spine curve supports your head and skull
- The thoracic spine stiffens to provide support for the upper back
- The lumbar spine provides a solid foundation for the back muscles, and is usually the main pain point
Many newer mattresses go beyond the brick-style memory foam into a stacked combination of layers of varying densities. These types of mattresses will usually have a solid, high density memory foam base layer, and one to two layers of an advanced foam to provide softness and longevity.
In our research, there are three mattresses that fit the bill to a T. These products make for wonderful investments in comfort for those suffering from back pain. They are the Nectar, Casper, and Layla. Each has their own Swiss Army Knife of features. We are going to climb into each of these and tease out what is most important for buyers.
#1: Nectar Memory Foam Mattress
Nectar is one of the newest offerings in concierge-style online mattress companies. It’s a solid memory foam option for side sleepers, provides stellar heat dissipation, and has multiple layers for comfort and support to alleviate back pain. Nectar’s deep contours and pressure relief make it ideal for back pain sufferers. Additionally, it’s long trial period and warranty give users ample time to test the mattress before making a final decision.
Firmness is subjective, period. When taking into consideration people’s differing heights, weights, and sleeping styles, what may be wonderful for some can be uncomfortable to others. When we tested the Nectar with five individuals of varying body types. The results showed Nectar between medium and medium-firm. Think of it as a steak cooked between medium and medium-well. The noted sinkage in the Nectar is between 1.5 inches to 3.5 inches, dependent on user weight and sleeping style.
The Nectar memory foam mattress is comprised of a cover and four separate layers to provide the ultimate combination of comfort and support for users.
- A breathable tencel-cotton blend cover provides cooling and comfort.
- The top layer is a one-inch span of quilted gel memory foam, to assist with distribution of heat and pressure relief.
- The second layer is three inches of standard gel memory foam, providing a slower response and isolation of motion.
- The third layer is a highly adaptive memory foam core with pressure response like coil innerspring alternatives of yesteryear. This layer is transitional between the softer foam and the base.
- The fourth and bottom-most layer is a breathable polyurethane foam base, providing deeper support and compression and acting as a foundation for the mattress. This layer provides serious longevity for the Nectar.
Minus the cover, the Nectar mattress is a solid ten inches thick, and is developed to meet a plethora of user needs regarding body pain alleviation and comfort.
Nectar: Trial Period Offered and Warranties
Nectar has a 365-night trial period for mattress buyers. In this first year, users can test the mattress to their heart’s content. If they don’t like it, and their back pain persists, it can be returned with no hassles. 365 days is one of the longest trial periods of any mattress available for purchase online.
Additionally, Nectar offers a lifetime warranty for manufacturing defects and anomalies.
Final Thoughts on Nectar
Priced between $500 and $900 without active discounts, the Nectar memory foam mattress is an affordable option for those suffering from back pain. With its high-quality motion isolation, medium/medium-firm density and multi-layer structure, this mattress should have no problems exceeding buyer expectations. Yet, for stomach and back sleepers, the Nectar can be firm to the point of being slightly uncomfortable. What if there was an option that was a little softer for other sleep styles?..
#2: Casper Memory Foam Mattress
Casper was one of the pioneers of the “bed in a box” online mattress provider movement. Their classic mattress, which recently received a comfort-focused upgrade, caters well to spinal alignment of its users. This mattress is geared towards universal comfort with side, stomach, and back sleepers, and provides a stellar warranty and trial period to ensure the comfort of its buyers.
Unlike the medium to medium-firm of the Nectar, Casper is solidly in the Medium territory. Think of it as a steak cooked perfectly at medium. Several tests have been performed to arrive at that firmness level, and the results are generally unanimous. This firmness level is what makes Casper ideal for use in those who have varying sleeping positions.
Much like the Nectar reviewed above, the Casper mattress is comprised of a cover and four layers, providing an incredible combination of comfort and support. Casper’s mattress is wrapped in a thick but breathable polyester cover, with high quality stitching and a zipper for convenient removal. The mattress layers from top down are:
- A 1.5-inch top layer of a special comfort foam blend, an update to the latex foam in the older classic mattress.
- Another 1.5-inch second layer of high-density memory foam, acting to relieve pressure and isolate motion when restless.
- A third 1.5-inch layer of polyurethane foam works to transition between the comfort-oriented layers and the support-oriented base layer.
- A five-inch thick base layer of very high-density polyurethane foam to provide support, sturdiness and longevity.
This mattress is also ten inches thick, and is rated for all sleep styles.
Casper: Trial Period Offered and Warranties
Casper has a 100-night trial period for mattress buyers. In this first 100 days of use, owners can test the mattress as much as they’d like. If they don’t enjoy it, and their back pain continues, it can be returned with no hassles. 100 days is the standard for trial periods of online bed-in-a-box mattress providers.
Additionally, Casper offers a ten-year limited warranty for manufacturing defects and other issues.
Final Thoughts on Casper
Priced between $600 and $1,200 without applied discounts where available, the Casper memory foam mattress is a solid option for those suffering from back issues, but with partners who may not use the same sleeping style. It is a great compromise of firm and soft, with enough support to assist with spinal alignment during sleep. This mattress is the gold standard in online mattresses, and its upgrade to their classic mattress does not disappoint.
But what if you are looking for something that has more versatility? One potential pitfall of the Nectar and Casper is that they are legitimately one-sided. What if there was an option to help with back pain that could be flipped for different firmness levels?..
#3: Layla Memory Foam Mattress
The Layla mattress is the high-tech alternative to Casper and Nectar. With a memory foam layer infused with the cooling effects of copper, and one of the few multi-layered flippable mattresses on the market, the Layla provides both Medium-Soft and Firm options for its users. When using Medium-Soft, those experiencing back pain will appreciate the pressure relief and cradling offered by the Layla.
The Layla differs from the Casper and Nectar as it can be flipped for different firmness levels. The mattress is meant to be slept on the softer side, which measures out in testing as a solid mid-range Medium-Soft (think a medium-rare steak). However, the mattress can also be flipped for a far firmer option (think of a very well done steak). The support layers of this mattress are in the center, sandwiched between comfort-focused layers, as outlined below.
The Layla is also a ten-inch thick mattress with four layers of varying material and density. The mattress can be flipped by removing the zippered cooling ThermaGel cover, flipping the Layla over, and putting the cover back on. The layers include:
- The top layer (when the softer side is face up) is a three-inch, three-pound density copper-infused memory foam.
- The second layer is a two-inch thick transitional memory foam in an egg crate structure for enhanced airflow.
- The third layer is a five-inch thick polyurethane foam for support and longevity, like both the Casper and Nectar.
- The bottom layer (or top of flipped) is a firm one-inch thick copper-infused memory foam.
Layla: Trial Period Offered and Warranties
The Layla mattress has a 120-night trial period for mattress buyers. In the first four months of use, buyers can test this mattress to their heart’s content. If they are not satisfied, and their back pain persists, someone will come to your home and pick the mattress up for you. 120 days is slightly longer than the 100 days found with most online purchased memory foam mattresses.
Like the Nectar, the Layla also offers a lifetime warranty for manufacturer defects and other issues.
Final Thoughts on Layla
Priced modestly between $500 and $1,000 without any discounts applied, the Layla memory foam mattress is a wonderful option for those wanting some diversity, or looking to switch their firmness up on occasion. It is the best of both worlds, with options at each end of the firmness spectrum. Its additional cooling properties regardless of the mattress side is a bonus compared to the alternatives. Additionally, the return protocol with a return concierge to tow the mattress away is something unheard of with the Nectar or Casper.
However, there are few use cases where mattress flipping for multiple densities is a bonus. Intermittent back pain would be one of those use cases, where a user might want to tighten up their firmness when a pain flare up occurs.
Side by Side Comparison: Nectar, Casper, and Layla
|Firmness||Medium to medium-firm||Medium||Medium-soft/firm|
|Trial Period||365 days||100 days||120 days|
|Return Policy||Can return||Can return||Will pick up for free|
|Standard Price Range||$500-$900||$600-$1,200||$500-$1,000|