Is a Firm Mattress Better for Back Pain

Is a Firm Mattress Better for Back Pain?

For people experiencing back pain, or suffering from a back pain-inducing condition, it is difficult to find the best sleeping position, the best pillows, and of course, the best mattress.

People usually associate mattresses with something that is not that important when it comes to sleeping; sleeping positions and pillows seem more important. However, an improper mattress can contribute to lower back pain and other painful body areas. That is why it is important to invest in a good mattress.

But, what makes a mattress good? Back pain patients usually associate a firm mattress with quality. It is believed that a firm mattress provides the necessary support and comfort for the lower back especially. But, is a firm mattress really better for your back pain? Let’s find out!

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Firm Mattress

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Firm Mattress
Terry Cralle

A firm mattress is considered to be a hard mattress that has little or no indentation when you sit or lay on it. Good-quality form mattresses are usually made from memory foam and can vary in firmness.

Extra firm mattresses will have no indentation and medium-firm mattresses will show little indentation under body weight. For more info, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of utilizing a firm mattress;


  • Comfortable for every sleeping style, especially for back and stomach sleeping positions.
  • A firm mattress might enable a natural body alignment and position, allowing a better, deeper, and uninterrupted sleep.
  • A firm mattress resists body weight and prevents the body from sinking into the mattress, which makes it excellent for heavier people.
  • For those with back pain, it is believed that a firm mattress provides the necessary back support, especially in the lower lumbar region.
  • A firm mattress is great for isolating motion; so, if your partner tosses and turns during sleep, you’ll stay uninterrupted.


  • A firm mattress is not recommended for people suffering specific lower back conditions, especially those with scoliosis or arthritis.
  • Transferring to a firm mattress can be very uncomfortable for the majority of people.
  • Even though a firm mattress resists body weight, people with over 230 pounds may still create indentations in a firm mattress.
  • It can be hard to determine the firmness of a mattress, so you might be using the wrong mattress which perpetuates the back problems.

Is a Firm Mattress Better for Back Pain?

We’ve mentioned that a firm mattress can actually be good for neutral spinal alignment and back pain, but sure enough, it is not good for specific back problems. Let’s see where the problems with a firm mattress may arise;

  • More unnecessary pressure 

Even though a firm mattress may distribute the body weight evenly and supposedly create support for the back, it can also create unnecessary pressure for all pressure points in the body.

A firm mattress can create discomfort for the neck area, the shoulders and the pelvic area, which all directly affects the pain in the lower back.

So, to relieve the pressure, you will spend the night tossing, turning and trying to find a good sleeping position. This can directly cause sleeping problems, alongside other, back-related issues.

More unnecessary pressure  with a firm mattres
Image Source: Terry Cralle, RN, MS, CPHQ
  • Can be very uncomfortable

Back pain requires comfort; something that firm mattresses are not famous for. Even though a firm mattress may provide support (which is great for healthy individuals who do not have back problems), it may also be counter-effective for people with back pain and back problems.

If a mattress is truly firm, it will only support certain areas in the body. For other areas, it will create discomfort ad additional pain.

Therefore, there needs to be a balance between firmness and support for people suffering back pain.

  • Possible spinal misalignment

Sure, a firm mattress will enable a neutral spinal position, but an overly firm mattress will do the complete opposite. Such a mattress will only focus on providing support for certain pressure points, like shoulders and hips.

This may sound great, but consider the fact that there will be no support for the lower back, the spine, the neck, and the knees.

Short-term, this may not cause serious issues, but surely enough may cause long-term negative effects, like spinal misalignment (conditions like scoliosis), pain and overall daily discomfort in the lower back area.

So, which mattresses are better for back pain
Image Source: Terry Cralle, RN, MS, CPHQ

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So, which mattresses are better for back pain?

To get relief from the pain, and to help the back heal and become healthy again, it is important to choose one of the following types of mattresses;

  • Medium-firm mattress – there is still firmness to the mattress, but the density does not interfere with the spine, lower back, and other pressure points.
    Moreover, the mattress provides support where it’s needed, and comfort for other body parts. A medium-firm mattress is not too soft and not too firm, so when buying a mattress make sure to point out that you want a medium-firm density mattress.
  • Latex mattress – high-quality latex mattresses are known to be excellent for alleviating back pain. These mattresses also help with chronic back pain by conforming to the body’s natural curves.
    Latex mattresses are firm enough to provide the necessary support dor body’s pressure points while being soft enough to conform to the curves and contour of the body.
  • Gel memory foam mattress – this is relatively new material on the market, but it has been praised for its ability to create a great mattress.
    Gel memory foam mattresses are known to conform to the body perfectly and help reduce pressure from the body’s pressure points, especially the lower back and hips.
    Such mattresses also ensure proper spinal alignment and even though they show indentation, they still support the body and follow its natural curves and weight.

Recommendation: Need a mattress that can adjust firmness scale based on your needs? check Best Adjustable Air Mattress in 2021 (5 Out Of 7)

So, how to choose the best mattress for back pain?

If you blindly follow the mattress recommendations on the Internet, chances are you’ll be sleeping on a wrong mattress. This may play an essential role in causing more pain and trouble for your back.

Therefore, here are some tips and tricks you can use to choose the best mattress for your particular problem, with a little bit of our help;

  • Follow your personal preferences – if you choose a firm mattress because it feels comfortable and provides pain-free sleep, then go for it. It is important to choose a mattress that conforms to your particular body curvature and back problems.
  • Consult a medical professional about the mattress you should use – by making additional inquiries and by consulting a medical professional, you’re more likely to find the perfect mattress for your back pain.
    A medical professional will help you understand your back problems and what components a mattress should have to help your alleviate and resolve the back problems.
  • Ask for a mattress with back support – some mattresses are built with specific attention to back support. When buying a mattress, make sure to ask about the back support components of a mattress, its density, and the ability to conform to the spine curvature.

Read More: 8 Best Mattress for Back Pain in 2021 (And Why)

Other Factors to Consider

Alongside the firmness, there are some factors you should also pay attention to when purchasing a new mattress to fight back pain;

  • Consider your weight – a firm mattress may not be suitable for thinner people. It is believed that thinner people actually have a hard time adjusting to firm mattresses, and feel more pain in the body’s pressure points.
    So, if you experience back pain, but you’re a thinner person, consider purchasing a softer mattress. On the other hand, heavier people find it better to sleep on firmer mattresses, due to even weight distribution and easier conforming of the mattress to the weight.
  • Consider your gender – naturally, women have a more prominent waist curve, therefore, finding the right sleeping position, as well as the mattress, can be harder for them.
    The mattress needs to be soft and firm enough to support women’s natural curves as well as pressure points. Therefore, women are advised to look for softer mattresses.
    Men, on the other hand are advised to look for firm mattresses. The reason lies in the fact that men have an even weight distribution in the torso area and need firm support for their upper body.

Final Words

A bad mattress can and will cause more back pain, and generally more problems for the body. A firm mattress doesn’t necessarily have to be bad for you, but it is more likely to disrupt your sleep, cause more pain and mess up the neutral body’s curvature and posture.

Therefore, make sure to educate yourself on mattresses, see what fits your needs the best and, of course, consult with your doctor. This will help you find a perfect mattress that will serve you and your back for years to come.

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One Comment

  1. I disagree. The only mattress that gives me comfort from scoliosis related back pain is a firm mattress.

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