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Is Chronic Pain Keeping You Up? A Sleep Expert Recommends This Type of Mattress

Author:

Casey Clark

Medical reviewer:

Seema Bonney, MD

January 20, 2023

Contributor

By Casey Clark

Medical review by

Seema Bonney, MD

Emergency medicine physician

Dr. Seema Bonney is board certified in emergency medicine as well as anti-aging and regenerative medicine, and has been actively practicing medicine for over 21 years.

Image by mbg creative

January 20, 2023

Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.

After a long day, there’s no better feeling than climbing into bed for a deep, restful sleep. Unfortunately, especially for those with chronic pain, sleep can be a hassle if the right mattress isn’t used. Studies have shown a correlation between poor sleep and chronic pain1, and while the best mattress for chronic pain may not solve all your problems, it will certainly put you in a better position (literally) for a more comfortable and restorative sleep.

“Chronic pain is common and typically lasts for an extended period of time,” says Dr. Peter Polos, MD, PhD, FCCP, FAASM, sleep medicine specialist. “It can occur in any part of your body as a result of an illness or injury. In addition to disturbing sleep, chronic pain can interfere with other aspects of a person’s life, which in turn can make their pain worse.”

With that in mind, the best mattress for chronic pain varies based on the type of pain, sleep position, price point, and a few other considerations. To find the best mattresses for chronic pain, we spoke with sleep doctors and experts about what to look for and how you’ll want to go about finding a mattress whether you suffer from back, neck, hip pain, or sciatica.

The best mattresses for chronic pain:

What type of mattress is best for back pain?

As with all mattress purchase decisions, the best mattress for back pain is a very personal choice. Back pain varies depending on the person, cause, and location (upper, lower, etc.), but Polos says there are a few basic rules of thumb depending on the specific region. “If you’re specifically experiencing pain in your lower back, a bed that supports the small of your back–one that’s not too firm or too soft, can help,” he says. “The important thing to remember is that there is no one size fits all bed. The key is to determine which bed is best suited for you and your bed partner if you have one.”

Polos adds that any pain (chronic, back, hip, shoulder) should be evaluated by a physician. “In addition to the all-important role proper bedding plays in relieving pain, there may be a need for medical, surgical or physical therapy in the management of one’s pain,” he says. The right mattress can help promote better sleep, but you’ll still want to work with your doctor to get to the root of the problem.

How we picked:

Expert recommendation

We used input from our experts to help select our list of the best mattresses for chronic pain, paying close attention to firmness, support, and materials.

Reviews

We read through hundreds of positive and negative reviews to ensure each mattress lives up to the brand’s claims, especially those pertaining to chronic pain and back pain.

Firmness and support

When it comes to finding the best mattress for chronic pain, it’s important to have the appropriate firmness and support. We took the brand’s firmness rating into account, along with reviews from customers (knowing everyone’s preferences are different).

Mattress prices vary widely, so we included a variety of choices, including luxury mattresses and more affordable options.

Our picks of the best mattresses for chronic pain:

Best for side sleepers: Birch Natural Mattress

Pros:

Contours body for pressure reliefNon-toxic and made from eco-friendly materials

Cons:

Too firm for some folks

Materials: Organic cottonSteel coilsOrganic woolOrganic birch woolNatural Talalay latex

Sizes Available: TwinTwin XLFullQueenKingCalifornia King

Trial Period: 100 nights

Warranty: 25-year

One of the best hybrid mattresses for side sleepers, this pick offers great support for those with lower back pain, specifically. Those who sleep on their side need a supportive mattress that contours the body and keeps the spine aligned. The Talalay latex does just that, contouring to the body and aiding in pressure relief.

If you’re keen on having an eco-friendly mattress, you’ll be pleased with this brand’s use of organic, natural materials. It has various eco-friendly certifications including GREENGUARD Gold and GOTS, so you can sleep soundly knowing your mattress is free from harmful and hazardous chemicals. And, even though side sleepers may benefit most from this mattress, it’s slightly firmer than your standard hybrid, so still a solid option for stomach and back sleepers, too.

This mattress will arrive at your doorstep in a box and will only need about two hours to fully expand. Per the brand, you’ll want to unroll it and unwrap it within the first four weeks to ensure optimal quality and comfort when using.

Shoppers appreciate the natural materials, and the fact that this mattress does not give off any off-gassing smells. One writes, “It’s comfortable, supportive, and provides just the right firmness.” On the other hand, a few reviewers say they’ve woken up with even worse back pain than they started with so you’ll want to keep that in mind. Again, mattresses are very subjective, so this is where the trial period comes in handy.

Best organic: Awara Premier Natural Hybrid Mattress

Pros:

Minimal motion transferMade entirely from natural and organic materials

Cons:

Too firm for someDelivery does not include installation

Materials: Dunlop latexOrganic cottonNew Zealand wool

Sizes Available: TwinTwin XLFullQueenKingCalifornia King

Trial Period: 365 nights

Warranty: Lifetime

This natural latex mattress combines four inches of Dunlop latex with an organic cotton Euro top and individually wrapped coils, creating a comfortable and supportive surface. When looking for a mattress for chronic pain you’ll want one that promotes spinal alignment and is firm enough to provide optimal pressure relief for the shoulders, hips, and legs. This one does just that, thanks to its adaptive latex foam layer. We’ve included it in a number of our mattress round-ups, including best mattresses for neck and back pain and best mattress for couples.

With a medium firmness, this mattress is a great pick for all sleeping positions. Just keep in mind, there is only one firmness option available, and some people do find it too soft. The brand has a slew of eco-friendly certifications, such as Rainforest Alliance, The Standard 100 by OEKO-Tex, UL GREENGUARD Gold, Wools of New Zealand, and Forest Stewardship Council.

Like most on our list, this mattress arrives vacuum sealed in a box. Upon unwrapping, the mattress can take up to 72 hours to fully expand. The organic materials give peace of mind that there will be no unpleasant off-gassing smells.

With 4.5 stars overall and nearly 1,279 reviews, this mattress gets praise from all types of sleepers, including those with chronic pain. One writes, “I was expecting it to be very stiff and springy. It’s far from stiff. It gives the right amount of support for my back and side sleeping needs. And my wife can now sleep through the night for the first time in years.”

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Best for back pain: Saatva Classic Mattress

Pros:

Ideal for all sleep positions (back, side, and stomach)Sturdy edge supportGreat motion isolation

Cons:

Too firm for someMemory foam

Materials: Organic cottonCertiPUR-US Certified high-density memory foamSteel coilsTempered steelFoam rails

Sizes Available: TwinFullQueenKingSplit KingCalifornia KingSplit California King

Trial Period: 365 nights

Warranty: Lifetime

According to our experts, firm mattresses are a great choice for people with chronic back pain. This hybrid pick includes a three-inch Euro pillow top, high-density memory foam for a firmer feel, steel coils for pressure relief and to prevent unwanted sagging, and firm rails for edge support.

The brand’s patented Lumbar Zone(R) Technology has been awarded by the Congress of Chiropractic State Associations, and sleepers alike can attest to its pain- and pressure-relieving properties. Additionally, while synthetic foam mattresses are not the most eco-friendly, this one does have a few green perks, such as a flame-retardant barrier made from natural thistle pulp and a nontoxic botanical antimicrobial treatment. We’ve recommended this model as one of the best full size mattresses and the best luxury mattress for side sleepers. The mattress is available in three firmness levels: plush, luxury firm, and firm. Side sleepers will enjoy the plush model, while the firm model is a great option for back or stomach sleepers and even people with scoliosis.

Unlike other modern mattresses, this isn’t a bed-in-a-box. The brand provides white glove delivery and setup and even removal of your previous mattress (all included in the cost). According to the brand, if the mattress were to be stuffed in a box it would compromise its support and lifespan which is why it doesn’t arrive in that format.

The Saatva Classic Mattress has nearly 3,000 reviews and is rated 4.8 out of 5 stars. Reviewers say their back pain is “long gone” thanks to this comfortable mattress, and that it’s “tough to get out of bed in the morning.” One shopper says, “I have back issues and this was a perfect fit for me. I am in love with it! After the first night of sleeping,I woke up pain-free.”

A few negative reviews say the mattress is too firm, which goes to show how the feel is really subjective. Fortunately, you’ll have 365 nights to sleep on this mattress and decide if it’s right for you.

Best affordable: Tuft & Needle Original Mattress

Pros:

Can be used within 2 to 3 hours of unboxingGreat edge support

Cons:

Too firm for some

Materials: Adaptive foamSupport foam

Sizes Available: TwinTwin XLFullQueenKingCalifornia King

Trial Period: 100 nights

Warranty: 10-year limited

This breathable mattress is made from the brand’s signature adaptive foam technology, which has an open cell design that helps it contour to the body and provide support and comfort where needed. Hot sleepers will enjoy the cooling gel and heat-wicking graphite which helps regulate your temperature while you sleep.

While synthetic foam is never the most sustainable choice, the brand does have a bunch of eco-friendly certifications, such as GREENGUARD Gold Certified and Certi-PUR US Certified.

According to the brand, the mattress is designed to work with various frames and box springs, which makes assembly easier. The bed-in-a-box design is easy to transport and stow away until you’re ready to set it up. If you’re eager to sleep on it, the brand says you don’t have to wait longer than 2 to 3 hours upon opening.

With an overall rating of 4.6 out 5 stars from over 34,000 customers, this mattress gets a lot of praise from people with back pain. One five-star reviewer who has had the mattress for over a month writes, “My back was killing me for a while with my old bed. Ordered this bed and my back pain is gone. I’m on my feet for 10 to 12 hours a day, 4 to 5 days a week, with no sit downs or breaks. I feel very refreshed when I wake up even if I only get a few hours of sleep.” Others love how easy it is to unroll and that there’s no unpleasant smell upon opening, ideal for those sensitive to smell.

As expected with only one firmness level, some people do find this mattress to be too firm for their liking.

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Best for sciatica pain: Casper Wave Hybrid Mattress

Pros:

Great for pressure relief Cooling

Cons:

Too soft for someSynthetic materials

Materials: Natural latexBreathable polyurethane memory foamsMetal springs

Sizes Available: Twin XLFullQueenKingCalifornia King

Trial Period: 100 nights

Warranty: 10-year limited

Per our experts, the best mattress for chronic sciatica pain is one that is firm–especially in the lower back region. Featuring five layers of plush memory foam, this mattress conforms to the body and alleviates pressure. The first three layers are a breathable foam, followed by a layer of gel pods with zoned support to promote spinal alignment and minimize aches and pains. At the base layer, springs which add a bit of lift and give the mattress durability.

One major qualm is that this mattress is made with synthetic foams and contains no natural materials. Additionally, the packaging contains a lot of plastic.

This mattress arrives compressed and rolled up in a box. Don’t let the size fool you; the box is fairly heavy. Out of the box, a queen size weighs 111 pounds, so you’ll want an extra set of hands for setup. Once the plastic wrap is taken off and the mattress expands, you can sleep on this mattress right away.

Reviewers call this mattress “life changing,” “very supportive,” and the “best of the best.” One writes, “supremely comfortable and supportive, having the best sleep ever and waking up with absolutely no aches. What a wonderful mattress, like it’s custom made.”

It’s worth mentioning, there are a handful of negative reviews stating that this mattress is too soft for them.

Best for chronic hip pain: Purple New Day Mattress

Pros:

Pressure relievingTemperature regulating

Cons:

Off-gassing smell upon opening

Materials: GelFlex gridHigh density foamKnit cover

Sizes Available: FullQueenKing

Trial Period: 100 nights

Warranty: 10-year

Made in the United States, this pick is one of the best mattresses for chronic back and hip pain. The grid-like design contours to the hips and shoulders, making it a great mattress for pressure points, and for those with shoulder pain, too. It’s highly breathable and promotes a cool temperature throughout the entire body for a comfortable night’s sleep.

All that in mind, this mattress does not provide great motion control, and is not a very sustainable choice. If you’re looking for something more eco-friendly, check out our best organic mattresses.

Purple’s mattresses arrive in a bag instead of a box. Once taken out, you can unroll it and watch it expand in front of your eyes. According to the brand, there is no need for the mattress to air out and can be slept on directly after being unrolled. Just note, reviewers do mention an off-gassing smell, reporting that it goes away within a few days.

Many shoppers say this mattress is supportive, a great value for the price, and holds up well over time. One praises its construction and says it “doesn’t go flat, maintains height, shape and support.”

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How to choose the best mattress for chronic pain:

Mattress type:

When it comes to finding a mattress for chronic pain, there is never a one-size-fits-all solution. However, many people do find relief with a more firm mattress. In this case, you should direct your search toward hybrid mattresses which provide a combination of support and comfort. For a softer place to land at night, consider a memory foam option that contours the body to provide support and proper spinal alignment.

Budget:

While restorative sleep is priceless, you don’t need to break the bank in the process. That’s not to say you shouldn’t invest in a luxury mattress if that’s on your radar, but you’ll want to consider the different price points before purchasing as they range from the upper hundreds to a couple of thousand dollars depending on size and brand.

Trial Period:

It takes a few weeks to break in and test out a new mattress, so you’ll want to make sure you have enough time to get acquainted before you make your final decision. The trial period varies based on the brand. Make note of this when selecting the best mattress for you.

FAQ:

What is the best mattress for chronic back pain?

As mentioned, the best mattress for chronic back pain varies. Some people with back pain prefer a firmer mattress, whereas others find that causes more discomfort. At the end of the day, Polos says the important thing to remember is that there is no one-size-fits-all. It may take a bit of testing and learning to find a mattress that works for you, but that’s why most brands offer trials.

What is the best mattress for side sleepers with lower back pain?

Sleeping on your side can create pressure on your hips and shoulders, which our experts say can worsen your overall pain if you have sciatica.

“Getting a bed that contours to the curves of your body and comforts these pressure points can help to alleviate some of the pain,” says Polos. “For example, a memory foam mattress with sufficient firmness can help with the pressure points while aligning the spine, allowing for a more comfortable night’s rest.”

If a new mattress isn’t feasible, sleeping with a pillow in between your legs can help to promote spinal alignment while sleeping.

Is a firm mattress good for sciatica pain?

“The firmness of a mattress is subjective to each sleeper, but since sciatica typically affects the lower back, hips and legs, having a firm bed is important to relieve pain,” says Polos. “A firm bed will support the lumbar area of the sleeper, without shifting unwanted pressure to their hips and shoulders. It is best for people with sciatica to get a bed that provides cushioning around the sciatic nerve.”

The takeaway.

A good night’s sleep is the foundation of great health. Although you’ll want to determine the underlying cause of any chronic pain, having a supportive mattress can help offer relief and promote a more restful recovery. When shopping for the best mattress for chronic pain, be sure to consider firmness level, warranty, price, reviews, and expert input. To make your sleep environment even more inviting, check out these best pillows for neck pain.

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