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How to Choose the Best Mattress for Bad Backs?

If you are suffering from back pain, you will know how much of a nightmare it can be to get a good night’s sleep. This article will help you pick the best mattress for back pain that will aid in getting a great night’s sleep.

Choosing the best mattress for back pain?

Sleeping on the wrong type of mattress can worsen or cause back pain as lack of support does not help keep the spine in alignment, strains muscles and reinforces poor sleeping posture, all of which contribute to back pain.

Sleep comfort is also reduced if the type of mattress does not match the individual’s preferences. A mattress that provides both back support and comfort helps diminish back pain, allowing the spine to rest and rejuvenate throughout the night.

With the wide variety of mattresses on the market, choosing the best mattress for back pain can be challenging. Therefore, this practical guide is designed to help customers choose the best mattress for sleep comfort even with a bad back.

Points to take into consideration

Personal preference should determine what mattress is best

  • There is no particular mattress type that works for all people with back pain. Any mattress that can help a person sleep without stiffness and pain is the best mattress for that person. Customers with back pain should choose the mattress that satisfies their standards for support and comfort and allows them to get a great night’s sleep.

Understand and query the components of the mattress

  • The springs of a mattress provide support, and the fillings give support and comfort. Different mattresses vary in the number and arrangement of springs, whilst the fillings in a mattress come in many different GSM (grams per square meter). The rule of thumb is that the higher the spring count, the more support you will receive and the higher the GSM and quality of fillings, the greater the support and comfort. More importantly, than the number of springs, the GSM of fillings should determine the quality of the mattress and how much it will benefit customers with back pain.

Find a mattress with superior back support

  • A high-quality mattress will provide support for the alignment of the spine and the body’s natural curves. The correct amount of back support will also help avoid muscle soreness in the morning. While there is not much clinical data about mattresses, decades of customer data have found that choosing a firmness based on weight and sleeping position will provide more back pain relief than the go-to firm or orthopaedic mattresses.

Balancing between back support and comfort

  • Overall comfort while sleeping is equally as important as back support when it comes to finding the best mattress for back pain. Sleeping on a too soft or firm mattress can cause aches and pains on joints and pressure points. For example, a firm mattress may be more comfortable for an individual between 16-18 stones and sleeps on their back because it allows the shoulders and hips to sink in slightly. In contrast, a customer who wants a soft mattress for back support should be no more than 10 stones in weight and sleep on their back.

Know when it is time to get a new mattress

  • If an old mattress has visible sags and indents or is no longer comfortable, it is time to buy a new one. Putting plywood or pieces of cardboard under a sagging mattress is only a short-term fix, and a new mattress is still needed.

What is mattress feel?

The feel refers to the initial feeling you experience when lying on a mattress. Are you sinking into or lying right on top of it without any give? Are you experiencing plenty of pushback, or do you notice that the fibres are contouring around your body?

These are just a few questions you can ask to determine whether or not a mattress has a soft, medium soft or medium firm feel.

One thing to remember is that regardless of the spring tension you choose, the feel of the mattress will remain the same because the feel, whether soft, medium soft, medium or medium firm, will depend on what fibres are in the mattress.

In contrast, the spring tension (soft, medium, firm or extra firm) will be dictated by your body weight and sleeping position and is solely there for support and will have no bearing on how the mattress will feel.

An example of this will be, say, you select a firm spring tension, but the mattress you have chosen has a soft feel, when the mattress arrives, it will be a soft feel mattress, not an firm. This is because the spring tension was firm, not the feel of the mattress and the spring tension is determined based on your body weight and sleeping position. Whereas the fibres dictate the feel of the mattress.

We list precisely the feel of each mattress on every product page. This is so you don’t choose a firm spring tension but order a soft feel mattress and have a bad experience because you expected a firm mattress and ended up with a soft.

We also have a spring tension chart on every product page, so you choose the correct support for your body weight and sleeping position.

There is no specific best mattress for bad backs. Always choose a mattress based on your particular back problem and the best feel for that ailment and choose the spring tension that is best for your body weight and sleeping position. Below we list what feel is best for which back problem.

Sleep positions and mattresses for each back pain diagnosis

The following are sleep position recommendations for specific back conditions.


  • Sleeping in an elevated position is preferable for sleeping with sciatica. Particularly when the pain seems worse when standing up straight and feels better when bending forward, this is a sign that sleeping in a supportive elevated position may be beneficial.

Recommended Feel: Medium Soft, Medium or Medium Firm

Recommended Spring Tension: Choose using our Spring Tension table that can be found on every product page.


  • Sleeping on your side with the knees curled up opens up the facet joints in the spine and can reduce pressure. Alternatively, sleeping in an adjustable bed raises the head and knees and reduces pressure on the facet joints.

Recommended Feel: Medium Soft, Medium or Medium Firm

Recommended Spring Tension: Choose using our Spring Tension table that can be found on every product page.

Degenerative Disc Disease

  • Sleeping on the stomach can decrease pressure on the disc. People with Degenerative Disc Disease may feel most comfortable using a medium-firm mattress while putting a flat pillow under their stomach and hips. This can open up the disc space further and relieve tension on the lower back. Sleeping on the back is another option, with the upper body somewhat raised by using an adjustable bed or wedge pillow.

Recommended Feel: Medium or Medium Firm

Recommended Spring Tension: Choose using our Spring Tension table that can be found on every product page.

Spinal Stenosis

  • It may be best to sleep on the sides with the knees curled up in the foetal position with this condition. This helps alleviate stress on the nerve root. Sleeping in an adjustable bed that allows the head and knees to remain raised can also reduce stress on the nerve.

Recommended Feel: Soft, Medium Soft, Medium

Recommended Spring Tension: Choose using our Spring Tension table that can be found on every product page.


  • Inflammation of the bursa over the hips can be aggravated by pressure from a too firm mattress. A natural mattress with wool, alpaca or mohair fibres as the top layers can reduce pressure on the hip as they are thick and have good spring and give. Covering an older mattress with a natural fibre mattress topper will provide additional cushioning as a less pricey alternative.

Recommended Feel: Soft, Medium Soft, Medium

Recommended Spring Tension: Choose using our Spring Tension table that can be found on every product page.

Isthmic Spondylolisthesis

  • Pain from Isthmic Spondylolisthesis may be reduced by sleeping in an elevated position. This position can be tested by placing pillows under the head, neck, and back to support the body.

Recommended Feel: Medium Soft, Medium

Recommended Spring Tension: Choose using our Spring Tension table that can be found on every product page.

Herniated Lumbar Disc

  • The best sleep position depends in part on the position of the disc. For the most common paracentral disc herniation, individuals favour lying on the stomach. However, sleeping on the side in a fetal position often brings relief for a foraminal herniated disc.

Recommended Feel: Medium Soft, Medium

Recommended Spring Tension: Choose using our Spring Tension table that can be found on every product page.

What type is the best mattress for back pain?

In recent years, mattress choices have increased significantly, but pocket spring mattresses are still the best mattress for bad backs as they provide strong support from springs. The number of springs and the gauge of the springs generally determines the level of support. for example

1.2mm Gauge Spring

  • Soft support

1.4mm Gauge Spring

  • Medium support

1.6mm Gauge Spring

  • Firm support

1.8mm Gauge Spring

  • Extra firm support

Mattress springs and GSM of fillings are crucial. Typically, varying GSM levels of fillings are placed on top for comfort preferences. However, we recommend no less than 2000gsm of fillings in any mattress you are purchasing.

The two main elements that make up a mattress are the springs and the GSM of fillings. Both features deserve further discussion.


  • The inner part of the mattress provides support for the spine, and it is ideal for it to have enough springs to offer adequate support for the spine’s natural curves. However, this does not mean that buying the mattress with the highest number of springs is the best quality. Remember fibre is better than steel, so always look for the mattress with the more GSM of natural fibres than more springs. For example, at Winstons Beds, we do not put any more than 3000 springs into our mattresses because, after 3000 springs, there is no additional support offered no matter how high you go in spring count, and we must leave adequate space to get more GSM of fillings into the mattress.

GSM of Fillings

  • The primary function of the fillings is to provide comfort (More than springs, a higher GSM of fillings makes a mattress higher quality). A mattress with less than 2000GSM of fillings comfort will diminish quickly.

Key components of the best mattress for bad backs

The following components are the essential features of most high-quality luxury mattresses.

The Mattress Springs Provide Back Support

  • The wire in the springs comes in different gauges (thickness), where a lower gauge number denotes thinner wire and suited to individuals of lower weight. This does not mean that the highest number is the best mattress: customers must check that the mattress has at least 2000GSM of natural fillings (if a retailer cannot tell you the GSM walk away).

Mattress Fillings Provide Comfort

  • In addition to the springs in a mattress, the fillings inside are the most crucial quality indicator. The best mattress for back pain is made of natural materials such as wool, cotton, alpaca wool, silk, cashmere and horsetail. Natural mattress fillings are more expensive, but people find them more comfortable, supportive and worth the extra cost.

Mattress Ticking and Quilting

  • The outer layer consists of ticking, which at Winstons Beds is 100% chemical-free cotton. The mattress quilting joins the ticking to the springs. It is good to examine the mattress’s quality by looking for consistent, unbroken stitches. All of our luxury mattresses are hand-side stitched by the most esteemed craftspeople.

Tips on buying a high-quality mattress

When buying a new mattress, it is best only to purchase mattresses with a trial period of at least 30 nights as it will take the fillings and springs of a new mattress this amount of time to fully settle and the body to adapt to it.

It is only then that customers will know whether or not it is right for them or not. Buying a mattress based on 5 minutes of testing in a showroom will never give the true feel, and you are highly likely to end up with a mattress that is not suitable.

Individual mattress needs to consider

The following points can help people sort through their options to find a suitable match for their body type and specific situation:

  • A mattress needs to match a person’s weight and sleeping position. Individual weight and sleeping positions are factors that must be considered when purchasing a new mattress. A person above 18 stones is likely to benefit from a mattress offering extra support, such as a firm or extra firm spring tensions. Mattresses below £1000 wear out quickly for heavier individuals, but at Winstons Beds, we offer well-built and sturdier mattresses and frames. Lighter, thinner people require a supportive mattress but feel more comfortable on a soft or medium spring tensions.
  • Softer top layers are typically better for fibromyalgia. Sleep is often difficult for people with fibromyalgia, making a mattress purchase critical. Sensitive areas of the body, known as pressure points, will feel better if a softer top layer is selected, i.e. a mattress with wool, silk, cashmere, cotton or alpaca wool on the top layer.

Making a mattress purchase

A new mattress is a significant purchase, and it is essential to learn about trials, returns, guarantees, delivery costs, and any other costs associated with the purchase.

Know what the guarantee covers and if there are costs involved at any time if you make a claim. Remember, any mattress that costs above £1200 should guarantee at least 30 years. If it does not, then reconsider your purchase.

Trial Period

If you are buying a natural pocket spring mattress, only purchase a mattress that gives a minimum of a 100-night trial period. It takes around 30 nights for the mattress fillings and springs to settle and for the user to get the real feel. Also, if a mattress will sag or dip due to poor build quality, it will generally happen with 100-nights, and so any trial period less than 100-nights could leave you with a mattress that cannot be returned.


Check reviews for individual mattresses. A retailer on, Google or Yelp, may have excellent reviews. However, these may be for their lower end mattresses and have no relevance to the more expensive luxury mattresses as they do not state which mattress the review came in for. Always go with a mattress that shows the individual reviews.


From speaking to hundreds of sufferers of all different types of back pain, we have noticed that customers are being recommended mattresses far too firm or soft for their body weight and sleeping position. You can increase comfort and support by taking advice, eliminating motion transfer, and ensuring a comfortable yet supportive sleeping position, leading to a far better night’s sleep than slugging it out on the wrong type of mattress.

If you suffer from any back pain condition and struggle to sleep, why not speak to our mattress experts for advice on 0161 250 9200.

Frequently asked questions

Is a firm mattress good for your back?

Firm mattresses or extra firm mattresses are not necessarily better for a bad back.

The British Sleep Council has confirmed this by saying, “Any reference to beds being orthopaedic or similar medical-sounding terms – does not automatically mean that the bed has been professionally assessed or recommended – it is a term loosely used by manufacturers to refer to extra firm models in their range”.

This leads us to to the most crucial point you need to know when choosing the best mattress for bad backs; Choose the correct spring tension if you have a bad back!

All luxury mattresses should offer you superior support for your weight and sleeping position. Unfortunately, many people fail to pick the correct spring tension for their body weight and sleeping position due to retailers giving a firmness rating but no spring tension.

Remember, the firmness is the perceived tension or comfort of the mattress, whereas weight dictates the support. Therefore, the spring units will have a weight range which they have been created and constructed to accommodate.

Any high-end mattress retailer should be able to tell you precisely what weight range a particular spring tension is suited to. But, unfortunately, they probably won’t have an idea and will instead ask you to lie on the mattress, telling you that it’s ‘individual preference’.

An excellent example of spring tolerances is shown in our six luxury mattresses, which come in four different spring tensions. You will find a table that shows you the weight tolerances of these springs on each product page.

What is an orthopaedic mattress?

An orthopaedic mattress is any spring unit that uses a 1.94mm 12 gauge spring, but please note this will have the same feel but less support than an extra firm pocket spring unit. This is the firmest gauge wire you can use in a traditional mattress spring.

However, they are very firm, with little give and in our experience will only accommodate a fraction of the public. The problem with orthopaedic mattresses is that they are known as the best mattresses for back pain. Orthopaedic mattresses are usually far from suitable for people with bad backs.

Why are orthopaedic mattresses unsuitable for most people?

They are unsuitable because the springs will have zero function unless you weigh 18 stones or over. An orthopaedic spring will not compress or offer any give to any sleeper below 18 stones. It’s the equivalent of sleeping on a concrete surface for most. As a result, your back will conform to the mattress rather than the mattress conforming to your spine’s natural position. Therefore, we advise against orthopaedic mattresses if you have a bad back and are under 18 stones.

Is memory foam good for a bad back?

Memory foam has properties that can aggravate people who have back pain.

1. Memory foam keeps you in one position during the night.

2. Memory foam is slow to react, so it can be painful to turn with a bad back.

We suggest a memory foam mattress topper on top of a pocket sprung mattress is a better choice as this allows the mattress to be tailored to your body weight and sleeping position. It also assists the mattress to respond swiftly to your movements throughout the night.

Is a latex mattress good for a bad back?

Latex is a fantastic option for people with back problems. Latex mattresses have an incredible rebound rate and return to their original position immediately when you turn over.

Benefits of a latex mattress for people with back pain:

1. Fast to react if you need to turn

2. Minimal heat retention

3. Progressive comfort perfect for pressure points

4. Highly responsive compared

5. Breathable

What is a chiropractor’s advice on buying mattresses?

The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) has published advice on mattress buying, which is more fitting than the firm orthopaedic mattress guidance. It reflects our advice for many years that a mattress for any back problem should be comfortable and supportive for the sleeper.

The British Chiropractors Associations Mattress Buying advice:

1. Pick a mattress that offers you support based on your weight and sleeping position.

2. The spine should be in alignment when you’re lying on the mattress. The spine should not be sagging, which means your mattress is too soft or bowing, meaning the mattress is too firm.

3. Always shop with anyone you share the bed with, considering a zip and link if you are of significantly different weights.

Are zip and link beds for good bad backs?

Zip and link mattresses are an excellent choice for differently weighted sleepers who have bad backs. So if you and your sleeping partner require different spring tensions, then a zip and link mattress will accommodate this. This means that you don’t need to compromise when choosing a mattress for back pain, making for a far more comfortable nights sleep if you have backache or back pain.

Is matching body weight and sleeping position to a mattress is essential?

Body weight and sleeping position is essential to working out the support needed. First, you need to choose a mattress specifically suitable for you; by matching your weight, sleeping position and comfort preferences to a mattress.

Everyone has a preferred tension of their mattress; some like it firm, some softer. What’s crucial is that there is enough support for your weight, and the springs are not too firm that your bodyweight doesn’t even utilise them or so soft that the springs compress too quickly.

If we can tell you anything, it is to ignore the orthopaedic advice when it comes to bad backs because it may end up making your back pain worse.

What type of mattress is best for back pain?

You might wish to start your search with a natural mattress that utilises fillings such as wool, cotton, alpaca, mohair, bamboo and horsehair.

According to research these are the best mattresses for back pain, as well as shoulder and hip pain, because they give plenty of support, comfort and they’re less likely to sag.

Published: 19th September 2021 (Updated: 11th August 2023) | Isaah

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