Can a mattress help with back pain? Chiropractors confirm how the right bed can better your back

If you suffer from back pain, your bed could be to blame. Here's how buying the right mattress could help alleviate any aches and pains, according to a doctor

Mattress on bed with someone sitting with backpain
(Image credit: Credit:grinvalds Creative #:1136560362)

Waking up with back pain is no way to start your day, and your mattress could be to blame. While you should always talk to your doctor about back pain, as it can be caused by several problems, they might find that your mattress is aggravating a condition caused by something else. 

I've consulted an expert who says that having the wrong bed for your weight and sleep position could be impacting your back pain. When sleeping, your spine should stay in a natural position. 

The best mattress for you will support your body as you sleep, helping to reduce pressure on your joints and allow your muscles to relax. Find out below how the right mattress can help with back pain. 

Can a mattress help with back pain?  

Mattress protector on bed

(Image credit: Sijo Home)

Reducing the amount of pressure on your back when you lie in bed is all about your sleep position and body size. Consider whether you sleep on your front, back, or side – or perhaps a combination. You should also take into account your weight of you (and your partner). 

Is your bed to blame?

Your back pain could be caused by a bad mattress. As Dr. Kevin Lees, director of Chiropractic Operations at The Joint Chiropractic explains, the key to comfier sleep is ensuring your spine stays aligned all night. These are the two things to think about when assessing your mattress situation to ensure healthy spinal alignment. 

1. Sleep position
Back sleepers with back pain are likely sleeping on a mattress that is too soft. A soft bed will not support your body enough, allowing your torso or pelvis to sink. Instead, a 'firmer mattress will provide enough surface area to stay in contact with your entire body'. he says. 

Side sleepers are likely to 'develop pressure points on their shoulders and hips as they're sleeping on a smaller surface area', explains Lees. If you're sleeping on a mattress that's too firm it could cause joint pain, too soft and your knees may overlap and your back could sink into an unnatural curve. 

2. Weight
Not having the right bed for your weight may also be aggravating your back pain. 'A petite person sleeping on a firm mattress may experience zero support, whereas a softer mattress will cushion and cradle them without too much sink.' advises Lees. A plus-size person will need a firmer mattress to hold their body in place. A larger individual sleeping on a soft mattress is likely to feel as if they're lying in the mattress, rather than on top of it. 

Note: there are best mattresses designed especially for heavier people, like the Big Fig mattress which is at the top of our list to review. 

Dr Kevin Lees author expert pic
Dr. Kevin Lees D.C

Dr. Kevin Lees, D.C is the director of Chiropractic Operations at The Joint Chiropractic After spending more than two decades as a chiropractor in-clinic, Kevin Lees, D.C. joined The Joint Corp. as Manager of Auditing and Quality in 2020 and was promoted to Director of Chiropractic Operations in 2023. Dr. Kevin earned his Doctor of Chiropractic from Cleveland University-Kansas City in 2000.

Our editor-in-chief Lucy Searle agrees, too. 'I've suffered from back pain since I was a teen when I had a bad riding accident," she says. 'I particularly suffer at night, and if I don't have the right mattress, not only don't sleep well, but wake up off and on through the night with back, neck, shoulder and hip pain.' 

This changed when she started to consider her sleep hygiene. 'The key for me was realising that my sleep position was intricately linked to the mattress firmness I needed,' she continues.  'I'd spent years suffering on a hard mattress because I'd been told that was good for back pain; then swapped to a soft mattress, which was no better.

'Finally, I saw a physiotherapist who asked me about the position I slept in (on my side), the pillow depth I slept with (varying), and the mattress firmness I preferred. She suggested I tried a hybrid mattress that provided support but also a foam top element which was forgiving on my hips and shoulders. Paired with a deep pillow, the combination was transformative and my back has been so much better ever since.'

Lucy Searle
Lucy Searle

Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property and gardens since 1990, working her way around the interiors departments of women's magazines before switching to interiors-only titles in the mid-nineties. She was Associate Editor on Ideal Home, and Launch Editor of 4Homes magazine, before moving into digital in 2007, launching Channel 4's flagship website, In 2018, Lucy took on the role of Global Editor in Chief for, taking the site from a small magazine add-on to a global success. She was asked to repeat that success at Homes & Gardens, where she has also taken on the editorship of the magazine. 

Mattresses that help with back pain

Can a mattress help with back pain? Absolutely. It's all about firmness. Having considered the three factors above, choosing a firm, medium-firm or soft mattress may make all the difference when it sleeping comfortably. These are the best mattresses to choose from by firmness, so you won't have to worry about waking up in pain. 


Is a firm or soft mattress better for back pain?

It depends. Again you should think about your sleep style and weight because this will determine whether a firm or soft mattress will help with your back ache. Against the common belief that firm mattresses are better for your back, sleeping on a mattress that is too firm or soft for your size and style could result in further pain when it is unable to offer enough support or cushion. 

What is the best way to sleep if your back hurts?

The best way to sleep is however you feel best comfortable, and this should work with the firmness rating of your mattress. That being said if you're suffering from back pain and you sleep on your stomach or back, it is worth trying to sleep on your side. Described as the 'ultimate sleep position' by experts, keeping the knees bent and sitting on top of each other helps keep the body in balance – supporting the lumber spine and reducing pressure on joints. Sleeping with a pillow in between your legs can also help relieve any pain if you find your knees to fall and overlap during the night. 

If investing in the best mattress for you isn't in your budget, or your current mattress is still in good condition, don't worry. A mattress topper is a great way to alter the firmness of your mattress, so you can experience pain-free sleep without having to buy a brand-new bed. 

Louise Oliphant
Ecommerce Editor

Louise is your eCommerce Editor and sleep specialist to help you wind down well. A connoisseur of the mattress world, Louise previously covered sleep and wellness (as well as the occasional organizational buy) at Real Homes, and has tried, tested, and reviewed some of the buys for your bedroom. With an MA in International Journalism and PR experience, Louise brings bags of bedding expertise and enjoys nothing more than helping readers find solutions and products that best suit their sleep needs.