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Best mattress for a bad back 2023: Wave away back pain with the right mattress

Do you wake with an ache or suffer from back pain? Finding the best mattress might make things easier on your spine

Back pain is horrible, and if you haven’t got the best mattress for your build or sleeping style, then the pain often gets worse. But while there’s no such thing as the perfect mattress for everyone, or even everyone with back pain, there is such a thing as the perfect mattress for you. Find it and you can wake up with less (or even no) back pain.

So do your research, taking into account your weight, sleeping style and type of back pain and never, ever assume orthopaedic mattresses are always the best. In fact, as you’ll see from our buyers’ guide, the term simply means “firm”. If you pick the right mattress, it’ll encourage a good sleeping posture and support you in all the right places while still relaxing your muscles – all of which will combine to give you a good night’s sleep and lead to less discomfort the following morning.

Read on for our top mattress recommendations, after which you’ll find an in-depth buying guide on how to pick the best mattress for a bad back.

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Best mattresses for a bad back: At a glance

How we test mattresses

We review all mattresses having first slept on them, relying largely on what is perhaps the best test of a quality mattress: a good night’s sleep. That being said, there are a number of other things we look out for when testing mattresses. On top of comfort and support, these include firmness and temperature control (mattresses and bedding retain body heat, so this is an important factor for those who are prone to getting too hot during the night) as well as value for money and – where possible – motion isolation. In addition to this, the type of base on which you put your mattress will have a big impact on how it feels.

When buying a mattress to alleviate back pain, the firmness of the mattress is particularly important. As we’ve said, you don’t want to be sinking into your mattress too much around your hips and feet, and we’ve taken this into account when deciding which of the mattresses to feature on our roundup.

READ NEXT: Revive an old mattress with one of our favourite mattress toppers

The best mattresses for bad backs

1. Nectar Memory Foam Mattress: The mattress with a year-long trial

Price when reviewed: From £949 (single) | Check price at NectarWhether you have a bad back or not, it’s difficult to know whether a mattress is the right one for you until you’ve had a good chance to test it out. Thankfully, you can do that with the Nectar mattress for up to 365 nights and still receive a full refund if there’s anything you don’t like. In other words, it comes with a year-long risk-free trial. That said, Nectar is no longer the only brand to offer such a generous trial period, now that rival bed-in-a-box brand Eve is also giving customers an entire year to test out its mattresses.

Nevertheless, we found the brand’s memory foam mattress very supportive without ever feeling too hard, as can be the case with some orthopaedic mattresses. It is prone to softening a little as it warms up, but this isn’t unusual for memory-foam models. As you might expect, there’s a bit of a premium for choosing a mattress with such an impressive returns policy, but if you get your timing right, it’s possible to save as much as 45% on the asking price and even get some free gifts thrown in.

Read our full Nectar memory foam mattress review for more details.

Key specs – Type: Three-layer (bottom layer 160mm seven-zone supportive foam; middle layer 50mm soft “visco” memory foam; top layer 40mm breathable “visco” foam); Sizes: Single to super-king; Trial: 365-night money-back guarantee

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Also consider: Eve Original mattress As we explain above, Eve also offers a lengthy 365-night trial with its mattresses, giving you a year to decide whether it’s the right one for you. We found that the brand’s Original memory foam mattress is noticeably firmer than a lot of its all-foam rivals, remaining consistently supportive throughout the night. However, it might not be the best option for those prone to feeling too hot at night.

Read our full Eve Original mattress review for more details.

Check price at Eve

2. Simba Hybrid Pro: Best all-round hybrid mattress

Price when reviewed: From £1,169 (single) | Check price at SimbaWith an extra layer of microsprings compared to its regular Hybrid, Simba’s Hybrid Pro is comfortable and supportive, as well as more breathable. Plus, it’s got a top layer made from wool for temperature regulation, which does a great job of getting round the overheating issue commonly associated with memory foam mattresses.

If you can afford it, the Simba Hybrid Pro is the best hybrid mattress we’ve tested. It might not offer quite the same level of comfort as Simba’s latest premium offering, the Hybrid Luxe, but the Pro has the edge on value for money.

It’s not a cheap option, though, and will set you back £1,159 for a double. However, to sweeten the deal, Simba’s mattresses come with a 365-night trial and a money-back guarantee if you’re not pleased with your purchase.

Read our full Simba Hybrid Pro review for more details.

Key specs – Type: Hybrid seven-layer (breathable ‘sleep surface’, wool upper layer, open-cell ‘Simba-Pure’ foam layer, two microspring layers, high-definition ‘Simba-Pure’ with edge support, zoned ‘Simba-Pure’ support base); Sizes: Single to super-king; Trial: 365-night money-back guarantee

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3. Tempur Original Supreme: Best premium memory foam mattress

Price when reviewed: From £1,319 (single) | Check price at TempurWhile it may stretch your budget, if you’re looking for a no-compromise memory foam mattress, there’s really nothing quite like the Tempur Original Supreme. The Original Supreme has a truly unique feel that most of its new-age bed-in-a-box rivals can only aspire to. Its upper layers of foam form around your shape, giving relief to your hips and shoulders, while its lower layers provide ample support to your lower back. While it’s not the firmest mattress on our list, the end result is a mattress that delivers a luxurious level of comfort without compromising on support.

Unlike some of its rivals the Tempur doesn’t need flipping or rotating, which is certainly a load off your back. And, Tempur mattresses are eligible for a 100-night trial, allowing you to make sure it’s right for you before committing to that significant asking price. There’s no denying it’s a considerable investment, but if the Tempur Original Supreme helps you have a great night’s sleep, waking free of aches, then it may very well be an investment worth making.

Read our full Tempur Original Supreme review for more details.

Key specs – Type: Three layer (Bottom layer 110mm of Durabase, second layer 80mm of support foam, top layer 20mm Tempur Comfort memory foam); Sizes: Single to super-king; Trial: 100-night money-back guarantee

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4. Otty Original Hybrid Mattress: Best firm mattress for bad backs

Price when reviewed: From £800 (single) | Check price at OttyOtty’s bed-in-a-box mattress, which combines foam and pocket springs for the best of both worlds, is firm and cosy, with a warm surface that feels soft against your skin but extremely supportive from top to toe. In fact, if you suffer the pain of a curved lower back, it may be too firm for you.

Here at Expert Reviews, our impressions of the mattress’ warmth vary somewhat. One tester found it perfectly cool in summer, while another found its enveloping nature too warm. If you’re not sure whether memory foam (which often sleeps warmer than natural fillings) is right for you, the 100-night returns policy (they will even come and collect it from your bedroom) very reassuring.

Read our full Otty Original Hybrid review for more details.

Key specs – Type: Foam/pocket spring hybrid (50mm high-density foam, 2,000 140mm pocket springs, 30mm reflex foam, 30mm memory foam); Sizes: 9, from single to emperor (also EU sizes); Trial: 100-night trial, 10-year warranty

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5. Dunlopillo Millennium: Best latex mattress for bad backs

Price when reviewed: From £2,257 | Check price at Mattress OnlineMade entirely from latex, this medium support mattress ticks plenty of boxes; it’s breathable, long-lasting and easy to turn over on without disturbing your partner. But it really comes into its own for people with bad backs because it provides such good postural support – its softer comfort zones cushion your shoulders, hips and heels, while firmer support zones help the spine to be correctly aligned.

Like memory foam, the latex moulds around your body, but the bounce-back after you move – in addition to the seven comfort zones – means you get even better support for your back, as well as freer movement. It doesn’t come cheap and it is exceptionally heavy, but it will last for years.

Key specs – Type: Latex; Sizes: 7, from single to super-king; Warranty: 8 years; Trial: None

How to choose the best mattress for a bad back

When it comes to buying the right mattress, there are no hard and fast rules. Shops may try to sell you what manufacturers consider a bad-back mattress, but more depends on you, your body shape, your weight and how you sleep. Then there’s your budget: a good mattress will cost you anywhere between £150 and £1,500 or more, depending on the materials, size and construction.

Is an orthopaedic mattress best for a bad back?

Don’t be fooled by the term orthopaedic (or similar medical-sounding names) as it doesn’t mean the bed has been professionally assessed or recommended – it’s just a name usually used by manufacturers to refer to their firmest mattresses.

And it’s not as if firm mattresses are best for all bad backs anyway. On the contrary, a too-hard mattress can exacerbate problems for some back pain sufferers, Gary Jones, clinic director at PHYSIO 206, told us. “If you’ve got somebody with a more pronounced inward curve in the lower back – what we call an increased lumbar lordosis – putting them on a firmer mattress would potentially increase that lumbar lordosis.”

The opposite is true of those with a very flat, “swayback” posture, however. For these people, a firm mattress can help to put more helpful pressure on the lower back.

So how do I know which level of firmness is right for me?

If you’re waking with neck or back pain, it’s best to get assessed by a qualified medical professional who can establish if your mattress might be a contributing factor. In any case, though, there’s an easy test you can perform to determine if any mattress is suitable for you.

“If you lay flat on a mattress, what you want to feel is an equal amount of pressure through all the following pressure points,” Jones explained. “You want to feel it at the back of your head, behind both shoulder blades, at the back of the elbows, at the base of your bottom and finally at your heels. If you’re sinking more in your feet or hips, or there’s more pressure through your shoulders, that’d suggest it’s not the right mattress for you.”

Naturally, your weight will play a role in how firm a mattress feels: a heavier person puts more pressure on the mattress and so needs a slightly firmer mattress than a light person. Your sleeping position can also be an important factor. If you sleep mostly on your side, you might want to choose something with more cushioning to accommodate your shoulders and hips, while if you sleep in a variety of positions (not uncommon for those with back pain), you should go for a mattress firm enough to provide support but soft enough to contour to your body.

Is a pocket-sprung mattress best for a bad back?

Pocket-sprung mattresses – where the springs are sewn into fabric pockets – have traditionally been considered the crème de la crème of mattresses when it comes to providing support for bad backs. However, there are plenty of memory foam and latex mattresses that’ll do just as good a job. Use the aforementioned principles to check that it delivers the right level of support for you.

What if my sleeping partner doesn’t have a bad back?

Consider a zip and link bed, which comprises of two single mattresses zipped together. Or invest in a mattress that’s firmer on one side than the other without a zip in the middle. These are more expensive, but also comfier.

How much should I spend?

While some mattresses can set you back thousands, our roundup reveals that you don’t have to fork out silly sums to get a decent one for a bad back. In fact, the increasingly popular bed-in-a-box mattresses that are only available online are surprisingly low-cost for their quality. But don’t choose your mattress on the price tag alone; if it doesn’t suit your size, shape and sleeping style, you’ll find your back might become more painful in the morning.

Should I try before I buy?

Yes. If you’re going to a showroom, it’s a great idea to try a few out. Just take your time to establish if the mattress is suitable for you using the principles outlined above. If there isn’t a showroom nearby, most bed-in-a-box companies – including Casper, Eve and Otty – offer a 100-night trial so you can return the mattress if it isn’t right for you.

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