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Mattress Causing You Back Pain?Chiropractor's Guide(2023)

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How to Know If Back Pain Is from Mattress | Chiropractor Explains: Signs of Bad Mattresses

To determine if your mattress is causing back pain, consider its age, firmness, and how it affects your sleep position. If you experience temporary relief from pain after switching to a different bed, it could be a sign that your mattress is the issue. Consult a healthcare professional if pain persists.

Hi there! I’m Dr. Lawrence Woods, a chiropractor, mattress designer, and sleep researcher with over 20 years of experience in sleep ergonomics. I’m here to share with you how your mattress could be contributing to your back pain and what signs to look for to determine if your mattress is to blame.

As someone who has dedicated their career to studying sleep, I know firsthand the critical role that a good night’s rest plays in our overall health. And let me tell you, a mattress that doesn’t properly support your body can wreak havoc on your back and leave you feeling downright miserable.

That’s why I’m excited to dive into the details of mattress design and explain how the wrong mattress can lead to a host of issues, including back pain. So if you’re tired of waking up feeling stiff and sore, join me as I share the telltale signs that your mattress could be the culprit. Together, we’ll work towards achieving the restful, pain-free sleep you deserve.

Understanding Spinal Alignment

Spinal alignment refers to the natural curvature of the spine. The spine has three natural curves: the cervical curve (neck), thoracic curve (upper back), and lumbar curve (lower back). Maintaining proper spinal alignment is essential for overall health and wellbeing, as it helps distribute the body’s weight evenly and reduces the risk of injury.

Effects of Poor Spinal Alignment

Poor spinal alignment can lead to a variety of problems, including back pain, stiffness, and muscle tension. Over time, it can also increase the risk of degenerative conditions such as herniated discs and spinal stenosis.

How Mattresses Affect Spinal Alignment

A mattress that is too firm or too soft can cause poor spinal alignment. A mattress that is too firm will not contour to the natural curves of the spine, while a mattress that is too soft will not provide adequate support. The ideal mattress should be firm enough to support the spine while also contouring to its natural curves.

The Importance of Pressure Relief

Pressure relief refers to the ability of a mattress to distribute the body’s weight evenly. A mattress that provides good pressure relief will help reduce pressure points, which can cause discomfort and pain.

Effects of Poor Pressure Relief

Poor pressure relief can lead to a variety of problems, including pain, stiffness, and muscle tension. It can also lead to poor circulation, which can exacerbate existing health conditions.

How Mattresses Affect Pressure Relief

A mattress that is too firm will not provide adequate pressure relief, while a mattress that is too soft will not distribute the body’s weight evenly. The ideal mattress should provide good pressure relief while also providing adequate support.

Signs Your Mattress is Causing Your Back Pain

The quality of your mattress affects the alignment of your spine, which is essential for a healthy back. Sleeping on a mattress that does not support your spine can cause tension and strain on your muscles, leading to back pain. Here are the signs that your mattress is causing back pain:

1. Waking Up with a Stiff Back

If you wake up in the morning with a stiff back that eases off after a few minutes of movement, it may be due to your mattress. A good quality mattress provides adequate support to your spine, while a poor-quality mattress can cause it to curve in unnatural ways, leading to stiffness in the morning.

2. Chronic Back Pain

If you have been experiencing back pain for an extended period, it could be due to your mattress. A poor-quality mattress can put pressure on your spine, leading to chronic back pain. If your back pain disappears when you are away from your mattress, it’s time to consider a new one.

3. Sagging Mattress

If your mattress is more than 8 years old or sagging in the middle, it may not be providing adequate support to your spine, leading to back pain. Sagging occurs due to the continuous weight of your body on the mattress, which breaks down the materials over time.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Ergonomics compared the effects of sleeping on a new medium-firm mattress versus an old mattress in patients with low back and shoulder pain. The results showed that the new mattress was associated with a significant reduction in back pain and stiffness.

4. Poor Quality Materials

Mattresses made of low-quality materials are not supportive and durable, leading to back pain. A mattress with insufficient padding or too soft can cause pressure points, leading to back pain.

The Importance of Mattress Durability 

Mattress durability is related to back pain as a worn-out mattress can lead to poor spinal alignment causing discomfort and tension in the back muscles, eventually leading to chronic back pain.

A durable mattress made of high-quality materials can withstand continuous weight and pressure, providing the necessary support to maintain proper spinal alignment, reducing the risk of back pain.

Investing in a durable mattress can save money in the long run, as it offers better longevity and reduces the need to replace it frequently.

Mattress Durability Table

The comfort layer provides cushioning and pressure relief.

The support layer provides structure and prevents sagging.

The durability of both the comfort and support layers is crucial in determining the overall lifespan of a mattress. The table divides different mattress materials into these two layers and provides estimated lifespans for each layer.


Material Lifespan (Comfort Layer) Lifespan (Support Layer)
Latex foam 15+ years 15+ years
High-quality memory foam (5.0 lbs or higher) 10-15 years Avoid
1.5 lb HD polyfoam or higher 7-10 years 7-10 years
Mid-quality memory foam (4.0 lbs range) 5-7 years Avoid
Conventional polyfoam of less than 1.5 lbs 2-3 years Avoid
Cheap memory foam in the 3 lb range or less 2-3 years Avoid
Innerspring Avoid 5-7 years
HR polyfoam 7-10 years 7-10 years
HD polyfoam 7-10 years 7-10 years
Cheap lower quality innerspring 2-3 years 2-3 years
Conventional polyfoam 2-3 years Avoid

What Does Research Say is The Longest Lasting Mattress?

A study published in the Journal of ASTM International compared the durability and comfort properties of latex and innerspring mattresses over a 10-year period. The study found that:


  • Latex mattresses retained their firmness and support better than innerspring mattresses over the 10-year period.
  • The firmness and support of innerspring mattresses decreased significantly.


  • Both mattresses maintained their pressure relief and deformation properties over the 10-year period.
  • The latex mattress had better heat dissipation properties compared to the innerspring mattress.


  • Latex mattresses are more durable and have better support properties compared to innerspring mattresses.
  • The finding may be useful for consumers looking to purchase a long-lasting and supportive mattress.

Are Firmness & Back Support the Same?

Understanding Firmness

Firmness refers to the initial feel of the mattress when you lie down on it. It is determined by several factors, including responsiveness, density, and materials used in construction. Responsiveness is how quickly a mattress adjusts to changes in pressure. A highly responsive mattress will quickly conform to your body’s shape, while a less responsive one will take longer to do so. Density refers to the amount of material packed into a given volume of the mattress. A more dense mattress will feel firmer than a less dense one. Materials used in construction also play a role in determining firmness. Memory foam, latex, innerspring, and hybrid combinations each have unique characteristics that contribute to how the mattress feels.

The Importance of Support

While firmness is important, support is even more critical for maintaining proper spinal alignment and preventing back pain. Support refers to the mattress’s ability to keep your spine in a neutral position while you sleep. Contouring is crucial for support, with the top 5-10 cm of the mattress needing to contour to the curves of your body to prevent compression and pressure points. A mattress that is too soft will not provide enough support, while one that is too firm can cause discomfort and pain.

Criticism of Memory Foam

Memory foam is a popular material used in many mattresses, but it is not without criticism. One of the most common complaints about memory foam is its heat retention properties. Memory foam mattresses tend to retain heat, which can cause discomfort for hot sleepers or during warm seasons. Another drawback of memory foam is its slow responsiveness. This can make it difficult for sleepers to change positions or move during the night, which may not be ideal for those who prefer a bouncy or responsive sleeping surface.

Choosing the Right Mattress

Choosing the right mattress involves considering body type, sleeping position, and personal preference. If you have a heavier body type, you may need a firmer mattress to provide adequate support. If you are a side sleeper, you may prefer a softer mattress to cushion your shoulders and hips. Back sleepers may benefit from a medium-firm mattress that provides both support and comfort. Stomach sleepers may need a firmer mattress to prevent their hips from sinking too far into the mattress.

Other Considerations

Other factors to consider when choosing a mattress for back pain include:

  • Size: Choose a mattress that is the right size for your body and sleeping habits.
  • Motion transfer: If you share your bed with a partner, choose a mattress with good motion isolation to prevent disturbances from movement.
  • Temperature regulation: Some materials, such as memory foam, can trap heat and cause discomfort. Look for a mattress that promotes airflow and temperature regulation.
  • Budget: Mattresses can vary greatly in price, so it’s important to choose one that fits your budget.

Lifestyle Changes to Alleviate Back Pain

In addition to choosing the right mattress, making lifestyle changes can also help alleviate back pain. Some tips include:

  • Exercise regularly to strengthen the muscles that support the spine.
  • Maintain good posture throughout the day, especially when sitting for long periods.
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects, or use proper lifting techniques if lifting is necessary.
  • Practice stress-reducing techniques such as meditation or deep breathing.

Alternative Solutions for Alleviating Back Pain

While investing in a high-quality mattress is one of the most effective ways to reduce or prevent back pain, there are also several other strategies that can be helpful for people with persistent or chronic discomfort. This section could explore alternative solutions for back pain relief, such as stretching and exercise, chiropractic care, massage, and ergonomic adjustments to workstations and seating arrangements.

Is Sleeping Position Causing Back Problems?

Research suggests that certain sleeping positions can cause or worsen back problems. For example, sleeping on your stomach can cause strain on the neck and lower back, while sleeping on your back can put pressure on the spine and lead to back pain. The best sleeping position for people with back problems is generally sleeping on their side, with a pillow between their knees to keep their spine in a neutral position.

Here are some references for further reading on this topic:

National Institutes of Health. (2019). Back Pain. Retrieved from

Can A Mattress Cause Neck Pain?

There is research that shows a connection between a mattress and neck pain. Sleeping on an unsupportive or old mattress can cause poor sleep posture, leading to neck pain. A study found that participants who slept on a new, medium-firm mattress reported significant improvements in neck pain, quality of sleep, and overall comfort. It’s recommended to replace mattresses every 7-10 years to ensure proper support.

Using Mattress Toppers to Alleviate Back Pain

Back pain is a common ailment that affects a significant portion of the population. Having a high-quality mattress can help alleviate back pain and improve sleep quality. However, purchasing a new mattress may not be financially feasible for everyone. A mattress topper can be an alternative solution for back pain sufferers.

Adding a topper doesn’t always help

Adding a topper to an existing mattress can be beneficial for some people, but it can also make the situation worse for others. If the existing mattress already causes back pain, adding a topper can take away more support, leading to muscle tension and sleeping out of alignment. It is unlikely to solve back pain and can create more separation between the body and support layers.

Ensure your mattress is in good condition before considering a topper

Before considering a topper, it is important to ensure that the existing mattress is still in good condition and has a relatively flat and supportive surface. A sagging or worn-out mattress may require replacement instead of adding a topper.

Other considerations for back pain sufferers

Aside from using a mattress topper, there are other considerations that back pain sufferers should take into account. The type of pillow used can play a significant role in achieving proper alignment and support. The significance of sleeping positions in reducing back pain should also be considered.

Why is my bed causing lower back pain?

Your mattress or bed may not be providing adequate support for your lower back, which can cause pain and discomfort. Over time, your bed can lose its firmness and begin to sag, making it difficult to maintain proper spinal alignment. This can put stress on your lower back, causing pain.

How can I tell if my bed is causing my lower back pain?

If you wake up with lower back pain that subsides after you get up and move around, it’s possible that your bed is the culprit. You may also notice that you experience more pain after sleeping on your bed for an extended period of time, such as during a vacation or business trip.

  1. The Benefits of Regularly Replacing Your Mattress

Many people keep their mattress for far longer than they should, assuming that it’s still in good enough condition to provide adequate support and comfort. However, mattresses naturally wear down over time, losing their shape and supportiveness, and becoming a breeding ground for dust mites and other allergens. This section could highlight the importance of regularly replacing your mattress to maintain spinal alignment, prevent back pain, and improve overall sleep quality.

Common Questions: 

Should I change my mattress or my bed?

If your bed is causing lower back pain, it may be time to consider changing your mattress or bed. However, it’s important to determine which is the root cause of the issue. If your bed frame is old and sagging, it may be time to replace it. If your mattress is the issue, you may be able to keep your bed frame and just replace the mattress.

What type of mattress should I choose?

When it comes to choosing a new mattress, you should look for one that provides adequate support for your lower back. Generally, a medium-firm or firm mattress is recommended for those with lower back pain. This type of mattress provides enough support to keep your spine aligned while also offering enough cushioning for comfort.

Soft or firm mattress for lower back pain

While a medium-firm mattress is generally recommended for those with lower back pain, it ultimately depends on your personal preference and sleeping position. If you prefer a softer mattress, look for one that still offers good support for your lower back. If you prefer a firmer mattress, make sure it provides enough cushioning for comfort.

My new bed is killing my back

If you’ve recently purchased a new bed and are experiencing back pain, don’t panic. Your body may simply need time to adjust to the new mattress. Give yourself a few weeks to get used to the new sleeping surface before making any drastic changes. You can also try using a mattress topper for added cushioning, or adjusting your sleeping position to alleviate pressure on your back.

Can a mattress cause upper back pain?

Yes, a mattress that is too firm can cause upper back pain. Your mattress should provie pressure relief and support your entire spine, including your upper back. A mattress that is too soft or too firm may not provide the necessary support or cause pressure points.

Memory foam mattress causing back pain

While memory foam mattresses are popular, they may not be the best option for those with back pain. Memory foam has a low responsiveness, which means it may not provide adequate support and can cause back pain. If you have a memory foam mattress and are experiencing back pain, consider adding a firmer mattress topper to provide more support. You can also try changing your sleeping position to alleviate pressure on your back. If your back pain persists, it may be time to consider a new mattress that provides better support.

**As a service to our readers, Axial Chairs provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of the last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.

Medical Disclaimer: This website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Product Disclaimer: The seat cushion is designed by a chiropractor, but results may vary and are not guaranteed. The product is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any medical condition.

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Dr Lawrence Woods DC

Dr Lawrence Woods DC


My goal is to create the highest quality ergonomic office chairs and accessories for unmatched comfort.

With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience in Ireland as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high-quality sitting for living a happy and healthy life.

I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and I am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.


About Me

Dr Lawrence Woods

My name Dr Lawrence Woods DC and I have been designing mattresses, pillows, chairs and seat cushions for over 20 years. As a chiropractor, my goal has always focused on improving the health of my patients by optimizing how they sleep and sit. My designs have been nominated for numerous awards and I continue to be at the forefront of this industry, helping people get the best night’s sleep possible. I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West, I am NBCE Physiotherapy certified and an OSHAcadenmy certified ergonomist.


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