How to Buy a Mattress if You Have Back Pain

Like if this guide is helpful
How to Buy a Mattress if You Have Back Pain

People who suffer from back pain often trace the root of their problems to a poorly constructed or old mattress. Old mattresses develop sagging areas that fail to support the spine correctly. For individuals who have trouble sleeping because of back pain, a new mattress means the difference between a good night's sleep and a restless slumber. However, there are so many mattress types available that shoppers may not know where to start.

There are several different kinds of coil mattresses and several kinds of foam core mattresses, including all the variations of waterbeds and air mattresses. Moreover, almost all mattress manufacturers claim to support the spine and eliminate back pain, so it is difficult to cut through the marketing hype and find a solution for back health.

The truth is that the 'right' mattress is different for each person, depending on each person's body type and sleeping habits. Before shopping for mattresses, buyers with chronic back pain problems should educate themselves about the different mattress types and the technologies behind them. This way, shoppers make informed choices about a piece of furniture that contributes significantly to their comfort and rest for years to come. Learning about different mattress types as well as reading tips on how and where to shop for a new mattress should lead buyers in the right direction for a good night's sleep.

Mattress Types

Considering how important good sleep is to overall well-being and health, a mattress should be the first thing to check when people start to suffer from back or neck problems. However, because of the cost of a new mattress, it is sometimes the last thing to be replaced rather than the first. An old mattress may cause serious damage to the spine, resulting in medical bills that far exceed the cost of a new mattress. Moreover, new mattress technologies offer much greater durability and comfort than the spring mattresses of the past.

Innerspring Mattresses

Old innerspring mattresses had metal coils covered with some padding and upholstery. As time went on, the coils lost their elasticity or broke completely, causing the mattress to sag. These problems were addressed by manufacturers, and there are now four types of innerspring or coil mattresses, each with its own pros and cons. It should be noted that the number of coils has less importance than it used to. It is more important to look at the gauge of the wire used, the type of coils, and the materials used in conjunction with the number of coils. For example, a mattress with fewer coils and thicker wire with a lower gauge provides just as much support as one with more coils at a higher gauge.

Open Coil Mattresses

Open coil or Bonnell coil mattresses were the first spring mattresses invented. They have hourglass-shaped coils which are connected to each other with more wires that distribute weight evenly. Due to better materials, such as tempered steel, these mattresses last longer and are more comfortable than older open coil mattresses. However, they are still the most prone to wear and must be replaced when they start to sag.

Offset Coil Mattresses

Offset coils are very similar to open coils except that they are shaped a little differently. They have a squarish head, designed to contour better with the padding and oval-shaped coils which are supposed to last longer than the circular coils on the open coil mattress. These are considerably more expensive than open coil mattresses.

Pocket Coil Mattresses

Pocket coils,, also called wrapped coils or Marshall coils, are individually wrapped in fabric and do not share their load with neighbouring coils. This means that movement is not felt over the whole mattress. However, for the same reason, they do not provide enough support for heavier builds. Due to the complexity of their construction, pocket coil mattresses command a premium price.

Continuous Coil Mattresses

Instead of hundreds of separate springs which are connected with wires, a continuous coil mattress has long rows of coils connected to innersprings. This construction most evenly distributes weight. Continuous coil mattresses with a low coil count provide as much support as other mattresses with higher coil counts, because of how they are engineered.

Memory Foam Mattresses

Memory foam mattresses became popular in the 1990s. The material was actually developed in the 1970s by NASA to help astronauts deal with G-forces during take-offs. The material in their seats needed to allow their bodies to sink in slightly while returning to a normal shape afterward. This is exactly what average people need in mattresses. Mattresses which are too stiff or firm do not allow the curves of the body to sink in, causing a curvature in the spine that leads to back pain. Mattresses which are too soft allow the body to 'hammock' or sag, also causing an unnatural curvature of the spine. The perfect mattress material contours to the curves of each body, allowing the spine to remain straight.

Memory foam comes in various densities and is measured in pounds per cubic foot. Low-density memory foam usually has a density of fewer than 4 pounds per cubic foot. These mattresses are pressure sensitive. They mould to a body and spring back quickly. High-density memory foam is considered of a higher quality and takes a few minutes to mould to the shape of the body. However, since it does this by reacting to body heat, one criticism of memory foam mattresses is that they are uncomfortably warm.

Latex Foam Mattresses

Latex foam mattresses go as far back as the 1930s. The first models were made with real rubber, but due to shortages of rubber, synthetic latex foam was soon produced. Today, both all-natural and synthetic latex foam mattresses are found. The natural rubber variety is valued by those looking for an eco-friendly mattress which does not emit toxic gases. Also, latex rubber is naturally antibacterial and hypoallergenic and does not permit dust mite infestations. These are important factors for those with allergies.

As far as alleviating back pain, latex foam is a lot like memory foam. Both kinds of foam alleviate pressure points on the body which cause discomfort. However, they do this in two different ways. Memory foam cradles the body and is slower to spring back. Latex foam is more springy, giving sleepers a buoyant feeling. The choice between memory foam and latex foam is a personal choice as some people prefer memory foam and others prefer latex. Both types have an established history of alleviating back pain.

Waterbed Mattresses

Waterbeds date back to the late 1800s and became popular in the 1970s and 1980s, but today's waterbeds are a far cry from the bouncy unstable mattresses that were sold 20 years ago. Waterbeds today are hardsided or softsided. Hardsided waterbeds support the sides and bottom of a waterbed mattress with a wooden frame. A stand-up liner protects against spills in case of a puncture. Soft-sided waterbed mattresses have water-filled chambers surrounded by a foam and fabric casing.

Alternatively, free-flow waterbeds are much like older waterbeds from the past century, but the latest waterbed mattresses are waveless. This means that the water inside is channelled into small spaces, preventing the mattress from rocking when weight is applied to one side. One major advantage to waterbeds is that they are safely heated. Waterbed conditioners are sold to keep bacteria and algae from growing in the water and also keep the inside lining supple and flexible.

Air Mattresses

Air mattresses are traditionally used as an affordable camping or guest room bedding option. These mattresses are very simply constructed and designed to deflate and fold compactly when not in use. A permanent, high-quality air mattress, on the other hand, appears nearly identical to a normal mattress. The difference lies in the air chambers on the inside of the mattress, which are inflated to the desired level with the use of a remote control. These air beds or air chamber mattresses, as they are sometimes called, are often used in hospitals or other places where alleviating pressure points and maintaining good circulation of the blood are crucial.

Air mattresses distribute weight a little differently from foam or coil mattresses, making them a good choice for back pain sufferers, especially when all else has failed. They often come with dual air chambers, so each person sets his or her desired firmness individually. Such mattresses are also known as adjustable firmness mattresses.

Choosing the Right Mattress for Back Pain

The table below summarizes the pros and cons of the different kinds of mattresses previously discussed. Buyers who are in the market for a mattress to alleviate back pain should pay special attention to the differences.

Mattress Type



Open coil


Not as durable as other kinds of innersprings

Offset coil

More durable; contours better to the body

More expensive

Pocket coil

Provides good support for side sleepers; good for people with partners who toss and turn regularly

Wears out sooner with heavier weights, because the coils do not share loads

Continuous coil

Distributes weight evenly; maintains mattress shape longest

Movement is felt across the whole bed

Memory Foam

Cradles body

Retains heat

Latex Foam

Hypoallergenic; eco-friendly; feels buoyant

Some kinds of latex foam are low quality


Can be heated

Free-flow waterbeds have a slight rock to them


Firmness is adjustable by remote control


As the above table shows, each kind of mattress has an advantage over the other types, whether buyers' priorities are price, durability, or comfort. All mattress types have characteristics which help alleviate back pain, as long as the materials are of high quality.

Questions to Consider when Buying a Mattress for Back Pain

Mattresses are bought at department stores, mattress and furniture showrooms, as well as online on websites such as eBay. Regardless of where the mattress is purchased, it is important to get a feel for the mattress and keep your back pain needs in mind throughout the process.

Testing a Mattress

Most shoppers test mattresses by pushing down on them once or twice with the palm of the hand. While this gives some indication of firmness, it does not tell shoppers exactly how the mattress feels when lying down. Mattress showrooms are purposely designed to allow shoppers to try out mattresses by lying down on them. With certain mattresses, especially memory foam mattresses, it is necessary to lie on the mattress for several minutes as the mattress heats up and moulds to the shape of the body. Those who sleep on their sides should lie on their sides in mattress stores to see how the mattress responds. Any pressure points created by a bad mattress only becomes apparent after about 10 minutes.

How to Buy a Mattress for Back Pain on eBay

Buying a mattress on eBay is a popular option, despite the necessity of trying out the mattress at a showroom or other location. Savings and discounts found online often make it worthwhile for shoppers to buy online even after visiting brick and mortar stores. Online reviews are also a good way to get an idea of the quality of a mattress, and in general, reputable brands like Tempur and Sealy are relied upon as far as quality.

However, not all online sources are secure, and it is difficult to determine if the seller is reputable. eBay addresses these uncertainties. Every seller on eBay has a public feedback history that can and should be checked by buyers before they enter into a transaction. This means that unprofessional sellers are quickly identified and removed from the eBay community.

To find mattresses on eBay, start at eBay's homepage and search for the kind of mattress you want. Then filter the returned results according to price, seller geography, and condition of the mattress.


About one-third of your life is spent in bed. Thus, it is not surprising that bad mattresses are the root cause of many cases of chronic back pain. By replacing an old, sagging mattress, you can find immediate relief from many sleep problems. Mattresses that are too soft or those which are too firm cause unnatural curvature of the spine, leading to pain in the back and neck. Advances in modern mattress construction have led to various materials which address these issues and aim to provide the perfect level of softness. Various spring mattresses, two kinds of foam mattresses, as well as airbeds and waterbeds are newer options in the bedding market, and they are a far cry from beds of yore. While there is no one mattress type that fixes all back problems, shoppers looking for orthopedic relief can definitely find it by exploring these alternatives. Solutions like this one ensure that everyone can enjoy a good night's rest, regardless of their body type or sleeping position.

Mattresses are tested and bought at a variety of locations. By following suggestions about properly testing a mattress and buying one securely from a reputable seller, chronic back pain sufferers can soon enjoy all the health benefits of deep and uninterrupted sleep.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides