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Is a Firm Mattress Better for Your Back?

January 6, 2024  ·  10 min read

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Is a firm mattress better for your back? This is a question we hear often from back sleepers who struggle with whether they should purchase a soft or firm mattress for back pain. Although the myth states that a firmer mattress will make your back feel better, we can say for certain that this is not true for every sleeper.

There are two important factors to discuss on the subject:

  1. Whether you need a firm or soft mattress will depend on your personal needs
  2. There is a difference between a firm feel and a supportive mattress

In general, people who struggle with back pain after getting out of bed are suffering because their spine isn’t getting enough support from their mattress. So, how do you know which type of mattress is best for your back? Our mattress experts will be answering frequently asked questions surrounding the topic of whether a firm mattress is better for your back.

Q: Are firm or soft mattresses better for your back?

Is it better to sleep on a hard or soft mattress? The debate between a soft or firm mattress for back pain doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. What type of mattress you need depends on your body type, support needs, and comfort preferences. In other words, a firm mattress may better suit some sleepers whereas a soft mattress may benefit others.

The bottom line is that the best mattress for your back will promote proper spine alignment to eliminate aches and pains and provide you with the restorative sleep your body needs. If you sleep on the wrong type of mattress (one that is too soft or too firm) you run the risk of not forming mattress body impressions that promote healthy spinal alignment for your spine. Ultimately, you want a bed that will deliver the right amount of comfort and support to strike a healthy balance — and this can be achieved either with a firm or a soft mattress.

Our founder Youval and mattress expert Rachael dive into how firm your mattress should be.

Q: Are firm mattresses more supportive? 

Not necessarily. There is a difference between a firm mattress and a supportive mattress — the two are not mutually exclusive. A supportive mattress promotes proper spinal alignment and helps keep the curve of your spine in a neutral position; it doesn’t “flatten” these curves or create more curves. You don’t want any gaps between your body and the mattress. 

Firmness applies to the feel and comfort of the mattress along with terms like softness, plushness, etc. The feel of a mattress, like a firm vs. a soft mattress, for example, is a personal preference. With that being said, not all firm-feeling mattresses are going to be supportive for every sleeper. A mattress that is too soft or too firm may not help your back pain — instead, you need to find a mattress that will accommodate your needs. 

Q: Are soft beds bad for your back? 

Soft mattresses often get a bad reputation for worsening back pain. For example, many mattress retailers will argue that soft mattresses worsen conditions like sciatica because soft mattresses cause sinkage and can’t support your back. This is not always the case for every soft mattress. In fact, the best mattress for sciatica pain relief is a mattress that will provide the proper comfort and support you need for your back. 

Ultimately, no, soft beds are not inherently bad for your back. A soft mattress may contour better to the body, providing relief for pressure points. However, if a soft mattress is not paired with the right supportive components for your body, you could sink into the mattress too deeply, causing misalignment and discomfort. Again, it’s all about striking that right balance. 

Q: How do I know if I need a firm or soft mattress?

How will I know whether I should get a softer or a firmer mattress? No worries, you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself. If you decide to shop for your new mattress with Texas Mattress Makers, there are two routes you can take to find your perfect mattress:

  1. Visit a showroom in person: The reason that we recommend every customer visit any of our Houston-area mattress stores is so that you can test out different mattress types and comfort levels to leave with the most supportive mattress possible. Our experts guide you through every step of the process, getting to know you and your needs so that we can help you choose your perfect mattress.
  2. Take our Sleep Quiz and shop online: Our Sleep Quiz asks you pointed questions about your personal preferences and sleep habits to direct you toward a mattress that we believe will satisfy your needs and give you quality sleep. Even if you decide to shop online, we still recommend coming into our showroom and trying your mattress results out in person to be 100% sure! Many customers who take our quiz and come into the store end up falling in love with the mattress the quiz said was their best match.
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How to tell if your bed is causing back pain

According to Veritas Health, there are correlations between getting a good night’s sleep and alleviating back pain. For example, if you’re not sleeping well, your body cannot produce the correct hormones needed to heal your body as you sleep, thus alleviating pain. Here are some telltale signs that your bed may be the culprit: 

1. Your pain is worse when you wake up

If you wake up every morning with aches and pains in your back, it could mean that your mattress is not giving you the support you need. A good, supportive mattress will support your spine, allowing your muscles to relax and decompress as you sleep. But, a bad mattress will deny your spine the support it needs, meaning your muscles will have to work harder to support your spine throughout the night. When you wake up, you’ll be left with aching muscles and lower back pain. This is why it’s crucial to find the best mattresses for back and hip pain that accommodate your specific needs and it may not be the one that every mattress retailer tells you to buy.

2. You can’t seem to get comfortable throughout the night

Some sleepers find it difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position when experiencing back pain. Similar to our point above, if your mattress isn’t supporting your spine, your body can’t relax. In other words, your tossing and turning may be linked to your mattress not having the proper support.

A mattress’s main role is to keep you comfortable and support your body all night long. If you’re currently experiencing discomfort, it’s time to find a new mattress that will help you feel relaxed and cozy for a good night’s sleep. 

3. You get your best night’s sleep on vacations

You may get better rest on your vacation because you are simply more relaxed. But if you’re waking up without pain or with less pain while sleeping on a hotel mattress or a mattress in a guest bedroom, that’s a pretty good indicator that your mattress is at least partially to blame for your back pain. Getting better sleep elsewhere means that your current mattress is not right for you and you should find a new one that you’ll actually enjoy sleeping on (and waking up in) every night.

4. You have pre-existing conditions 

In the doctor’s office, the answer to the question, “Is a firm mattress better for your back?” used to always be a definitive yes. Why would a doctor recommend a firm mattress if they aren’t always the best choice? Doctors used to recommend that patients with chronic pain sleep on a firmer mattress because they believed the harder surface provided more support. 

However, studies have shown that people with low back pain who slept on hard beds had the poorest sleep quality. Firm mattresses are not recommended if you have more severe back conditions including scoliosis and arthritis. Instead, you should speak with one of our mattress experts to find a bed that will help relieve your back pain properly for your unique needs. 

What type of mattress is best for back pain? 

As mentioned earlier, no one mattress will alleviate back pain for everyone. What may be comfortable for a few nights can’t guarantee a lifetime of good sleep. Any mattress, so long as it comes with the appropriate corresponding level of support for your needs, will help alleviate pain and improve sleep quality over time. Our mattress experts at our Houston-area showrooms can help you choose the best mattress for you. We have a wide range of comfort levels ranging from ultra-soft to ultra-firm.

  • Ultra-Soft, Soft, and Medium-Soft: A soft-feeling mattress is recommended as the best mattress for side sleepers because it provides extra cushion for your hips and shoulders and keeps your spine in a neutral position. 
  • Medium and Medium-Firm: A medium to medium-firm mattress is the best mattress for stomach sleepers since it will help keep your hips elevated, preventing aches and pains in your back. 
  • Firm and Ultra-Firm: If you carry weight, sleep on your back, or sleep on your stomach, a firm mattress may help alleviate lower back pain by distributing your body weight more evenly across the mattress. This way, your back isn’t curving as much while you sleep.

Find Your Perfect, Supportive Mattress at a Texas Mattress Makers: The Best Mattress Store in Houston!

So, is a firm mattress better for your back? Not necessarily. As we’ve said before, it all depends on what you need from your mattress. Every sleeper has a unique set of needs and personal preferences that can be catered to with the right mattress. You can easily find a mattress that strikes the right balance between comfort and support when you shop with us.

Texas Mattress Makers offers quality mattresses handmade right here in the state of Texas. Unlike other manufacturers, our passion lies in helping you find the perfect mattress that will last you a lifetime, not just a few years. If you struggle with back pain, we can help you get the comfortable and restorative rest you deserve with your perfect mattress for a great price. 

Our quality and factory-direct prices speak for themselves. Visit any of our mattress stores in Katy, Downtown Houston, The Woodlands, Rosenberg, Humble, or Baybrook, TX today, or shop online to find the perfect mattress for your back.

More Helpful Articles by Texas Mattress Makers:

Mattress Myths

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