If you've been dealing with chronic back pain you might be wondering if your mattress is to blame. It's true that a bad mattress can be the source of ongoing pain if it doesn't provide your back with adequate support, but it can be tricky to figure out what type of mattress will prevent annoying aches and pains. Let us help you decide what's better for your back, firm or soft mattress types.

What is mattress firmness?

Mattress firmness is the amount of give that a mattress has in it when you lie on it. A very soft mattress will give you the feeling of sinking into it, while a very firm mattress will barely budge beneath your weight.

However, it isn't as simple as these two extremes; mattress firmness is on a gradual scale, and every person has a different idea of what constitutes 'firm' or 'soft'. The firmness of a mattress is affected by a range of factors. Spring tension, the general tension of the mattress construction, and outer layers or upholstery can all impact perceived firmness.

How do I know if my mattress is bad for my back?

The biggest sign that your mattress is causing problems for your back is if you wake up in the morning and your back feels painful, stiff and achy. If you struggle to get yourself out of bed without wincing, your mattress is probably the problem.

Other telltale signs of a bad mattress include frequently waking in the night, tossing and turning to get comfortable, and waking up tired day after day due to poor sleep quality. Sometimes we don't even realise when we briefly wake in the night due to an uncomfortable mattress, but our energy levels certainly feel it the next morning.

Do soft mattresses cause back pain?

Many people assume that soft mattresses cause back pain, and while this is often the case, it isn't always so simple. The right mattress should distribute your body weight as evenly as possible in order to support the natural contours and alignment of the spine and joints.

Mid to upper back pain often occurs if a mattress is too soft and therefore not supportive enough to maintain natural spine alignment. However, pain in the lower back is often caused by a mattress that is too firm and therefore creates pressure in the hip joints which affects the muscles in the lower back.

Ambassador 2000

Product: Ambassador 2000 Pocket Mattress

What's better for your back, firm or soft mattress?

Medium-firm mattresses seem to be the best option for avoiding back pain. They provide enough firmness to support the body's weight and maintain proper spine alignment. Plus, they have enough give to cradle the natural contours of the body to prevent tension in the hips.

But here's where it gets a little more complicated. Our body weight and sleeping positions also play a role in choosing the right mattress firmness. People who are heavier tend to find firmer mattresses more comfortable on the back as the mattress can better support and distribute their weight. Lighter people often find firm mattresses too hard on their joints and prefer to sink into a softer mattress.

People who sleep on their side tend to prefer softer mattresses which are gentler on the hip, knee and elbow joints than firm mattresses. Back and stomach sleepers tend to fare better with the stability of a firm mattress. It's important to weight up all of these factors when deciding what's better for your back; firm or soft is only one part of the equation.

Is back pain caused by the wrong firmness or a bad mattress?

Before investing in a new mattress, it's important to assess what's wrong with your current mattress. Is it simply that it is too soft or firm and you need to find a more suitable firmness, or is the mattress actually old, worn, sagging or lumpy and these factors are the reason for your back pain?

Mattresses that start out feeling firm gradually lose their tension as time goes on. If your mattress is bellying out at the sides, is plagued with lumps and bumps from broken springs, or has a permanent dent in the area in which you sleep, it might be a case of an old, sagging mattress causing your back pain.

Think back to when the mattress was new - did you sleep comfortably on it? When did your back pain begin? Rather than going softer or firmer, would it make sense to buy a new mattress with a similar firmness to your old one?


Should I consider a custom mattress to prevent back pain?

It's clear that buying the best mattress for your back is not as simple as choosing between firm or soft. There are lots of factors to consider and much of these are individual and come down to personal preference. Investing in a custom mattress is a brilliant way to achieve the perfect level of support and comfort not only for your back but for your entire body.

Here at Endurance Beds we handcraft bespoke mattresses and offer a range of firmness levels to help you get the most comfortable night's sleep possible. With a wide variety of features to choose from, including open-coils, pocket-sprung, memory foam, and natural fibres, you can create a mattress that meets all of your requirements and gives your back the support it needs to stay healthy and free from pain. You can place your customer mattress order online or contact us for more information.

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