What’s the best mattress for a bad back?

We are often asked to advise on which mattresses are suitable for people with bad or painful backs. There is a long-held view that a firm mattress is the best for a bad back, but is this actually true? What kind of mattress should you look for it you have a bad back?  We explain exactly how to find the best mattress for a bad back.


One statement that seems to haunt us is “my chiropractor told me to look for an orthopaedic or firm mattress to help my bad back“. We have investigated this to find out why certain Chiropractors recommend firm beds. The response has been that firmness is thought to help support the body. This is where the confusion starts; firmness and support are two different things!

Firmer mattresses are not necessarily better for a bad back

All quality mattresses should offer you suitable support for your weight and height. The firmness is the perceived tension or comfort of the mattress by the sleeper. Support is somewhat dictated by your weight given that the majority of mattresses are sprung unless you’re looking at a solid core latex or foam mattress. The spring units will have a weight range which they have been designed and manufactured to accommodate.

Any half decent mattress manufacturer or retailer should be able to tell you exactly what weight range their particular spring tensions are suited for. Unfortunately, they probably won’t have a clue and will just ask you to lie on it, maybe telling you that its ‘individual preference’.

A spring unit has to be made with a load bearing weight in mind, it is fundamental to the laws of physics. If not the manufacturers are just guessing, and given the multi-million-pound industry that is beds, there’s no way spring manufacturers are going to risk a guess specification.