What To Do If An Orthopedic Mattress Hurts Your Back

People often assume that their back pains are related to medical conditions. However, if you go to bed feeling great but wake up feeling terrible, it could be a sign that your mattress is causing your back pain. Nowadays, even people who don’t have back problems or pain use orthopedic mattresses because they are more comfortable than other types of mattresses. However, in some cases, you might find that an orthopedic mattress hurts your back. We’ll discuss solutions to this problem along with discussing the underlying causes.

If an orthopedic mattress hurts your back, give it time, use a mattress topper, return or exchange the mattress, or see a doctor. 

Unfortunately, an orthopedic mattress isn’t right for everyone. Some people find that an orthopedic mattress relieves their pain, while others experience increased pain and discomfort. 

If an orthopedic mattress hurts your back give it some time to see if your body can adjust to the new mattress. An orthopedic mattress supports and encourages the natural curvature of the spine, while also reducing pressure on joints. Image Source: Amazon.

You might be interested in learning what each of the orthopedic mattress layers is used for. Take a look at our related article to find out more.

How To Tell If Your Orthopedic Mattress Is Causing Back Pain

While it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of your discomfort, there are some signs to look for that may indicate that your orthopedic mattress is the source of your back pain. 

To determine if the orthopedic mattress is causing back pain, try sleeping on another mattress, check if the pain is worse in the morning, or try a better sleep position.  

Here we suggest a few steps to follow to see if your mattress is causing your back pain:

Tip 1. Try Sleeping on Another Mattress 

Sleeping on a different mattress for a period of time is one of the simplest ways to determine whether or not your orthopedic mattress is causing your back pain. Try sleeping on a new mattress for a few days, preferably three days in a row, and see what happens. If you wake up with less pain, it is probably your orthopedic mattress that is the source of your discomfort. If you wake up with the same level of pain, then you may have another condition that needs to be seen to. Read our article about choosing an orthopedic mattress for sciatica pain to learn about how your mattress could be causing your discomfort. In this peer-reviewed article from the Journal of The Association of Physicians Of India, a syndrome called “foam mattress-back syndrome” is described. If you’re used to another kind of mattress and suddenly switch to an orthopedic mattress made of memory foam, you’ll likely get back pain. 

Tip 2. Check If Your Pain is Worse in the Morning  

If your back pain is there when you first wake up but gets better throughout the day, it’s a sign that your mattress is likely causing more harm than good. If your muscles have to work all night to support your spine, they won’t get enough rest, your joints will be overworked, and your discs won’t be able to decompress and rehydrate. Your body won’t get the proper rest it needs throughout the night, which leaves you with back pain as soon as you get out of bed in the morning. An orthopedic mattress like this one has pocket springs to provide proper support, and pressure-relieving memory foam to reduce backaches. This article by Eric, a musculoskeletal physiotherapist from Lifecare, explains more about the causes of back pain. 

Use an orthopedic mattress that has pocket springs to provide proper support for your back. If your back pain is there when you first wake up, but you can stretch to relieve it in 15-30 minutes, your mattress is probably causing more harm than good. Image Source: Lifecare.

Tip 3. Determine If You Are Waking Up More Frequently During The Night

If you’re waking up more frequently or tossing and turning in your bed during the night, it’s possible that your mattress is to blame or that you lack exercise. In one situation, your mattress may not be providing you with enough pressure relief and your spine isn’t in a neutral position. Consider something like this orthopedic mattress which provides medium-firm support and will assist with maintaining a neutral spine when sleeping. 

In another situation, you might need to exercise more. In this article from the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, patients with lower back pain were assigned walking as an exercise regimen and reported less back pain.

If an orthopedic mattress hurts your back, it will be impossible to settle into a comfortable position and get a good night’s sleep. If your spine isn’t in a neutral position when lying down then you’ll spend the entire night tossing and turning, trying to find a better sleeping position when the issue is actually your mattress. Image Source: Hippohug.

Tip 4. Check if Your Mattress is Sagging or Old

Mattresses start sagging and lose their shape as they age. A memory foam mattress for example will lose its ability to properly cradle your shoulders and hips, while an innerspring mattress will sag. So, if your mattress has sags and indentations, or if you feel like it’s swallowing you up and is no longer responsive, that’s an indication that it could be hurting your back. The iCoil technology in this Zinus mattress provides good pressure relief and support and prevents sagging. 

An old mattress will lose its ability to cradle your hips and shoulders. A sagging mattress deprives you of much-needed comfort and support, resulting in frequent back pains and aches. Image Source: Terrycralle.

You might also find interest in learning some tips and tricks on finding an orthopedic mattress for heavy people or even how to find an orthopedic mattress for scoliosis. Take a look at our related articles to find out.

Reasons an Orthopedic Memory Foam Mattress Causes Back Pain 

An orthopedic memory foam mattress can provide both relief and comfort, and ensure that your body weight is evenly distributed. However, not just any memory foam mattress is right for you. 

Reasons that an orthopedic memory foam mattress causes back pain may include the wrong level of firmness, poor mattress support, using the wrong base, or not allowing enough time for the mattress to expand. 

While orthopedic memory foam mattresses like these can be beneficial to some people due to the foam’s ability to adapt to their body shape, as we see in this video. It’s also possible that they cause back pain for others due to the mattress’s unsuitability for their specific needs. Read our article about orthopedic mattress sizes and how to choose the correct one for your needs, to learn more about the variety of orthopedic mattresses that are available.

Reason 1. Wrong Level of Firmness

The firmness of a mattress refers to how ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ it feels when you lie down on it. If your orthopedic memory foam mattress is overly firm it may not contour the body correctly which could cause back pain. On the other hand, if your memory foam mattress is overly soft, you may sink too far into it, causing your spine to become misaligned, resulting in back pain. If in doubt, you should buy a medium-firm orthopedic mattress and then alter the firmness based on your needs with mattress toppers. In this article from The Lancet journal, it was found that patients with lower back pain who slept on medium-firm mattresses had the best outcomes after 90 days vs. mattresses with other firmness ratings. Check out our guide to orthopedic mattresses vs. high-density mattresses to learn more about their firmness. 

Reason 2. Poor Mattress Support

Poor mattress support is typically the result of sagging as discussed in this Healthy Design article. If your orthopedic memory foam mattress sinks too much in the middle, you’re more likely to experience back pain. Sagging can be caused by excess weight on the mattress, damaged materials, manufacturing flaws, bad design, or a combination of these causes. The high-density base of this mattress will make it less susceptible to sagging. 

Reason 3. Using the Wrong Base

If you’ve recently purchased a new orthopedic memory foam mattress and placed it on top of an existing base, incompatibility could be creating slight sagging, which is causing your back pain. Memory foam mattresses often don’t perform well on slatted bases unless the gaps between the slats are no more than 3-4 inches. This is because gaps that are too large may allow the foam to protrude through and compromise the support, resulting in back pain. Read our guide on mattress foundations vs. bed frames to know what to use for your orthopedic mattress. 

Reason 4. Not Giving Enough Time For the Mattress to Expand. 

A new orthopedic memory foam mattress can take up to 30 days to ‘break in’ and adjust to your body weight, body type, and favorite sleeping position. Because it is unused, the mattress may appear stiff, making it uncomfortable and causing back discomfort for a while. Just keep in mind that the mattress will not feel its greatest until it has expanded to its full size. Read our article about how long it takes a memory foam mattress to expand for helpful tips and factors that affect the expansion rate.

What To Do If An Orthopedic Mattress Hurts Your Back

Many people have claimed that sleeping on an orthopedic mattress has helped them to relieve their back discomfort. However, not all orthopedic mattresses are designed to be healthy for your back. Read our article comparing orthopedic mattresses and Tempurpedic mattresses to find out more about their similarities and differences, and how they support your back. 

If an orthopedic mattress causes back pain, give it some time, try using a mattress topper, return or exchange the mattress, or consult a doctor. 

Tip 1. Give It Time

Orthopedic mattresses are not like any other type of mattress. They are firm and have some specific features that make them suitable for certain people. As a result, it’s probable that you won’t experience comfort when you first use one. If your orthopedic mattress is brand new, it will most likely soften through the application of pressure and heat over time. We suggest that you wait for at least 20 out of the 30-day trial period to see if you become accustomed to the mattress and your back discomfort subsides. This orthopedic mattress has a 100-day sleep trial, which is more than enough time to determine if the mattress has expanded properly. 

Tip 2. Purchase A Mattress Topper

For some people, a mattress topper can help relieve back discomfort by adjusting the firmness of their existing orthopedic mattress. Purchase a soft mattress topper like this, and place it on top of your existing mattress to make it feel less firm. If you wish to make the orthopedic mattress harder, then you can buy a firmer mattress topper like this. Our mattress topper density guide is a great resource for helping you choose a suitable mattress topper. 

A memory foam mattress topper like this can help to add a little more comfort to a mattress that is firm. This memory foam mattress topper helps relieve common pressure points and prevent you from sinking into the mattress. Image Source: Amazon.

If your back discomfort is caused by your mattress, changing it will almost certainly help. Return policies protect your right to return or exchange any product you purchase. You can refer to the policies of the retailer where you purchased your mattress and see if you can get a refund or exchange it for another product. Amazon offers a 30-day return window, which can be found here, during which you can return your mattress or exchange it. Target is a retailer that offers a 90-day return window during which you can exchange your mattress. 

Tip 4. Consult a Doctor

Inquire with your doctor or chiropractor about sleeping postures and mattress suggestions. Your chiropractor is not only a back expert, but he/she is probably aware of the technology that mattress manufacturers are developing and will be able to make a suggestion about the type of orthopedic mattress you could try. If your doctor recommends an orthopedic mattress then read our article that discusses orthopedic mattresses covered by insurance so that you can have a portion of the cost reimbursed to you.