Do people with back aches need softer mattresses (salespeople told me they do)

I’m a brand-new member. I have had back pain issues since the summer, and have finally decided it’s time to get a new mattress. I am super glad I have come upon this site — I’ve read through lots of tutorials, “How to look for and find the best mattress … for YOU!”, “Five steps to your perfect mattress - Support and spinal alignment”, “Comfort and Pressure Relief”, etc. I now understand more re: quality of materials in terms of density lbs/inch etc.

First, about me: I am only 4’11" (used to be 5’0", but am apparently shrinking!), 60 years young, weigh @ 135 lbs with a BMI of 27 (ideally, I should be between @ 19 and 25), and am single. I am primarily a back sleeper, but also sleep on my side for a while. Sleeping hot has never been an issue with me (although I’ve never had a memory foam mattress). I have a slat system: there are 15 slats, 3 1/4" apart, surrounded by a metal frame and with a metal support in the middle. Because of my height (or rather, lack of it), I do not want a mattress deeper than 11". I have slept on comfortable beds at a bed-and-breakfast and an Air-bnb… but getting up onto these beds were quite a struggle! My back pain sometimes changes a bit, but is both my lower back and middle back and sometimes under my shoulders.

My current mattress, which is roughly 6 years old, was never great for me. {edited: It was made by Natura, a “Boreas” model they no longer make. The label says it has 2" medium soy polyfoam, 5" medium soy polyfoam, 1" 40% natural soft Talalay latex, and 10 oz / yd Natural wool & 45 % cotton knit ticking.} I purchased it when I purchased my Queen bed frame, along with the slats. It was the firmest of the 3 models, but even in the store, did not feel that firm to me and I seemed to sink in it and it wouldn’t spring back up or hold me up. (The furniture store no longer sells any mattresses). I did not return it, because it was such a hassle getting it in the first place: it came more than a month after the promised date, and I had already gotten rid of my previous boxspring mattress and had to sleep on the couch for a month! This mattress seems to have a huge dip in the centre, and is noticeably higher on both sides. I realize I must not be in alignment, because I can feel the side of my body closer to the dip slant towards it!

When I went to look at mattresses this past Saturday (before I came upon this site), several salespeople told me that because of my back issues, I should not look for a firm mattress (even though I believe I have been most comfortable on them), but rather a medium or soft mattress so it can relieve the pressure more. Is this true??? What I seem to get from the info on this site is that comfort is entirely subjective. Does this hold true, even for people with back pain like me?

I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. There is only one local manufacturer, Restmore (on your Trusted Members list), that I haven’t yet checked out. I would prefer to purchase either locally, or Canadian online or Canadian manufacturer. I cannot afford much more than @ $1200 Cdn. Perhaps you can advise me?

So far, I really like the online Novosbed mattress, which is on your approved list, and I really love that they have a “comfort adjustment” layer they send for free if the firmness/softness doesn’t meet my needs. Since I cannot test it out beforehand, would it be safer to get the firm? I believe I’ve read here that it is easier to make a firm bed softer with a layer than vice versa…

I considered the “Purple”, but they don’t ship to Canada. Two other online mattresses I am considering (their sites don’t have more specs: I’d have to phone) are the Chirofoam Memory Foam with 8" high-density bio-foam, 2" foam, 2" gel 4 lbs/ft memory foam or the Springwall “Whisper” with 8" support bio-foam, 1" gel latex, 1" visco gel memory foam.

I am hoping to lose 15 to 20 pounds. Should I lose that weight, would the mattress I choose still work for me?

Considering that I cannot afford much more than $1200, is latex generally more expensive than memory foam? So far, I’ve only tested memory foam and memory foam / hybrids with the coils. I’m not aware of any latex mattresses that I could test locally, to see which I would prefer…

Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated!

Hi Hyla,

I k now most of these questions (specific brands, manufacturing members, etc.) are directed toward the forum moderator, Phoenix, but I can help with some general guidance about “low back issues” and mattress selection.

While I know there are multiple articles discussing this on the forum, I’ll try and simplify things for you. The first thing I suggest is to try to separate the job of the support unit and the comfort materials. I know they all work together, but I find is helps consumers if they differentiate between the two.

The support core can be an innerspring unit, polyurethane foam, latex, air chambers, fluid bladder, and so on. The primary focus of this would be to support your deep alignment and to prevent you from bottoming out. It is rare that you would want something with “poor” support characteristics, but this doesn’t mean that you need something that feels like a rock. At you size, you may prefer something that contours a bit more gently, perhaps a marshall spring unit or an LFK unit for an innerspring. For latex or polyurethane foam, you’d probably want to avoid something in the “extra firm” range. I know these are generalized terms, but an educated comfort consultant should have a good grasp of these concepts. Proper deep alignment has a high correlation with time spent in the deeper stages of sleep, so I defer toward this initially.

The overall softness of how a mattress feels is determined to a large extent by the comfort layers placed upon the support unit. Here you have a wide range of materials that are too voluminous for me to list. As you’ve already read through some of the different articles on how to choose a mattress, the key thing will be to first consider materials that are high quality and durable. This can be choosing a certain material itself, or making sure that the material is of a certain density so it will tend to last longer. You may find that you have an affinity for select materials, and this is most easily accomplished through your own personal testing.

When you are a side sleeper, you’ll tend to desire a little more surface plushness to allow for the difference between the dimensions of the hips, waist and shoulders. This of course differs for every somatotype and subclass thereof. Supine (back) sleepers tend to desire a bit less plushness than side sleepers, so since you sleep in both postures a comfort between these two is already a good place to start testing. The biggest mistake I find people making is choosing something that is too plush, either from materials that are too low in IFD/ILD (softness) or most commonly, too many comfort layers. While many of these combinations with very thick comfort layers can feel comfortable in-store, quite often over time as the foam layers break in there is the potential for excessive sag, which can negatively impact alignment, which can have a negative impact upon back soreness.

One other thing to note: It’s often that people recommend a “firm” mattress for someone with a back issue. People (and the ones offering the suggestion) often confuse “firm” with a “hard” mattress. The two can have nothing to do with each other. This is why I differentiate between support and surface comfort. You’ll always want something with good “firm” support, but this doesn’t mean that the mattress has to feel like sleeping upon a concrete slab.

Overall, I know these are very general suggestions, but there is no way for me to be able to accurately make specific suggestions online. If you were consulting with me in person, after a dialogue I’d try to find an item for you that would have good deep support and then find something that had just enough comfort material to get the job done for you, knowing that all foams soften over time and that you can always customize down the road with some sort of topper material to create extra plushness.

I hope that helps with the one part of your question.

Thank you! It’s a bit overwhelming :slight_smile: but I think I understand what you mean. I’ll have to look up “marshall spring unit or an LFK unit”. I appreciate your reply.

You’re welcome.