Too many bad beds.. from waterbed, to latex, to memory foam to airbed.. bad lower back pain!

New member here, Hi everyone, thanks for this great site!!!

Problem: Ever bed/mattress my wife and I wake up with bad lower back pain. The ONLY time we seem to wake up pain free is when we travel and stay in a hotel on a coil bed, go figure!!!

Some background…
myself - 6’2", 200lbs, back sleeper
wife - 5’, 120lbs, side sleeper
Current bed: Dual chamber airbed on a platform base, plywood base, very strong, can probably park a car on it :slight_smile:
Instant-Comfort 3500 -

years ago had a 100% waveless waterbed. was okay, slept on it for a number of years. Moved and the bed was too big and heavy so bought a king size medium firmness coil pillow top mattress for new place. After a couple years the coil bed started to sink in the middle (wife sleeps on side with her butt towards middle of bed, I’m a back sleeper so felt like I would be sleeping on a slight hill and fall into the middle of bed). Got so bad we decided to get rid of bed. Next up I said maybe it was a bad boxspring so I’m going to get away from metal frames and boxspring, when out and bought a platform bed. Put 3/4" plywood over the wooden slats, and 2x4’s cut into pieces and standing vertically under the center line of bed. You can probably park a car on this platform without it sagging :slight_smile:

Now I had a great foundation what should I put on it? I read all this great stuff about full Talalay latex beds, so figured lets give it a shot. Went online did a lot of reading and researching, found a good online latex supplier and purchased 8x total layers of latex (was like $3,500… the most I’ve ever spent on a bed). 4 layers per side for a king size bed. Each layer was a different ILD. I think each layer was like 3" thick making for a total thickness of 12" when put together. I loved the idea that I could mix up the layers to try out different settings and my wife had the option of changing up her side independently from mine. Well after many months of tinkering with the various layer configurations, etc. we just could not get anything to work well enough for preventing lower back pain in the morning. We always felt like our butts were sinking in too much. The bed was super comfortable when first getting in it, felt like sleeping in a cloud, but then in the morning we woke up with lower back pain. After 6 months of this we sold the bed, but kept the foundation I built

Next up, said okay lets go back to a coil spring bed, but this time lets go buy JUST a firm coil mattress (no boxspring) and we can just add toppers onto it, that way if a topper sags or gets impressions, we will throw it out and buy another topper, but at least the mattress will be okay. So we went to sears and bought the highest coil count Sealy Posturepedic we could find… it was firm in King size with about 700+ coils, cost about $700. Got it home, sleep good for about a month on my back, no lower back pain but then wife complained bed was too hard for her side sleeping. So purchased a 3" thick 4lb density memory foam topper from Healthy Foundations. Best Memory Foam Toppers -- A Guide
Well we put it on the coil mattress, it certainly softened up the top layer however our lower back pain returned. For me I felt like my butt was sinking too far down, thus it was arching my lower back and I would wake up with a lot of lower back pain (the memory foam certainly filled in the lumbar area but allowed my butt to sink too far down, thus it created an over arching effect on my lower back). My wife would sleep on her side and woke up feeling lower back pain, probably because her spine was out of alignment due to the 3" memory foam, this stuff compresses very easily and is really soft. Feels so good when you get into bed, but always woke up in pain.
So we got rid of the firm coil mattress and next up we thought… lets try an airbed with dual chambers so I could set my side more firm and she could have her side more soft. Well so far after 2 years this is the worst of the worst. Here are some issues…
1.) we always wake up with lower back pain and just feel like our bodies are not getting rest
2.) you set your air setting before bed, then you wake up to find the air setting is a bunch higher… I believe because body heat warms the air bladders, thus expanding the air and causing a more firm bed throughout the night.
3.) we choose an airbed with very minimal layers over the air bladders, again figuring we would use toppers to soften it up. So we still had that 3" memory foam topper from the coil mattress, and put that on the airbed. Same problems, I feel like my butt sinks in too far when back sleeping and she feels out of alignment sleeping on her side. But without the topper the air bladders are too firm to sleep right ontop of. And if we let too much air out then we literally sink in almost down to the plywood platform bed, and our bodies have very little to no support.

Long story short, went from water bed, to medium-firm pillow top coil bed (that sagged in middle) probably due to poor boxspring and metal frame… then bought a platform base and reinforced with thick plywood for a rock solid foundation… then tried a 100% talalay latex bed, then went back to a firm high spring count coil bed, and most recently have an airbed.

Throughout all these beds we still have the same problem… LOWER BACK pain. At this point we don’t know what to do, thinking of going back to a coil mattress and put it on our platform foundation (withOUT a boxspring). Do we get a medium firm coil mattress? maybe put a different type of foam topper on it? (don’t think memory foam is for us).
All we know if that when we go away and sleep on hotel beds, we always sleep great and wake up pain free. So it’s not our bodies which are the problem, it’s our beds.
I do not believe in buying beds from big name box stores, their sales tactics are discouraging and products usually sub-par. I know the smaller ‘never heard their name before’ type of manufacturers usually have better quality for more reasonable prices. The hard part is finding them and choosing a bed which many times has to be bought over the internet where we can’t lay in it first. And at this point we don’t know how good it would be to lay in a bed first anyhow, as everything always feels great in the store when you lay on it for 10 minutes, but after a month having it at home, everything changes. So that brings us to this website and we are hoping you knowledgable folks can help guide us in the correct direction. Read many of the articles on this site, and I feel that we need a mattress with very good progressive resistance.

Thank you all!

Hi needanewmattress,

Just in case you haven’t read it yet … the first place to start is the mattress shopping tutorial here which has all the basic information, steps, and guidelines that can help you find a mattress that is a suitable match for your body type, sleeping positions, and preferences … and know how and why to avoid the worst ones.

There is also more about the most important parts of the “value” of a mattress purchase in post #13 here that can help you make more meaningful comparisons between mattresses.

It’s much more likely that the sagging you experienced was the result of the softening and breakdown of lower quality comfort layers in your mattress because the support core in a mattress or the support system under a mattress (assuming it’s suitable for your mattress) is rarely the weakest link in a mattress (whether it is latex or innersprings or polyfoam or any other type of support core). There is more about the many variables that can affect durability and the useful life of a mattress relative to different people in post #4 here.

There is more about hotel beds in post #3 here and the posts it links to but there are so many different versions of hotel beds that without knowing the specifics of the hotel beds you slept on it unfortunately doesn’t provide much meaningful information about the type of mattress that would be suitable for you outside of “pointing to” firmer support cores with softer comfort layers (often with a bedding package on top to add some softness and a plush feeling to the mattress) and a mattress that is in relatively good condition and has little sagging.

I would also keep in mind that the type of mattress or the materials and components inside it have much less to do with whether a mattress is suitable for you than the specific design of the mattress and how well the firmness/softness and response of the materials and components interact with each other and your specific body type and sleeping positions to provide you with good PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences) in all your sleeping positions. The type of mattress or the category it belongs in (innerspring, latex, memory foam, hybrid, or any other) is more a matter of individual preference and no matter what type or category of mattress you are considering there will likely be several designs that work well for you and many others that don’t. There is more about the many factors and “specs” that can make one mattress suitable for one person even though it may be completely unsuitable for someone else to sleep on. having said that … I would be very cautious about choosing an airbed (see this article).

There is more about primary support, secondary support, and their relationship to pressure relief in post #4 here and in post #2 here and there is also more in post #2 here which talks about the most common symptoms that people generally experience on a mattress which can help give you some insights into why you are experiencing some of the issues you are experiencing but in very general terms … the most common cause for lower back pain is comfort layers that are too thick and soft or support layers that are too soft. Every type of mattress can be made with firmer or softer support cores and firmer/thinner or softer/thicker comfort layers. The “trick” is to have a support system that is firm enough for your body type and then “just enough” thickness and softness on top of it to relieve pressure in all your sleeping positions. Support/alignment and pressure relief are opposites in terms of what they require and the ideal is always to find the right balance between them so there isn’t too much of either one or the other.

If you choose a mattress that is too firm and needs additional pressure relief then adding a topper can be a good idea but the key is to add a topper that is the most suitable thickness and softness because if you add a topper that is too thick and soft for you then it would have the same effect as choosing a mattress that has comfort layers that are too thick and soft for your body type and sleeping style and you can end up with a sleeping system that isn’t a good match for you. Based on your description … it sounds like the topper you were using is thicker/softer than it needed to be in combination with the mattresses you were using it on (the mattress underneath a topper will also have a significant effect on the thickness and softness of a topper that is best for you). Post #2 here and the topper guidelines it links to have more information about choosing the type, thickness, and firmness of a topper that has the best chance of success. If a mattress needs additional pressure relief but you aren’t experiencing back pain and then you add a topper that results in lower back pain then the odds are high that the topper is too soft/thick and that you’ve “jumped over” the mattress/topper combination that would be suitable for you and exchanged a pressure issue for an alignment issue.

Nobody else can feel what you feel on a mattress and there are too many unknowns, variables, and personal preferences involved for anyone to be able to know which specific mattress is best for you in terms of PPP based on specs (either yours or a mattress) or “theory at a distance” (see mattress firmness/comfort levels in post #2 here) so your best chance of success is always careful and objective testing using the testing guidelines that are in the tutorial post which in most cases and for most people will be “close enough” to their actual sleeping experience that if any fine tuning is necessary it will be relatively minor (see post #4 here). The alternative to this is a good exchange and refund policy and/or having good options available after a purchase so you can use our actual sleeping experience on a mattress to decide whether it’s a good match for you with less risk.

For most people their is a fairly wide range of mattresses that they will sleep well on and that would make a suitable choice in terms of PPP but if you are more sensitive to smaller differences between mattresses (regardless of the type of mattress or materials) and are closer to the “princess and the pea” end of the scale than the “I can sleep on anything” end of the scale then the range of mattresses that would be suitable for you will likely be much smaller. If this is the case and you aren’t confident that you would be in the majority where your careful and objective testing would be a good indication of your “real life” sleeping experience then the options you have after a purchase to make changes by further customize the mattress or individual layers or to return the mattress would become a more important part of your personal value equation if in spite of the “best efforts” of both you and the retailer or manufacturer you are working with your choice doesn’t turn out as well as both of you hoped for.

As frustrating as it may be … and as much as many consumers may wish that someone else could tell them which mattress will work best for them in terms of PPP or that mattress reviews or other people’s experiences or opinions could tell them which mattress would be a suitable choice … the reality is that only your own personal experience can tell you this (see post #13 here).

There is lot of information in this reply and in the tutorial post and the other posts it links to and I would read it like you would a good book and resist the temptation to “study” it like you would a textbook because trying to choose a mattress based on specs or an overemphasis on technical information at the expense of your own personal experience can too easily lead to confusion and “paralysis by analysis” and can lead to just as many poor choices as not having enough information to make an informed choice in the first place.

Once you reach step 3 in the tutorial post then if you let me know your city or zip code then I’d be happy to let you know about the better options or possibilities I’m aware of in your area. In many cases the knowledge and experience of the retailer or manufacturer you are dealing with can be one of the most important factors in making a successful purchase.

In the end your choice will come down to testing for suitability and PPP (either in a showroom or in your bedroom), checking for the quality and durability of the materials and components in your mattress to make sure there are no weak links (you can’t "feel the quality/durability of the materials in a mattress), and then comparing your finalists for “value” based on all the criteria that are most important to you.


Thank you very much for the informative reply. I understand your points, however the issue is most of these quality manufacturers would necessitate buying over the phone/internet with no way of testing first. Even with showroom testing I would not trust what I was feeling because they always feel great the first hour, but after 8 hours of sleep or a few weeks later, thats when the lower back pain begins to show.
Could it be that the pillow top hotel beds (or whatever topper they are using) gets compressed from much use, therefore you dont sink in as much because the comfort layer is already compressed? Its just odd that used hotel beds always seem to alleviate lower back pain for us… And these are not new mattresses at all, we dont stay in top end hotels, more mainstream best western caliber places.
I like the ability to reconfigure a bed as I did with the past latex bed however im very hesitant to try another full latex or foam bed. I think at this point there is something about coils not compressing as much in our pelvis area which prevents or reduces the back pain. Put it this way, sleeping on a carpet floor with 2 layers of comforters provides a better night sleep with little to no lower back pain.
So with this being said, the question is where to even start looking for a new mattress? Most the better manufacturers probably will not have showrooms near us therefore we have to spin the dice and just buy something keeping our fingers crossed… This seems very risky. Any particular types of beds and manufactures you can recommend? For instance “for coil beds XYZ is your best bed… For latex try ZZZ and for hybrid try YYY”. Its just so overwhelming and complicated buying a bed, much easier buying a car!
Given my description could you recommend some particular mattress choices?

Hi needanewmattress,

There are many good quality/value mattresses that are available locally in most areas of the country that you could test in person before a purchase (if you let me know your city or zip code I’d be happy to let you know about the better options I’m aware of) but regardless of whether you purchase locally or online … if you aren’t confident that your purchase will be a good match for you in terms of PPP then the options you have after a purchase to further customize the mattress, exchange it for another one, or return it, would become a more important part of the “value” of your purchase and there are many local and online manufacturers and retailers that have a good exchange or return policy that would lower the risk of making an unsuitable choice.

Hotel mattresses are used less than consumer mattresses (they aren’t slept on every night) and are generally newer and in better condition than a mattress that needs replacing. Most comfort layers in hotel mattresses (which are usually made by major manufacturers) are made of foam which gets softer with use … not firmer. They are generally more costly and often lower quality versions of similar consumer mattresses that are available in mattress showrooms across the country made by the same major manufacturers.

Some coils will compress more than some latex support cores and some latex support cores will compress more than some innersprings … it just depends on the specifics of each and their relative firmness level because both come in a wide range of firmness levels.

With some people that have a more difficult time finding a suitable mattress then a zoning system that is suitable for their body type can be a good choice because it can provide firmer support under the heavier areas of the body and “allow” other parts of the body such as the shoulders to sink in more deeply. Once again though … a zoning system may be helpful for some people and may be detrimental to others depending on how well their body proportions and weight distribution “matches” the zoning in a mattress. There is more about zoning in this article and in post #11 here and post #2 here but once again only your own testing or sleeping experience will tell you whether any zoning pattern is a suitable “match” for you in terms of PPP.

Again I can only repeat what I posted in my last reply in answer to this …

Nobody else can feel what you feel on a mattress and there are too many unknowns, variables, and personal preferences involved for anyone to be able to know which specific mattress is best for you in terms of PPP based on specs (either yours or a mattress) or “theory at a distance” (see mattress firmness/comfort levels in post #2 here).

Again … if you let me know our city or zip code I’d be happy to let you know about any of the better options or possibilities I’m aware of in your area. Other than local choices the only other option would be an online purchase.


Do you think putting a high density polyfoam topper on my airbed would help with support?

What are your thoughts on a full polyfoam mattresses versus latex mattresses? Is this EverFlex foam good? Custom High-Quality Foam Mattress Store -

Is polyfoam cancer causing?

Hi needanewmattress,

It depends on what you mean by support. The upper layers are primarily for pressure relief and for secondary support. Primary support which is what most people mean when they refer to support comes from the deeper layers of a mattress (I posted some links in my earlier replies about primary support, secondary support, and their relationship to pressure relief).

There is more information about the most important parts of the “value” of a mattress purchase in post #13 here. If a mattress is a good match for you in terms of PPP and you prefer it over a latex mattress or you are in a lower budget range where latex isn’t a possibility and there are no weak links in the mattress in terms of the quality of the materials then it would certainly make a suitable choice. Tuft & Needle and Dreamfoam bedding are both members here and both of them sell a polyfoam mattress that many of the forum members have purchased and done very well with (see post #2 here).

2.6 lb polyfoam such as Everflex is a very high quality and durable material so in terms of quality and durability there would be no weak links in a mattress that used it (see the foam quality guidelines here. There is also more information about the different types and grades polyfoam in this article about polyfoam comfort layers and this article about polyfoam support layers).

If a polyfoam material is made in North America and/or is CertiPUR certified for harmful substances and VOC’s then I personally wouldn’t have any concerns about toxicity, cancer, or other health issues no (polyfoam is the same material that is used in most furniture foam). For those that may have unusual sensitivities or health conditions such as MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities) and wish to avoid synthetic materials that most people would be fine with then there is more information in post #2 here that can help answer their questions concerning “how safe is safe enough for me?”


Thank you. And who would you recommend for innerspring coil mattresses?

Just gonna chime in here since I can predict what Phoenix will say next… What zip code or City do you live in?


Found this list Phoenix posted of retailers and showrooms in northern NJ, NY, CT, and PA.

Post #7

Coil versus Poly Foam mattresses…

1.) will the 2lb poly foam core be as progressive supporting as a coil mattress? basically trying to avoid my butt sinking in too much when sleeping on back or side.

2.) are double sided coil mattresses made anymore? are they better than single side no-flip mattresses? any good brands you can recommend?

Some of the Amish manufacturers still make double-sided coil mattresses; if you have an Amish furniture store near you.

Hi needanewmattress,

These types of questions will depend on the specifics of a mattress and all the materials and components inside it interact together and can only be answered based on your own personal experience on the mattress “as a whole”. Assuming that by “progressive support” you mean “compression modulus” or the rate that a material or component becomes firmer with deeper compression … the compression modulus of a foam is the “rough” equivalent to the spring rate of an innerspring but even this can be misleading because a spring has a linear response curve (at least if it has the shape of a cylinder and has a single spring rate) and foam has a response curve that is shaped more like a banana. There is more technical information about this in post #2 here. A single spec of only one component of a mattress will have little to do with whether a mattress “as a whole” will be a good match for you in terms of PPP. 2 lb polyfoam would generally have a compression modulus in the range of 2 or a little higher but it would depend on the specifics of how the foam was manufactured and the compression modulus of deeper layers may not be nearly as important as the compression modulus of the upper layers in a mattress (because deeper layers don’t compress as much so their firmness can be more important than their compression modulus or spring rate).

Yes there are many manufacturers that still make them although they are much more rare in the more mainstream part of the industry. There is more about the pros and cons of two sided mattresses in post #3 here and the posts it links to. A few examples of two sided mattresses that are made by some of the members of this site are here and here and here and here and here and here and there are many other manufacturers that make them across the country.

I don’t recommend specific mattress brands (outside of smaller manufacturers or “off brands” in general … or at least the ones that make good quality/value mattresses) because outside of PPP … a mattress is only as good as it’s construction and the type and quality of the materials inside it regardless of the name of the manufacturer (see post #5 here and post #10 here). I also don’t keep a record of individual mattresses that are made in any particular area or by specific manufacturers since this would be more than anyone could keep up with in a constantly changing market.

Outside of the list which Benstark linked (thanks Benstark :)) … post #21 here also has some links to local lists that are close to you but your better options would likely be in the NY, NJ, or CT lists.