What Type and Firmness of mattress is right for Low Back Pain Sufferers?

What kind of low back support can a mattress provide and will it help your low back pain?  And, if you have low back pain, what type of foam should one purchase and what firmness is best for the low back pain sufferer?  These two questions always tend to linger in the mind of the person suffering from lower back pain.  Here are the answers:

First, let me explain several underlying facts about lower back pain and the relationship between the bed, the support needed, and the body.  In my opinion, the majority of back pain is from the sequelae of arthritis, especially in people over 50.  The second most common cause is from a specific injury or repetitive trauma.  Experts agree that about 80% of people will have low back pain at some time in their life.  Also, it is recognized that low back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work days. In another large survey, more than 25% of adults reported experiencing low back pain at sometime within the past 3 months.

So with that said, let’s go directly to the question about how a mattress can provide needed support.  The key type of support one needs in a mattress for people that want to prevent or help to decrease lower back pain is called “PUSH BACK”.  This type of support gives your spine the needed resistance and the ability to straighten out the sagging effects of the spine due to gravity.  A great analogy is the arch of your foot.  If one doesn’t provide proper arch support through the proper shape of materials in your shoes, the muscles, joints and ligaments fatigue and create undue stress the entire foot, eventually giving you fatigue and soreness- sometimes resulting in “plantar fasciitis”.  Well, the low back is no different.  It also needs to maintain that “lordotic” arch to maintain equal weight bearing distribution and optimal mechanics; otherwise, abnormal stress and pressure creates pain and inflammation.

Finding the right level of firmness depends on several factors.  In respect to sufferers of low back pain, it is fairly simple.  First and foremost, Talalay Latex is by far the best foam to buy as rubber has the inherent property of “push back”.  The fact that the primary ingredient has a low carbon footprint and comes from the sap of the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) makes this the perfect choice for durable and effective push back.  Unlike other types of latex foams, Talalay goes through a very extensive and complicated process to obtain impeccable consistency throughout the foam, flash freezing the rubber particles then rapidly heating the material to create incredible consistency unlike almost all other types of latex foams.  This makes Talalay the foam of choice for my company, JUSTSLEEPbeds.com, that produces premium mattresses that Change the Way You Sleep®.   Other companies continue to produce cheaper foam alternatives -with old style memory foam that does not create push back, but rather only creates a “sag” effect which does nothing to give the back the needed support to maintain the important and critical curvature of the spine.

And finally, the second half of the opening question is about what type of firmness is right for the person with low back pain.  Generally speaking, people with low back pain need more firmness but again, the push back is by far the most critical factor.  The firmer the mattress, the less sag effect will occur and this is why some cheaper memory foam mattresses can sometimes feel unsatisfactory to the consumer.  A simple firm or hard surfaces is also not the answer in the long run as you also need to combine this with pressure relief for optimal comfort. This is why I suggest a firm type of “feel” for the consumer with low back pain but yet the mattress also needs to have adequate “give” to combine support with comfort.  A mattress will feel different to different people and therefore this is why I have created a “Firmness Chart” that identifies the right firmness for different size people.  A person who is 250 pounds with back pain will certainly need a “firm” mattress as the effects of their weight will need to be supported.  On the same token, a person 120 pounds with back pain will feel the same firmness/support with a Medium firmness and in reality, a “firm” mattress to the lighter individual would feel overly firm and not be the right mattress firmness.  Therefore, everyone needs to take into consideration -first and foremost, their weight in deciding what firmness is right for the person that has or is trying to prevent low back pain.

If two people are sleeping in the same bed and are completely different sizes and both have back pain, they need a JUST SLEEP mattress.  If two people are within 100 pounds of one another, the inverted layer of egg-crate that I have created in my newest PREMIUM design will balance the feel and support between the two people.  If there is a size variation greater than 100 pound, for example a 250 pound man and a 120 pound wife, the JUST SLEEP mattress offers a SPLIT bed for a slight upgrade in price.  For example, in a King size bed,  you can order two twin longs, one with a “Medium” firmness  on one side and the other with a “Firm” Firmness on the other side.  Then, we put a comfort topper over the entire King size set of mattresses which creates a seamless, perfect combination.  Please visit our website at JUSTSLEEPbeds.com for more details and/or call our professional and courteous customer service at 805-379-5007 for more details.

Sleep well,


Dr Raymond Hall, DC

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