Healthy sleep is key to well-being and quality of life. But a good night of slumber can be difficult if you suffer from back, hip, or other types of orthopedic pain. The right mattress can make the difference between restful sleep and tossing and turning. While some mattresses can exacerbate pressure points and stiffness, others help relieve discomfort and cushion muscles and joints.
So, how do you choose a mattress that will ease your pain and provide much-needed pressure relief? Despite the abundance of options, finding a great model doesn’t have to be confusing. I’ve rounded up my top picks to help you select a mattress that mitigates discomfort and promotes better slumber.
Best Orthopedic Mattress 2021
- Editor’s Choice – Snuggle-Pedic Original Ultra-Luxury Hybrid
- Best Orthopedic Mattress for Back Pain – Classic Brands Mercer Pillow Top
- Best Orthopedic Hybrid Mattress – Lucid 12 Inch Latex Mattress
- Best for Kids – Sweetnight
Snuggle-Pedic Original Ultra-Luxury Hybrid
My nod for overall quality, comfort, and durability goes to the Snuggle-Pedic Ultra-Luxury Mattress. This model has a versatile medium firm feel, sleeps cool, and is a great choice for most people with orthopedic pain. The Snuggle-Pedic is available in twin-California king sizes and comes with an impressive 20 year warranty.
- Comfort. The Snuggle-Pedic combines the pressure relieving comfort of memory foam with their Flex-Support technology, which gives this model the feel of a more traditional mattress
- Safety profile. This mattress is made in the US, CertiPUR-US certified, and low in volatile organic compounds, which can cause respiratory irritation
- Great for hot sleepers. The Snuggle-Pedic’s airflow transfer system boosts ventilation and breathability, making it a great choice for folks with orthopedic pain who sleep warm
- Affordability. The cost of this mattress may be a little out of reach for some sleepers
- Firmness. The Snuggle-Pedic may feel a little too firm to side sleepers or people who experience hip pain
The Snuggle-Pedic Original Ultra-Luxury Hybrid provides great comfort and sleeps really cool.
Best for Back Pain
Classic Brands Mercer Pillow Top
The Classic Brands 12 inch Mercer Memory Foam and Innerspring Hybrid is my choice for best mattress for back pain. This model offers plush comfort to help minimize discomfort and maximize pressure relief. The cushiony surface is supported by pocketed steel coils for durable support. The Classic Brands Innerspring Hybrid is available in twin-California king sizes.
- Sleeps cool. The Mercer’s gel-infused memory foam helps to disperse body heat and is a plus for folks who sleep hot
- Plush. This pillow top provided cloud-like comfort that cradled my shoulders and torso without too much sinkage
- Price. Pocketed coils, solid support, and a cloud-like pillow top make this mattress a bargain
- Weighty. The combination of the pillow top and pocketed coils make this mattress a heavy lift
- Not for larger sleepers. The Classic Brands pillow top mattress may be a bit too soft for sleepers who weight more than average
The Classic Brands Mercer Pillow Top sleeps cool and has a plush feel.
Lucid 12 Inch Latex Mattress
If you like the feel and support of a hybrid, check out the Lucid 12 inch Hybrid Mattress. This bed-in-a-box features plush memory foam and latex comfort layers for relief of orthopedic discomfort and pocketed coils for springy support. This mattress is available in 10 and 12 inch options and twin-California king sizes.
- Supportive. For folks on the hunt for pressure relief with some supportive push-back, this mattress offers plenty of both. The pocketed coils help to keep the spine aligned while memory foam and latex provide cushiony comfort
- Motion isolation. If you like the supportiveness of an innerspring but not too much bounce, the Lucid hybrid mattress strikes a nice balance thanks to its memory foam comfort layer and individually pocketed coils
- Low odor. Many new mattresses take a few days to air out, but the Lucid latex hybrid had almost no smell right out of the box
- Edge support. I found the edge support to be a bit less structured and durable than I expected for a well-constructed hybrid
- On the pricey side. This mattress is reasonably-priced for the overall quality but came in at the higher end of the models I tested
The Lucid 12 Inch Latex Mattress is supportive and offers great bounce.
Best for Kids
The Sweetnight 10 Inch Gel Memory Foam Mattress is my choice for children and teengers with orthopedic pain. This mattress offers a plush comfort layer supported by an internal network of pocketed steel coils. The Sweetnight memory foam mattress is available in twin-California king sizes and comes with a 10 year limited warranty.
- Back sleeper friendly. This medium firm mattress cushioned my shoulders and hips while providing stable support, the sweet spot for back sleepers
- Plush. The memory foam comfort layer is ideal for kids and teenagers who prefer a softer sleeping surface
- Great for kids with allergies. The Sweetnight mattress is made from CertiPUR-US Certified foam and is free from formaldehyde, mercury, and other heavy metals
- Durability. I felt a small depression in the surface of this mattress after a week — this could be a comfort issue over the long run
- A tad firm. This mattress might offer more push-back than some kids need, especially if they sleep on their sides
The Sweetnight mattress has a medium firmness that is great for back sleepers.
How We Picked
Now that we’ve discussed my picks, let’s talk about the selection process. The right mattress can make a significant difference for folks who experience orthopedic pain. I chose models specifically designed to help alleviate discomfort and cradle aching joints When shopping for a mattress that can help maximize comfort, keep the following terms and information in mind:
Firmness describes how a mattress feels when you lie down on it. A firmer mattress provides more push-back against the body and has a level sleeping surface. A softer mattress has increased sinkage and a plush feel. A medium firm mattress offers a balance between push-back and cloud-like conformity.
Mattress firmness is rated on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the softest and 10 being the firmest. 6.5 is the mattress industry standard for medium firmness. The best firmness level for you will depend on your sleeping position, personal preferences, and the type of orthopedic pain you experience.
Firmness and support refer to different mattress characteristics. Firmness describes the degree of push-back and rigidity of the mattress surface, while support refers to structural features that help keep the spine aligned and the neck in a neutral position. These features typically include steel coils and/or foam layers. A supportive mattress also prevents excessive sinkage or “bottoming out” of the materials under body weight.
Pressure relief refers to the ability of a mattress to alleviate tension in parts of the body like the shoulders, hips, and lower back. A mattress that provides pressure relief is especially important for people who sleep on their sides or have joint or neck issues. Contouring foam comfort layers can be key to pressure relief, particularly if you suffer from orthopedic pain.
Orthopedic Pain and Sleep Position
Now let’s look at another important part of choosing the right mattress: sleep position. Each sleep position has pros and cons that can impact spinal alignment and affect the health of the joints and spine. Let’s start with the most common of all the sleep positions.
Side sleeping is the most popular sleep position and may occur on either side. Some folks who sleep on their sides lie in a fetal-type position or with one or both legs down.
- Sleeping on your side can prevent the tongue from falling into the throat, reducing the risk of snoring or sleep apnea. Left side sleeping can also reduce acid reflux by preventing acid from flowing into the esophagus.
- Side sleeping can cause shoulder, arm, and/or hip pain due to pressure from the mattress and poor spinal alignment. Pressure on the jaw from sleeping on your side may result in jaw pain.
Mattress firmness is an important factor for side sleepers with orthopedic pain. A medium soft mattress can provide pressure relief and prevent too much sinking. Heavier folks who sleep on their sides may do best with a medium firm mattress that prevents excessive sinkage and curvature of the spine.
Sleeping on the back is often touted as the healthiest of all the positions. Back sleeping may be recommended for people with orthopedic conditions or after certain types of joint surgery.
- Sleeping on the back keeps the neck and head in a neutral position and aligns the spine. Back sleeping also distributes body weight and minimizes tension on pressure points. Sleeping on the back can reduce pressure on the side and front of the hips, shoulders, and knees
- Back sleeping can cause the tongue to fall into the throat and increase the risk of snoring and sleep apnea. Some people find back sleeping uncomfortable, especially over long periods of time
The right mattress for back sleepers with orthopedic pain is typically a medium-firm model that cushions the shoulders and hips and prevents gapping between the mattress and lower back. If you weigh more than 225 pounds, you may prefer a firmer mattress that prevents too much sinkage into the comfort layers.
Stomach sleeping can put stress on the neck and spine and is generally considered the least healthy of the sleep positions.
- Sleeping on the stomach can keep the tongue from blocking the airway and lower the risk of snoring and sleep apnea. It may also help clear the lungs during respiratory infections
- Stomach sleeping can cause poor back alignment and lead to muscle and joint pain
Stomach sleepers who experience orthopedic pain should consider a firmer mattress to support the spine and reduce sinking of the torso. Heavier stomach sleepers typically feel more comfortable on a very firm mattress that helps to maintain spinal alignment and decrease neck strain.
Now that we’ve talked about sleep positions and their potential impact on orthopedic pain, let’s look at the pros and cons of the most common types of mattresses. Most of these types of mattresses can easily be found in stores, online, and as bed-in-a-box models.
Memory foam is a polyurethane foam that feels plush and conforms to the body. Memory foam is available in a range of firmness options, from soft to extra firm.
- Memory foam absorbs motion and decreases the transfer of motion between partners who share a bed
- Memory foam is responsive to body heat and is known for its ability to relieve pressure on the joints. This can be helpful for folks who suffer from orthopedic pain, particularly side sleepers
- Memory foam mattresses are one of the most popular mattress materials and are now one of the most affordable
- Memory foam mattresses that don’t include innerspring or pocketed coils may not provide adequate support for folks who weigh more than 225 pounds
- Some forms of memory foam retain body heat and make sleeping uncomfortable. This is less likely with newer forms such as those infused with gel and copper
- Less edge support can cause sloping or poor spinal alignment for folks who sleep close to the edge of the mattress
Latex foam is made from the sap of the rubber tree. Latex is a natural product with a quick response to pressure and a bouncier feel than memory foam.
- Latex’s open-celled structure makes for natural ventilation and cooler sleeping
- The material can be a good choice for people who suffer from orthopedic pain and prefer natural materials
- The natural buoyancy of latex can be helpful for stomach sleepers, who may sink too deeply into a memory or poly foam mattress
- Latex comfort layers may be more supportive than memory or poly foam, and are a great option for heavier sleepers
- Latex is a natural material that requires harvesting. As a result, mattresses made from latex may be more expensive than memory or poly foam
- Foam made from latex tends to transfer more motion between bed partners than memory foam
- Latex doesn’t hug the body like memory and poly foams and may feel less comfortable to some sufferers of orthopedic pain
Poly foam is made from polyurethane and has a quick response to pressure. Poly foam is often used to support or complement memory foam or latex.
- When used in a comfort layer, poly foam can offer pressure relief and cushioning for aching joints and muscles
- The material can feel light and breathable, which may be a benefit for hot sleepers
- Poly foam is often more affordable than other, more durable mattress materials
- Less expensive poly foam can degrade quickly
- Poly foam may have less of a responsive feel than memory foam, which conforms to the body and cradles joints
Like an innerspring mattress, a hybrid utilizes a steel coil core for durability and structure but adds memory foam, poly foam, and/or latex comfort layers for pressure relief and support. Innerspring mattresses are not typically recommended for orthopedic pain sufferers, who often sleep best on comfort layers that cushion the joints and muscles.
- Hybrid mattresses contain pocketed coils, which are quieter and transfer less motion than traditional innersprings
- The foam comfort layers of a hybrid can offer plush pressure relief for pain sufferers
- Hybrid mattresses may be cooler than all-foam models and can be a good choice for folks who sleep warm
- The coil structure of a hybrid mattress may transfer motion, making it feel bouncier and disturbing to a bed partner
- Hybrid mattresses may be heavier and more difficult to move
- Less expensive hybrids may not be as durable as those made from pricier materials such as low-gauge steel coils and cooler memory foams
Last Word From Sleepopolis
Orthopedic pain doesn’t have to keep you awake. Pressure relief and support are key factors to remember when shopping for a mattress, along with primary sleep position. No matter what your budget or preference of mattress material, you can find a durable mattress that helps to mitigate pain and provide a great night’s sleep.
Summary: The Best Orthopedic Mattresses of 2021
- Editor’s Pick – Snuggle-Pedic Original Ultra-Luxury Hybrid
- Best for Back Sleepers – Classic Brands Mercer Pillow Top
- Best Hybrid – Lucid 12 Inch Latex Mattress
- Best for Kids – Sweetnight
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