If you suffer from a bad back, there’s nothing worse than a poor night’s sleep. You want your mattress to provide you with plenty of cushioning to keep away those aches and pains.
An orthopaedic mattress is designed to support the joints and back. It’s also specially created to prevent pressure points from forming by providing tailored support.
What is an orthopaedic mattress?
Orthopaedic mattresses are expertly designed sleeping surfaces which provide a firm base for those requiring some extra support. Alleviating strain on bones, muscles, and joints, orthopaedic mattresses are supportive to parts of the body which are susceptible to pain and tension. They are specially designed to offer firm support where it's needed and spread body weight across the surface area.
Backed by science, they derive from medical studies which focus on spinal and joint disorders. The specialist mattresses for back pain are tailored towards tackling issues which threaten to keep you up at night, offering targeted support to pain points. The firmness of the mattress prevents sagging, protecting your spine against unnatural bending and uncomfortable sleeping positions.
What is the difference between an orthopaedic mattress and a normal mattress?
The key difference between an orthopaedic mattress and a normal mattress is all down to firmness. This, in turn, will have a direct influence on the level of support the mattress provides. The general medical consensus is that a firmer mattress helps those with back problems to reduce discomfort and get a better night’s sleep.
However, it's not always the case that the firmest mattress available will necessarily suit everyone with back pain, so it is essential to take other factors into account. It's also wise to talk to your doctor if you plan to change your mattress to help ease back pain.
An orthopaedic mattress provides enhanced support along the length of the body. The aim is to keep the spine in a neutral position to eliminate pressure points. Orthopaedic mattresses deliver outstanding support for the shoulders, hips, lower back and spine.
As they are often constructed using a sprung core rather than relying on just memory foam layers (which tend to be a little softer), they are also well ventilated. That makes orthopaedic mattresses cooler to sleep on. The air flows through the core and keeps the ambient temperature lower for a fresher, more comfortable feel.
Orthopaedic mattresses that use Reflex foam rather than traditional memory foam also tend to provide a little additional support, as the Reflex foam structure is denser and firmer. The combination of foam layers, whether memory foam, latex foam or Reflex foam, provides a more cushioned feel but with no compromise on support.
A typical mattress falls into the medium to medium-firm category, so it feels softer and more pliant than an orthopaedic mattress. Changing from a medium to a firmer orthopaedic mattress can take some getting used to, especially if you sleep on your back or side.
If you want the support of an orthopaedic mattress but prefer a softer feel, a good compromise is to combine an orthopaedic mattress with a soft mattress topper to give you the perfect combination of comfort and support.
What are the benefits of an orthopaedic mattress?
If you're desperate for a great night's sleep and have back problems, an orthopaedic mattress may be your best choice. Let's get rid of one myth from the outset, though. Orthopaedic mattresses are not necessarily super-firm.
In fact, a medium to firm mattress option gives you a high level of support and a softer feel. If you want something a little more 'snuggly', then try adding a mattress topper. The main benefits of choosing an orthopaedic mattress include:
- Getting rid of body pain – orthopaedic mattresses are designed to help improve your posture when you sleep. That allows the muscles to relax properly, preventing aches and pains.
- Keeping your spine aligned – this is the secret to getting rid of back pain. If your spine is in a ‘neutral’ position (so aligned rather than curved), it helps get rid of pain.
- Stops pressure points from forming – you are vulnerable to pain at key points, including the neck, shoulders, lower back and hips. You can avoid these pressure points by using an orthopaedic mattress.
- Stops roll-together – unless you want to snuggle with your partner, roll-together can ruin a good night's sleep. A firm mattress prevents this from happening, so you both get the rest you need.
- No movement transference – with a firm mattress you cut down on movement transference. So if one partner wriggles about, it won't disturb the other person's sleep.
- Ideal for front sleepers – if you do sleep on your front, a firmer mattress will prevent your spine from curving. This should give you a better night’s sleep and less back pain. Read even more on our best mattresses for stomach sleepers.
What is the best type of orthopaedic mattress for back pain?
A huge range of mattresses is available for preventing or relieving back pain. The two main types are memory foam and pocket sprung. But you could also choose a Miracoil™ sprung option, a traditional spring version, mattresses with natural fillings, and even ultra-modern Geltex.
Invented by NASA, memory foam has been a real game-changer for mattresses. They tend to range in the medium-firm to the firm range. They provide plenty of cushioning to keep your spine in that all-important neutral position.
We love the MLILY Bamboo+ Superb Ortho Memory 2500 Pocket Mattress. This sophisticated and high-quality mattress uses multiple layers of different density foam to give you a great night’s sleep.
With thousands of individual springs sitting in their own fabric pockets, pocket sprung mattresses provide incredibly reactive support and flawless comfort. Built up with a pocketed, sprung core and layers of fibres for a cushioned sleeping area, they’re made using traditional techniques like hand tufting to keep the fibres in place and avoid lumps and bumps. The higher the number of springs, the greater the level of support.
The Sleepeezee Cashmere Royale Pocket Mattress is a real favourite with our customers. They love its premium-quality feel and the exceptional support provided by a matrix of 2000 individually pocketed springs.
Using a spring matrix rather than pocketed springs, this classic design is also a great budget option. They come as both single and double-sided options and have a strong sprung core that delivers excellent support all night long.
We love the Sealy Support Firm Mattress for its simplicity, quality, and value for money.
Latex mattresses deliver truly outstanding support and naturally contour to the shape of your body. Because latex is naturally hypoallergenic, they're also a good choice for asthma or allergy sufferers. They're durable and represent real value for money.
We particularly like the exclusive Dunlopillo Orchid PLUS Mattress, which has a firm rating and a luxurious feel, complete with a Cool Touch cover.
Although structurally similar to memory foam, reflex foam is firmer and more supportive. One of the best on offer is the Coolflex Supa Ortho Coolmax. This offers an extra-firm rating and is also hypoallergenic and antibacterial. The Coolmax cover removes moisture from the skin, cooling you down and keeping the mattress fresh and dry.
The top 5 orthopaedic mattresses
There are plenty of choices when it comes to orthopaedic mattresses. Here are our top five. You can find out more by browsing our orthopaedic mattresses page.
Proving that not all orthopaedic mattresses have to be extra firm to help ease back pain, this medium-firm mattress provides exceptional support combined with memory foam cushioning for greater comfort. This is a hybrid mattress with a sprung core topped with multiple layers of memory foam.
The sprung centre gives it a firmer feel, while the top layers of memory foam provide a softer cushioned layer, making it particularly good for side and back sleepers. A Nanocool Ice fabric cover keeps things cooler and fresher all night long. The mattress comes boxed and rolled, making it easier to transport.
If you tend to suffer from night sweats or hot flushes as well as back pain, the SleepSoul Wish 3000 could be the answer. Not only does this medium-firm mattress provide exceptional orthopaedic support, but the cool gel memory foam layer keeps you feeling cooler and fresher all night long.
At its heart is a matrix of individually pocketed springs that provide great support while minimising movement transference.
Edge-to-edge support prevents side sagging and gives you a larger sleeping platform with no loss of support. Voted Which? Best Buy for mattresses in 2022, it comes with a 10-year warranty for total peace of mind. It’s delivered vacuum packed and rolled, so it’s easy to transport.
Some orthopaedic mattresses can be expensive, but this budget-friendly option provides all the support you need at an affordable price. Rated firm, it features 1000 individually pocketed springs at its core and is hand-tufted to keep the fibres in position.
The Dreamland name is trusted as a supplier of beautifully crafted mattresses with care and attention to detail, and the Cashmere is no exception. The mattress is double-sided so it can be flipped and turned for a longer life. The firm rating makes it ideal for those who prefer to sleep on their stomach.
With a Good Housekeeping 2020 green award and a 4.8 Trustpilot rating, the Silentnight Classic 1200 is a best-seller that combines outstanding orthopaedic support with sublime comfort. 1200 Mirapocket springs make up the core, delivering a medium-firm level of support suitable for back, front and side sleepers.
Eco Comfort fibres keep things cooler all night long. A Purotex treatment uses 100% natural probiotics to combat allergens and dust mites. A 5-year guarantee provides total peace of mind.
With its patented Miracoil technology, this extra-firm orthopaedic mattress is at the cutting edge of design and technology. The zoned spring system provides exactly the right amount of support where it's needed. Using traditional hand-tufting skills ensures that the fillings stay exactly where they're supposed to, so there are no lumps and bumps to worry about.
A thick layer of EcoComfort fibre both cushions and keeps you cool for a better night's sleep. The mattress is hypoallergenic, so it's perfect for anyone with allergies or respiratory conditions such as asthma or skin sensitivity. Comes with a 5-year Silentnight warranty for total peace of mind. Available in a wide range of sizes.
How Long Do Ortho Mattresses Last?
As a general rule of thumb, ortho mattresses should be replaced after around 7 years of use. As the mattress gets older, the springs and fillings start to deteriorate, reducing the orthopaedic support levels it can provide. This can
Orthopaedic mattresses are just like any other type of mattress. The only difference is that they are designed to provide greater levels of support. Therefore, they should last as long as a regular mattress with no loss of performance.
The average lifespan of a mattress is around eight years. This is when most manufacturers suggest replacing yours to ensure maximum comfort. The best way to prolong the life of any mattress is to keep it in tip-top condition. You can do that by regularly airing your mattress and keeping it as clean as possible. Find out more on how to clean a mattress.
If you have a single-sided mattress, you should rotate it from head to foot every few months. Simply turn your mattress to prevent dips and lumps from forming. If you have a double-sided option, you can rotate 180 degrees and turn it over to the other side to get rid of lumps. It may be a two-person job if the mattress is larger, but it's well worth the effort.