If you’re someone who wakes up with a stiff back, a new orthopedic mattress could be your golden ticket to more restful sleep. Orthopedic mattresses are high-quality beds that are meant to help provide relief for aches and pains.
However, despite alluring brand promises, we suggest buyers research these types of beds as many mattresses boast the “orthopedic” label despite no special design. Unfortunately, there are no government regulations or standards to ensure that a mattress is truly “orthopedic.” While some products genuinely provide orthopedic support, others may adopt the label as more of a marketing angle.
What Is an Orthopedic Mattress?
An orthopedic mattress is designed to support the body’s musculoskeletal system, especially common trouble areas like the spine and joints. These beds typically have a high-quality construction that includes supportive materials like high-density foam, firmer latex, or innerspring coils.
Orthopedic beds are meant to offer better spinal alignment through enhanced support. They do this by creating a sleep surface that promotes a more natural curvature of the spine during the night. A healthy spine alignment is valuable because it minimizes the risk of developing or worsening back pain1.
Pros and Cons of Using an Orthopedic Mattress
- Robust support: Orthopedic mattresses are designed to provide robust support for a healthy and neutral spinal alignment. Many orthopedic mattresses have a medium-firm feel, and medium-firm support has been shown to promote comfort and better back support2. While the results of some studies are inconclusive, many appear to point toward the fact that firmness plays a clear role in comfort.
- Longer lifespan: Orthopedic mattresses are typically made from high-quality materials designed to last longer than cheaper, less durable mattresses. Compared to low-quality models that likely won’t last as long, orthopedic beds can be a more cost-effective investment in long-term sleep health.
- Personalized comfort: While many orthopedic mattresses typically offer a medium-firm feel, some beds are available in softer and firmer variations to better meet the unique needs of sleep styles and body types. Additionally, many of these beds offer more personalized comfort through features like zoned support, advanced cooling, and reinforced edge support.
- More time to break in: Some mattresses built with high-quality materials like memory foam can take time to break in and feel more comfortable to the sleeper. On average, beds have about a 30-day break-in period. As such, you may not fully feel those orthopedic benefits the first few nights of sleeping on your new mattress, but in time, you should.
- Higher cost: An orthopedic mattress may not be the best option for people who are on a very tight budget. Higher-quality materials and constructions often equate to a higher price tag, so orthopedic mattresses may not provide a financially viable option for folks looking for a budget mattress option.
- More difficult to distinguish: Not all mattresses advertised as orthopedic beds are truly orthopedic. There are no restrictions on what you can call an “orthopedic” bed, so it’s important to do your research and consult your doctor to help you choose the right mattress for your individual needs.
Who Should Get an Orthopedic Mattress?
Orthopedic mattresses can be helpful for people who experience back, neck, or joint pain. They can also be beneficial for people with poor posture, those with spinal conditions such as scoliosis or herniated discs, and those who have undergone spinal surgery.
Orthopedic mattresses are also recommended for athletes and individuals who engage in regular physical activity, as they can help reduce muscle soreness and aid in recovery. In addition, older adults may benefit from an orthopedic mattress as this group tends to have more joint and muscle pain.
However, orthopedic mattresses may not be suitable for everyone. Therefore, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before making a final decision.
How to Choose an Orthopedic Mattress
Everyone is different, so it’s wise to consider your sleeping needs before selecting a mattress. Try to notice the position you’re in when you fall asleep and when you wake up. Note whether or not you experience pain in the middle of the night or as a result of lying down for an extended period in the morning.
Also, as you shop for a new orthopedic bed, there are specific factors you need to consider to help ensure you pick the right product for you.
An orthopedic mattress provides a more supportive surface. This helps to distribute body weight evenly by reducing pressure points and promoting a more relaxed and neutral spinal curvature.
The materials used in the construction of an orthopedic mattress might include high-density foam, latex, or pocketed springs, which are chosen for their ability to provide support and maintain their shape over time.
One of the features of an orthopedic mattress is its ability to provide edge support, which helps prevent sagging or sinking when sitting or lying near the edge of the bed. Edge support is achieved through the use of reinforced materials along the perimeter of the mattress. These materials are usually denser foam or reinforced coils.
Additionally, edge support is valuable for couples in need of an orthopedic bed since they can spread out comfortably and still receive quality support across the whole surface.
The firmness of a mattress can vary depending on the materials used and the specific design of the bed. Orthopedic mattresses typically have a medium-firm feel, and this firmness is achieved through denser materials such as high-density foam, latex, or firm innerspring coils.
Keep in mind that not all orthopedic mattresses are the same. While some may be designed to provide a medium-firm feel, others may offer softer and firmer variations to accommodate more sleepers. Consider your personal preferences and any specific orthopedic needs when selecting a mattress. For example, stomach sleepers will often enjoy much firmer beds than side sleepers, who usually want something softer for more cushioning against their shoulder and hip.
Orthopedic mattresses achieve pressure relief by using specialized materials such as memory foam or latex, which are designed to contour the body’s shape in order to mitigate pressure accumulation.
In addition to specialized materials, orthopedic mattresses may incorporate other features to enhance pressure relief, such as zoned support systems or multi-layer construction. Zoned support systems use different firmness levels in specific areas of the mattress to provide targeted support and pressure relief. Multi-layer construction may involve the use of multiple layers of foam or other materials, each with a specific purpose, which can include pressure relief.
- Memory Foam – Memory foam mattresses utilize special viscoelastic (memory) foam, which is manufactured to conform to the body’s shape and alleviate pressure. This type of bed is often a great choice for side sleepers or those with achy joints.
- Hybrid – Hybrid mattresses typically combine several foam layers with a unit of innerspring coils. However, there is variation among brands, with some featuring three or more foam layers or dual innerspring units. This type of mattress is ideal for those who want the benefits of both foam and innerspring coils or who are struggling to choose between an all-foam and innerspring bed.
- Innerspring – Innerspring mattresses use a support system of springs to provide a buoyant and supportive sleep space. The coils help distribute body weight evenly, while the padding on top adds some comfort.
- Latex – Latex mattresses are popular for several reasons. First, latex is good for both pressure relief and support. Second, this material is naturally responsive, which can make it easier to move about on the bed. Third, it’s temperature-neutral, which is helpful for hot sleepers, and fourth, many latex beds are also more eco-friendly.
Price and Quality of Materials
As mentioned, orthopedic beds are typically better-quality mattresses made with premium materials, which means that most will be more expensive than extremely low-budget beds on the market. That being said, they should save you money in the long run because you won’t need to replace them as early, and the value they can present for your overall health and well-being could it make worth the investment.
Trial and Warranty
Orthopedic beds typically have a minimum warranty of 10 years and a minimum sleep trial of 90-100 nights. However, some brands go beyond this, offering 15 years or even lifetime warranty deals. The same goes for trial periods, with some brands offering 120 nights or even a full year to solidify your decision.
Want to learn more? Visit our list of the best orthopedic mattresses.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do orthopedic mattresses do?
Orthopedic mattresses provide support and pressure relief through the use of specialized materials and multi-layered designs. Additionally, some orthopedic mattresses may incorporate zoned support systems, which can offer firmer support for the sleeper’s heaviest areas and softer support for the lighter areas.
What’s an orthopedic mattress good for?
Orthopedic mattresses work together to distribute weight evenly, reduce pressure points, and promote proper spinal alignment, ultimately providing a comfortable sleep experience. The objective for these types of beds is usually to alleviate orthopedic issues such as back pain and joint pain.
Are orthopedic mattresses better than memory foam mattresses?
Whether an orthopedic bed or a memory foam mattress is better is an entirely subjective matter that depends on personal preference and individual needs.
Orthopedic mattresses are designed to support and comfort the sleeper’s spine, joints, and muscles, and memory foam mattresses focus on alleviating pressure by conforming to the sleeper’s shape. That being said, many orthopedic beds also contain memory foam in their construction, so there is certainly an overlap between orthopedic and memory foam beds.
How long will an orthopedic mattress last?
The lifespan of an orthopedic mattress depends on various factors, including the quality of materials, usage frequency, and care. On average, orthopedic beds can last anywhere from seven to 10 years with proper maintenance and regular rotation. However, some high-quality orthopedic mattresses, like latex models, could last up to 15 years or more.
Product longevity can often be helped by following the manufacturer’s care instructions, such as avoiding excessive bending, cleaning regularly, and rotating the mattress every few months. Proper support is also crucial, as using an improper bed frame or foundation can cause damage and decrease the mattress’s lifespan.
Final Word of Advice
Orthopedic mattresses provide tremendous support for many individuals experiencing back pain and discomfort. If you are experiencing back pain or other orthopedic issues, investing in an orthopedic mattress might be a great solution.
However, before making any purchases, it’s crucial to consult with your doctor to determine if an orthopedic mattress is right for your particular needs. By talking with your doctor first, you can ensure that you are investing in a mattress that will effectively address your orthopedic concerns and improve your sleep quality.
Rachael is a content writer for Sleep Advisor who loves combining her enthusiasm for writing and wellness.
- “Symptoms of a misaligned spine”. Texas Medical Institute. https://www.texasmedicalinstitute.com/symptoms-of-a-misaligned-spine/. 2020.
- Caggiari, Gianfilippo., Talesa, Giuseppe Rocco., et. al. “Why type of mattress should be chosen to avoid back pain?”. National Library of Medicine.