My back hurts and I like firm mattresses
October 5, 2013 9:48 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I both started having back pain in the last year. My problem is pretty clearly related to soft, cushy beds like fancy hotel beds with gigantic pillowtops. I sleep best with no pain on cool, firm mattresses. Is a Tempur-pedic Contour Select (their extra firm mattress) something I should even consider?

The first 1-3 nights in a cushy bed is GREAT, then I start getting shooting pains in my back when I get up in the morning. This is basically my problem with all beds, I rarely can anticipate how it will feel until I've slept in it for numerous days. I know that tempurpedic has a 90 day warrantee, but I've heard bad things about trying to return mattresses through that warrantee (e.g. don't trust it).

Any advice? Anyone else who prefers firm mattresses like tempur-pedic? Or any other advice on mattresses for us to consider?

I also sleep hot (I know that is another tempur-pedic issue) so prefer mattresses that stay cool.

posted by arnicae to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
If you have access to a Costco, they sell mattresses and supposedly have an amazing return policy. It's where I'm planning to buy my next mattress.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:03 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Costco sells a line of Tempur-pedic knockoffs under the name Novaform/Sleep Innovations. There are a ton of different models online but I think the only one carried in stores is this one.

I have that mattress, and I like it a lot, but I wouldn't describe it (or any memory foam mattress really) as "cool".
posted by acidic at 10:10 AM on October 5, 2013

I also like pretty firm mattresses, and I've been very happy with my purchase of the Kitner firm. (That's not where I bought it from, I went to a local place in Cambridge, Mass.) While the top feels soft and pleasant, there's no pillowtop to speak of and I find it very supportive.
posted by andrewesque at 10:13 AM on October 5, 2013

I've found the good Tempur-like mattresses pretty good, but they aren't cool, and tend to be rather warm.
posted by edgeways at 10:21 AM on October 5, 2013

For years, many people with back pain have been advised to sleep on a firm mattress. But a new study shows that might just add to the nightmare of their morning-after misery.

Researchers in Spain say that people who sleep on a medium-firm mattress were twice as likely to report improvements in lower back pain compared to those sleep on more firm bedding. They reach this conclusion after replacing bedding of 313 patients with a history of back pain with new "firm" or "medium-firm" mattresses. The patients didn't know which mattress type they received.

I personally found that the tubed water bed is the most comfortable mattress. The tubes are filled with water and can be customized for each side of the bed. The mattress itself looks like a standard mattress and uses regular style linens. The only negative is the mattress and box spring is very heavy and can be time consuming to move. I would hesitate to use this mattress on a second floor.
posted by JujuB at 10:24 AM on October 5, 2013

I love a firm mattress. I am besotted with our Simmons. I've tried Tempurpedic and I don't like them. Go sleep on one in a hotel for a few nights. Then decide.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:39 AM on October 5, 2013

I love a firm mattress, too, and have an approach that not only works well but saves a lot of money and results in a more healthful bed. I buy the absolute rock bottom cheapest, firmest mattress available. This is usually the loss leader mattress on sale at a department store or similar. Then I splash out on a really good topper--down, wool, latex, whatever. This way you can replace the topper when your needs change, if it gets worn, etc., you spend less money overall, and if you're concerned about the chemicals in mattresses, you're minimizing those, as the cheap mattress is basically just springs, the tiniest amount of padding, and the cover. Regarding memory foam mattresses like Tempurpedic, my physical therapist doesn't like them because she says that the memory action means that your muscles are constantly firing in reaction to the foam, whereas with a regular mattress they sort of "bottom out" and relax. Also, if you sleep hot, you'll probably hate it.
posted by HotToddy at 11:03 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a regular latex & spring on a platform, my girlfriend has a tempurpedic style, and I sleep more or less fine on hers, but we both sleep better on mine. Get a step firmer than you think you would from laying on them in the store. No pillow-top, ever.
posted by rhizome at 11:15 AM on October 5, 2013

Purchased this exact model about one year ago. I wanted to try out one of those cotton futon-like mattresses, but my husband was against something that firm, so we went the Contour route. It does sleep warm/hot, no question, but I've been happy with it so far. My husband is a side sleeper and says it bothers his shoulders, but not enough to return it. Yes, this has been a good purchase for my back, but so has a combination of strength training and yoga.
posted by okay-quiet-time at 11:21 AM on October 5, 2013

BTW, some American Express cards GUARANTEE your return for up to 90 days. If you have an amex card you might want to check the policy. To give you an example, I bought an expensive router from Staples that I could not get to configure right. By the time I got around to trying to take it back it was beyond the 30 day return policy. I happened to be talking to Amex on day 89 and we were talking about card benefits, returns being one of them. I brought up the router and... ONE DAY LATER FULL CREDIT ON CARD. Yes, I will likely be an Amex member for life. A bit more expensive service than most credit cards , but you get it back in many many ways.
posted by jcworth at 11:22 AM on October 5, 2013

If you like a cool mattress, I'd avoid memory foam. Even some of the gel foam models are reported to sleep hot.

We just bought a new mattress, after way too much research. Our requirements were flippable, non-pillowtop, and cool. We ended up going with a shifman mattress, which is a high end, two-sided innerspring.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:33 AM on October 5, 2013

A good futon mattress might work well for you. Not a college futon or a Japanese roll-up one, but the kind that goes on a platform bed. They're firm in a different way--less like a trampoline and more like a stiff, flat pillow. That's what I use for my problem back.
posted by Comet Bug at 11:37 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you want firm, try a cotton mattress. We have a futon from White Lotus and recently got a double-stuffed wool topper for it. It is hard as a rock. I love it. My partner has a bad back and seems to think the futon is good for him.
posted by baby beluga at 11:40 AM on October 5, 2013

My perfect mattress: a basic firm Posturepedic mattress (from Costco), topped with cheap memory foam (Google 'cheap memory foam topper'. Example) topped with a cheap fiber mattress pad such as Woolrich.

You can vary the toppings based on your preferences. As HotToddy mentions, the idea is that you don't have to buy these super expensive mattresses where they choose the toppings and build them in, and you can't remove them when they wear out.

Softer on top, but firm underneath. Oh man--I'm asleep within minutes and no back pain. It is making me sleepy just thinking about it.
posted by eye of newt at 12:18 PM on October 5, 2013

For other advice on mattresses: there's a ton of information about mattresses at The Mattress Underground, both in the main site and on the forum.

One alternative is a configurable latex mattress - 2 or 3 (or 4) layers of latex of different firmnesses, that you can switch around to get the firmness you like. The nice part about that is you have all the time you want - in your house - to experiment; you're not tied to whatever you liked in a store for half an hour, or even a hotel for a few nights. It's an expensive option though.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 12:56 PM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hotel mattresses tend to lack support. A lack of support is different from cushioning. When you first lie down on a pillow top the cushion layer masks the fact that the support layer is deficient. If you're miserable on hotel mattresses, my first guess would be a lack of support in the springs.

We LOVE our Sleep Number bed which is customizable for softness. My husband thought he wanted a very, very firm mattress, but over a few months he lowered the firmness to nearly the lowest setting. He says it's the best he's ever slept.
posted by 26.2 at 1:51 PM on October 5, 2013

Because I have inflammatory arthritis in my back, a firm mattress is a must for me. We have an Ikea Finnvik memory foam mattress. It is very firm. It has a lambswool cover which keeps it from being hot the way memory foam usually is. (It's also really inexpensive and comes all rolled up tight in a little package.)
posted by hydropsyche at 2:06 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm in love with my Comfortaire mattress. The adjustablility is awesome. They don't advertise as much as other manufacturers like Sleep Number but having tried out a lot of competitors I'll tell you I've never found a mattress that comes close. Pricing is excellent too.
posted by bearwife at 2:25 PM on October 5, 2013

I have the medium-firm Tempurpedic and I love it. Used to have a lot of back pain before I got married and most of it went away when my husband and I got this bed for our house. It was also great in my pregnancy when I had to sleep on my side. I couldn't do that in my regular old bed cause it made my hips hurt.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 5:10 PM on October 5, 2013

I know you're not going to believe me, but one of the best mattresses we've slept on (and after years of living in many, many well appointed sublets and experiencing a wide variety of beds) is from IKEA.

I know, IKEA, right?

The HESSENG is great. Firm, but not overly so. Seems to be wearing exceptionally well too. It's one of the more well-made mattresses we've owned and the price (US $899 Queen) was pretty reasonable considering how it stands up to very expensive alternatives.
Natural materials like natural latex, horse hair, cotton, wool and lyocell provides extra comfort and gives a very pleasant sleeping environment with an even temperature.
We also have the HAMARVIK in the guest bedroom and that sleeps great too, but I can't speak to how well it wears as it's not used that often.

Like I said, you're not going to believe me, but if you have an IKEA that's close by, it's worth checking out.
posted by qwip at 12:59 AM on October 6, 2013

Oh, forgot to add that IKEA also has a 90 day exchange program on mattresses as well.
posted by qwip at 1:11 AM on October 6, 2013

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