An orthopedic mattress is a type of mattress designed to provide support and pressure relief to your back and joints. Sleeping on an orthopedic mattress can help to improve spinal alignment and make for a more comfortable night’s sleep. These mattresses are well-suited to sleepers with back or joint pain, especially those who wake up feeling sore or whose pain prevents them from sleeping well.

Orthopedic mattresses date back to the 1950s. Thanks to medical advancements, there was a greater understanding of how to relieve body pain. Mattress manufacturers were able to incorporate these advancements into their beds.

Unfortunately, there’s no regulation around what can be called an orthopedic mattress. As a result, some companies may use the term orthopedic mattress, even if the bed doesn’t truly provide the benefits one would expect.

In this article, we’ll be breaking down the pros and cons of orthopedic mattresses and how you can identify a quality orthopedic mattress.

Pros of an Orthopedic Mattress

Let’s talk about some of the reasons someone might choose an orthopedic mattress.

Relieves back pain

If you suffer from back pain, an orthopedic mattress might help. People often don’t realize the impact that their mattress quality can have on their back. When you sleep on a mattress that doesn’t offer the necessary support, it can take a toll on your back. Additionally, if you struggle with back pain from another source, a regular mattress may not help to relieve that pain like an orthopedic mattress would.

Provides pressure relief for joints

When you lay down, most of your body weight rests on joints such as your hips and shoulders. Depending on the type of bed you have, this can create chronic pain in those joints. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize their mattress is the source of their pain. An orthopedic mattress is designed to provide pressure relief for those joins, helping you to sleep better and reduce your pain.

Helps with spinal alignment

When you lay down, your spine should remain aligned. Unfortunately, mattresses that are too soft cause the spine to curve into awkward angles. This can cause back pain, sore joints, poor posture, and more. A proper orthopedic mattress should keep your spine aligned all night.

Cons of an Orthopedic Mattress

While there are certainly benefits to orthopedic mattresses, it’s also important to point out the downsides.

No official meaning of orthopedic mattress

Perhaps the biggest downside of orthopedic mattresses is that there’s no regulation around the term “orthopedic mattress,” and there are no materials that are certified orthopedic. As a result, mattress manufacturers can label a mattress as orthopedic simply as a marketing technique. You risk buying a mattress that you believe to be orthopedic without truly receiving any of the benefits.

Can be more expensive

Depending on the company, orthopedic mattresses can be more expensive than other varieties on the market. These beds are specially designed to address joint and back pain, and specialty products often come with a higher price tag.

How to Identify an Orthopedic Mattress

As we’ve discussed, there’s no official definition for what makes an orthopedic mattress, and a company could use the term as a marketing technique without really having the right design to back it up. Let’s talk about a few things you can look out for to ensure you’re getting an actual orthopedic mattress.

Firmness level

Chiropractors generally recommend mattresses that are a medium to medium-firm on the firmness scale. An extra soft or extra firm mattress wouldn’t be truly orthopedic. Soft mattresses usually don’t provide the back support necessary, and extra firm mattresses often lack pressure relief. For most individuals, only a mattress somewhere in the middle could be considered orthopedic.

Type of mattress

Any mattress company can label a bed as being orthopedic. But in general, the most common materials for orthopedic beds are memory foam, latex, and hybrid mattresses, which have foam in them. 

Pressure relief

When shopping for an orthopedic mattress, pay special attention to how well your hips and shoulders are supported. Firm mattresses often don’t provide this pressure relief because your body lays stiff on the mattress. A mattress that’s too soft, on the other hand, wouldn’t support those areas at all. Testing out a mattress ahead of time can help to ensure it provides this pressure relief.

Spinal alignment

When you lay on a mattress, make sure your spine is fully aligned, regardless of how you’re laying. Whether you’re a side sleeper or a back and stomach sleeper, you shouldn’t feel your spine curving into unnatural positions. A mattress that’s too soft won’t likely offer the necessary spine alignment, as certain parts of your body will sink in too far.

Final Thoughts

An orthopedic mattress can provide support and pressure relief to avoid back and joint pain. Unfortunately, there’s no true definition of an orthopedic mattress, and any mattress company can use that label. When shopping for a mattress, it’s important to look for one that truly is orthopedic. The right orthopedic mattress will have a certain firmness level and material and will provide pressure relief and spinal alignment. For more help shopping, you can visit our guides for the best mattresses for arthritis and joint pain and the best mattresses for back pain.