Before we dive in, we should note that no one on our staff is a doctor or practicing healthcare professional, and this review is not an offering of health advice. That said, we have spent an enormous amount of time researching the subject of neck and shoulder pain—which includes speaking to chiropractors—and are confident that at least one of our recommendations can help to improve your situation.
Further, only our staff members determined the beds that we selected for this list, and no outside party paid us to write positive things about any mattress. Our editorial integrity, and trust that we’ve built with our audience, are the most important things to us. When we claim that we’ve found some great beds, we want you to believe us.
Now, speaking of those great beds, let’s look at our top picks for the best mattress for upper back, neck, and shoulder pain:
Pillow Top Oceano is one of the most popular pillow top mattresses online. It’s soft and fluffy, and yet is highly supportive thanks to the dual layers of coils.
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Mixed Foam The Nolah mattress has three layers and a soft, unique profile that is somewhere between poly foam and memory foam. It’s built specifically for side sleepers.
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Memory Foam Novosbed is an online memory foam mattress that comes in a Soft, Medium, and Firm. It also has a washable cover.
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Soft Foam Casper Original is the mattress that started it all. If you just want a comfortable foam mattress, it’s hard to do better than Casper.
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This is flat out one of the best ultra plush mattresses money can buy. This is the type of hotel mattress that you nestle into, almost like mattress-size pillow. It’s incredibly comfortable and built to maximize pressure relief. This is also similar to the Fairmont hotel mattress that you may have slept on.
If you want a plush mattress, Brentwood Oceano absolutely belongs on your short list. This is one heck of a mattress with an extra-comfortable pillow top and dual layers of coils. Not only that, but Brentwood Home is so confident that you’ll like the bed that they allow you to try it for a full-year, risk free.
If you’re a side sleeper, we would be shocked if you did not like the Oceano mattress. It feels like a supportive pillow. It makes you want to curl up in a ball and sleep all day and night.
Why Nolah made the list — Simply put, Nolah is one of the best foam mattresses for side sleepers. It’s soft and offers ample pressure relief—plus it has a unique feel that is somewhere between neutral-foam and memory foam.
Feel — As mentioned above, Nolah has a blended feel with elements of neutral-foam and memory foam. The net result, though, is a softer bed that’s great for anyone that needs a lot of pressure relief. Nolah calls its foam “Nolah AirFoam” and we think that’s an apt description. It does feel airy and comfy.
Defenders of Wildlife — Nolah is the only company that we’re aware of, in the mattress space, that donates a portion of each mattress sold to the Defenders of Wildlife, a nonprofit that helps protect endangered species, among other things. You even get to adopt an animal at checkout.
Those of us who really appreciate having an easy-to-clean mattress will love the Novosbed cover. Regardless of how we sleep, mattresses occasionally require a little cleaning. (And sometimes a damp paper towel just doesn’t cut it!) This is one of the few mattresses featuring a removable, machine washable cover.
Novosbed offers a variety of firmness options, though we recommend their Medium version for strict side sleepers. This bed is quite durable, and will be comfortable regardless of your weight. However, this bed has a definite memory foam feel, so if you do not enjoy that material, we recommend you look at a different bed on this list.
Novosbed also has the option of adding their Comfort+ topper, which can make the bed more or less firm, as well as somewhat neutralize the overt memory foam feel. However, you have to have the mattress for at least 30 days to be eligible for the additional topper.
Bottom line with Novosbed is that you have to really like memory foam to get this bed. If that’s you, and you want to sleep on your side, Novosbed is a great option.
The original Casper mattress is almost universally loved. It’s accommodating and has more of a soft neutral-foam feel, which makes the bed dangerously comfortable.
To be honest, it’s hard to poke holes in this bed—there’s just a lot to like. It’s ideal for all types of sleepers (stomach, back, side, and combo) and is really good in terms of motion isolation, edge support, and responsiveness. And even though it does use memory foam, there’s none of that stuck-in-the-mud feeling, which a lot of people seem to appreciate about the bed.
Since it’s only 12” thick and has a foam support core, though, we don’t recommend it to particularly heavy individuals. There are better options (even on this list) if you’re 250 lb or more. If, however, you’re around the 200 lb mark or less, it’s pretty likely you’ll enjoy sleeping on Casper. You don’t achieve all that Casper has achieved as a company by selling a sub-par mattress.
Side Sleepers With Hip And Shoulder Pain
Before we go any further, if you do have hip or shoulder pain, you should discuss with your doctor before you make a change to your mattress. It’s not that we don’t think we can help you, it’s just that your doctor will know your situation best.
We do not employ a doctor on staff, but we have consulted chiropractors in the making of many of our “best mattress” lists. As a result, we do feel confident that we can be helpful and add value, but we don’t want you to take our opinion over your personal physician.
With that out of the way, we should mention that if you do have shoulder pain or hip pain and sleep on your side, a mattress can probably make your situation better, but on the off-chance that it makes your situation worse, we only included mattresses with a “free return” option, or a modest return fee.
We think it’s important if you’re shopping for a new mattress for a health condition such as shoulder pain, you should be able to return your bed if you’re not satisfied and it’s not actually helping. Interestingly, most of the beds we’ve reviewed (again that number is upwards of 150) do come with totally free returns. Even more, they usually come with a 100 night trial period, so you get to try the bed for around three months (if not longer) risk free. We think that’s really important when you’re shopping online and when you’re trying to solve a tough problem such as hip pain and shoulder pain.
Why You Might Like A Memory Foam Mattress
We aren’t going to say that memory foam is the best type of mattress for side sleepers, but it’s certainly a viable option. That said, in our experience about 22% of people report that they “love” memory foam mattresses. Another ~66% of people tell us that they’re “fine with” memory foam. Combined, that’s nearly 90% of people that are open to a memory foam mattress, which means, naturally, there are going to be plenty of options for side sleepers.
In regards to why side sleepers might like a memory foam mattresses, the answer is that they can offer plenty of relief for your pressure points. Like any other foam, memory foam can be soft, medium, and firm, and everything in between. Therefore, you’d expect that there are plenty of memory foam mattresses that are soft enough for the shoulders, hips, and upper back of side sleepers. In general, memory foam beds are known to “cradle” your body and mold itself to fit your shape. That should leave you feeling supported without experiencing additional pressure throughout.
Innerspring And Hybrid Mattress Models Are Best For Heavy People
To be clear, “innerspring” and “hybrid” only refers to the support system for the mattress. For the most part, if you get an innerspring or hybrid mattress there’s no guarantee that it will work for side sleepers such as yourself. Additionally, you could have a memory foam hybrid mattress that has memory foam comfort layers and innerspring support base. All I’m trying to say here is that there are plenty of great, and not so great, innerspring and hybrid mattresses for side sleepers.
One thing is clear, however, these coil beds tend to be more ideal for heavy people than are beds with a foam base. If you’re over 230 lb or 250 lb, you should almost certainly be looking for a hybrid mattress. We also always recommend that heavy and overweight side sleepers try a coil mattress first. You will feel the bi-directional support more with these types of mattresses. As a heavy side sleeper, you should be quite concerned with support over the long run and durability.
Also, we basically use the terms “hybrid” and “innerspring” interchangeably. Technically, there is a difference, but for the average consumer they are the same and are equally viable for side sleepers.
If You Consider Yourself A Hot Side Sleeper
For those of you that are unlucky enough to sleep hot at night, I have bad and good news. The bad news is that there are numerous factors that influence whether you sleep hot or cold—your mattress is just part of the equation. There’s no guarantee that if you buy a new cooling mattress it will automatically make cure your problems. Everything from your room temperature, body weight, sleep style, whether or not you sleep alone, sheets, pajamas, and more influence your sleeping temperature.
As for the good news, well, there are plenty of really nice mattresses for hot side sleepers. In fact, probably now more than ever. For instance, Purple, alone, has several mattress models that are great for hot side sleepers. Another example is Brooklyn Bedding. They make at least two different mattresses that are suitable for side sleepers that run hot at night.
So what should you be looking for in a cooling mattress? The first thing is a cooling cover. That’s the easiest place to start, but it’s not the only place. These covers can range from a cotton feel to a silk feel. Either way, they will feel cool to the touch and will contribute to you sleeping cooler throughout the night. TempurPedic makes a few mattresses for hot side sleepers and they have a coarse cooling cover that’s quite effective. Beyond the cover, you might want to look for beds that naturally help to draw in airflow. Coils help with this, but the main thing I’m thinking of is a gel-like material called Hyper-Elastic Polymer, which you’ll see on Purple mattresses.
How We Selected The Best Mattress For Neck & Shoulder Pain
We invest thousands of dollars and man hours into our reviews. And when it comes to selecting the best mattress for neck pain and/or shoulder pain we have the strictest of standards because we know health conditions are not to be taken lightly.
We do not accept any money to say good or bad things about products, and we do not allow brands to control our selection process or the beds we ultimately feature on our lists. Our goal is to build a brand and long term value, not to compromise our ethics for a quick buck.
We say this because we want you to know how seriously we take our job. When we recommend a mattress for shoulder or neck pain we have spent more time than you could imagine considering which mattress would be best. Not only that, but we are constantly revising and adding to our lists as we learn more or get new information. As such, you might see this list change over time.
We should note that while we try to conduct thorough research on mattresses and health conditions, we are not doctors. In fact, we do not employ a doctor full time, though, we have consulted them in the making of many of our reviews. If you are dealing with a serious injury we would urge you to consult your physician and/or chiropractor before you make a big change such as getting a new mattress.
Now, because we know that shoulder, neck, and upper back pain are not likely to go away overnight, we only selected mattresses from reputable brands that offer free returns (or a very modest return fee). We know that finding the best mattress for your back and neck pain might be a process and your first pick might not be the right one. We want you to be able to return your mattress with little or no cost if that is indeed the situation. No one wants to be stuck with a mattress that doesn’t help their situation.
Finding A Mattress For Upper Back And Shoulder Pain
In regards to the specific criteria that we used to select the best mattresses for upper back and shoulder pain, we primarily looked for beds that offer pressure relief. Most of the time if you’re nursing an injury in your upper back or shoulders, a firm mattress will exacerbate the issues. Instead, you want a mattress that’s on the softer end of the spectrum that allows for ample compression. This is particularly true for side sleepers.
You want to make sure that you’re not feeling extra tension in your upper back and shoulders when you first lay on your side. If you do feel this then you can only expect more pain when you wake up in the morning. We specifically selected a few mattresses that are pillowy soft but still offer support. We see these as a great solution for anyone with shoulder pain and upper back issues. Of course, we do not know your particular situation, but typically a more pressure alleviating mattress is best.
Individuals With Neck Pain
Neck pain is no laughing matter and it’s not something that you can often solve just with your mattress. In fact, the best mattress for upper back and neck pain might not be a mattress at all. Often times, with neck issues you need to pay more attention to your pillow than anything.
As a quick reminder, side sleepers with neck pain need a pillow that helps them maintain a straight spine. You should be able to trace a line from your nose down to your belly button. This should ensure that your pillow is not too flat or thick. In regards to a mattress for neck pain, if you’re laying on your side you want a bed that offers support, but also enough “give” that your spine stays in a neutral, straight line (from the side view).
Back sleepers are looking for a pillow that keeps a nice “c” curve in their neck. On the mattress side of things you will want a bed that’s firmer. You do not want to sink so far into the bed that your head ends up tilting forward. A good way to measure if your bed is too soft (and/or your pillow is too thick) is if you lay on your back, close your eyes, and get comfortable. Once you’re in a cozy sleeping position open your eyes. If you’re looking primarily upwards, you should be good. If you are looking forward toward the wall, you need a firmer mattress or thicker pillow, or both. Getting too soft of a mattress or too thin of a pillow can be a surefire way to experience neck pain.
Stomach sleepers are the ones that usually experience neck pain as they sleep because it’s easy to kink the neck. You typically want a really thin pillow. Now, this will be relative based on your body size, but in general a pillow in the 1-4” thickness is best. On the mattress side of things, stomach sleepers will want a firm mattress almost certainly. You want to make sure that you’re “floating” on the mattress. If you sink in too far, you can easily put yourself in a suboptimal position that can bring about upper back and neck pain. Obviously that’s not something you, or we, want.
Dealing With Upper Back Pain
Typically if you’re experiencing upper back pain and you need a new mattress it’s because you sleep on your side and your old mattress is too firm. Even more, if you do have upper back pain, chances are that you’re also experiencing shoulder pain in one fashion or another.
As such, the solution in regards to a mattress is most likely to get support and tension relief. In other words, you probably want a coil mattress with a pillow top such as Helix Luxe, Bear Hybrid, WinkBed, or Saatva Classic. Those are just the first beds that come to mind, but there are plenty of other really nice pillow top mattresses on the market.
Why The Right Mattress Foundation Is important
Once you’ve got your mattress all squared away and your shoulders or neck are starting to feel better you should really consider getting a better mattress foundation. You want a foundation that will have zero, or almost zero, flex in it. This will help to stop your mattress from sagging and help with the overall support. A Lot of people overlook the bed frame/foundation when they’re mattress shopping, but it’s important as well.
An adjustable bed frame might be something you should consider as well since it allows you to change your sleeping position. This can be helpful not only in getting comfortable, but also in easing the pressure on your shoulders and upper back. Most of the beds you’ll find online nowadays are compatible with an adjustable bed frame. If you’re at your wit’s end, trying an adjustable bed frame might be worth looking into. Prices are coming down with these bed frames as well. You can usually find a queen size one for under $1,500.
What Type Of Mattress Will Be Best?
There’s no doubt that there will be a “best type” of mattress for you, but it won’t be the same as everyone else. For instance, the most popular type of mattress is a memory foam mattress. These are known to offer tension relief and also support. On the flipside, some people do not like feeling “stuck” in their mattress.
Poly foam and proprietary foam mattresses can be a nice solution as well, but often you’ll need a softer bed. As an example, the original Casper mattress has a poly foam feel and has a lot of pressure relief. Another example is Nolah, which might feel like a blend between memory foam and poly foam. This bed will usually offer enough compression to help with upper back and shoulder pain.
Pillow top mattresses are also some of our favorite solutions for people dealing with upper back, neck, and shoulder pain. You can find these types of beds in various firmness levels, but we tend to gravitate towards those with a big, fluffy, pillowy feel. The first couple of beds that come to mind are Brentwood Home Oceano, WinkBeds, and Saatva Classic. These will generally allow for a soft, cushiony surface and compression under your shoulders and upper back for when you’re laying on your side.
In general, we are agnostic when it comes to the support style for a mattress for neck and shoulder pain. Most of the time, heavy people need coil beds, while people that are considered “petite” or “average” in terms of build can get by with a support core of dense foam.
Other types of beds such as premium air mattresses and latex mattresses can be a viable option as well, but we don’t typically see people with neck and back pain immediately being drawn toward them. One advantage with premium air mattresses is that you can usually customize them by side and adjust the firmness up or down. With latex mattresses, the big advantage is that they’re resilient and responsive, though, not always as pressure relieving as you’d like if you have a serious shoulder or upper back injury.
Where To Buy A New Mattress
It doesn’t really matter where you buy your new mattress so long as it helps to make your upper back and neck pain better. Same thing for shoulder pain. Having said that, many times physical retail stores will be accomodating with exchanges but not returns.
Nowadays, shopping for a mattress online is a viable option, particularly if you want the option to return the bed for free. Most online companies will offer you free shipping in the contiguous US as well as free returns in the first three months. A subset of brands will require that you test their bed for a minimum of 30 nights before you decide to opt for a refund. This is to ensure that you’re giving you body ample time to adjust. There’s a good chance that a new bed doesn’t make your neck and shoulder pain better overnight. It could take weeks, so a minimum trial period isn’t a bad idea necessarily.
Regardless of whether you’re shopping for a new bed in a brick and mortar store or online, you should expect a minimum warranty length of ten years. Some of the budget/cheaper beds will have shorter warranties, but that’s actually quite rare. If you are looking for a more “serious” mattress then ten years is a must since you’ll be sleeping on that bed for between seven and twelve years.
We always recommend reading those warranties as well since they will spell out exactly what the brand is willing back. Often times it’s just the original purchaser inside the United States. Beyond that, the warranty spells out the types of foundations that they will accept for the mattress. As we mentioned, you need a sturdy, zero-flex foundation. Many times you will see that the brand insists that you have slats on the bed frame that are less than a few inches apart.