Best Mattresses for People with Scoliosis

The term ‘scoliosis’ refers to a lateral curvature of the spine that typically develops in children prior to their puberty growth spurt. According to the Mayo Clinic, most cases of scoliosis are considered mild. However, the condition can cause lead to spinal deformities that severely worsen with age.

Several symptoms of scoliosis — including neck and lower back pain, muscle spasms, numbness, and heat sensitivity — can affect sleep quality for people with the condition. Choosing the right mattress is an important decision for scoliosis patients. The right mattress can alleviate the chronic pain associated with scoliosis, and allow these individuals to remain cool and comfortable throughout the night. The wrong mattress, on the other hand, can exacerbate these issues to a significant extent.

This guide will look at how scoliosis affects sleep, as well as some mattress buying considerations for people with scoliosis and our top mattress picks for these individuals. First, let’s look at the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for scoliosis.

What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis causes the spine to curve to one side, rather than running down the back in a straight line. The angle of this curve may be slight or severe, but any spinal curvature that measures 10 degrees or more is officially considered scoliosis. The shape of the curvature may also vary, and many physicians describe it using the letters ‘C’ and ‘S.’ Pronounced spinal curves are more likely to increase over time than minor ones, but each case is different.

Causes and Risk Factors of Scoliosis

Physicians today categorize scoliosis into three groups, depending on the root cause of the condition. Non-structural scoliosis refers to spinal curves that do not affect how the spine functions; these curves can usually be corrected with different types of treatment, including surgery. According to WebMD, causes of non-structural scoliosis include:

  • Appendicitis and other inflammations
  • Muscle spasms
  • Physiological irregularities, such as one leg being longer than the other

Structural scoliosis, on the other hand, greatly impacts how the spine functions and cannot be corrected using any currently available means. Causes of structural scoliosis include:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Marfan syndrome, Down syndrome and other genetic conditions
  • Birth defects
  • Tumors
  • Infections

Lastly, the term idiopathic scoliosis refers to spinal curvatures for which the cause is unknown. Roughly four out of five individuals are diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis; it may or may not be correctable.

Some of the most common risk factors for scoliosis include:

  • Age: Most children begin to develop scoliosis while still in the womb as irregularities form in the vertebrae of the spine. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, doctors may be able to diagnose babies as soon as they are born. However, most children are diagnosed with scoliosis between the ages of 10 and 15.
  • Sex: The condition affects boys and girls in equal measure, but females are 10 times more likely to develop severe deformities if their scoliosis is not corrected.
  • Family history: Most children diagnosed with scoliosis do not have a genetic history of spinal problems, but the condition is thought to run in some families.

Furthermore, the medical community has determined that the following factors do not cause scoliosis.

  • Sports injuries
  • The use of heavy backpacks
  • Bad posture (although this may be a symptom of scoliosis)

Symptoms and Complications of Scoliosis

Symptoms of scoliosis will depend on the severity of the spinal curve, but they generally include the following:

  • Uneven shoulders or asymmetrical shoulder blades
  • Uneven waist or asymmetrical hips
  • Limited range-of-motion in the shoulders and hips
  • Back pain, particularly in the lumbar region
  • Muscle spasms and inflammation

Children with scoliosis may also exhibit warning signs of the condition, such as poor posture or wearing clothes that fit loosely on one side. Many parents identify the spinal curve itself when their child’s shirt is off.

Scoliosis can also cause physiological complications that may alert parents and physicians to the presence of the condition, such as:

  • Cardiovascular and respiratory problems, which occur when the spinal curve causes the ribcage to twist
  • Chronic back pain
  • Pronounced rib bones

Diagnosing and Treating Scoliosis

Scoliosis cannot be prevented, but for most people the condition is mild and treatable. Doctors begin the diagnostic process by performing a physical exam on the child. This includes asking them to bend over at the waist, in order to see if they tilt to one side. Doctors also inquire about numbness, muscle weakness, and unusual reflexes. However, scoliosis diagnoses are normally made following an x-ray exam, which clearly shows the curvature in most cases.

Most scoliosis cases do not require treatment. The following factors can help physicians determine whether or not treatment is necessary:

  • Patient’s sex: As stated above, girls are much likelier to develop severe deformities from scoliosis than boys.
  • Patient’s age: If the child or adult has reached maturity and their bones have stopped growing, then there is less likelihood of the curve becoming more pronounced.
  • Angle and shape of the curve: More pronounced spinal curves are likelier to increase over time than minor ones, and S-shaped curves typically worsen at a more progressive rate than C-shaped curves.
  • Location of the curve: Curves that form in the thoracic section, or midsection, of the spine tend to lead to more serious conditions than curves at the top or bottom of the spine.

When treatment is necessary for scoliosis, physicians typically turn to at least one of the following methods:

  • Brace: Braces are particularly beneficial for children whose bones are still growing. Although a brace will not prevent or cure scoliosis, it can effectively reduce the rate of progression in the spinal curve. Most scoliosis braces are made from soft plastic that contours to the patient’s body. They are most effective when worn at all times, but they are not restrictive and cannot be seen when worn underneath clothing. Children with scoliosis typically wear the brace until one of the following occurs:
    • The patient’s bones stop growing, and he/she is not expected to grow taller
    • The female patient has been menstruating for at least two years
    • The male patient begins shaving his face on a regular basis
  • Surgery: Surgery is considered the last resort for scoliosis, and typically reserved for severe cases.
    • Physicians may recommend different types of surgery, but most will choose spinal fusion surgery. During this procedure, at least two of the patient’s vertebrae are fused together while the spine is straightened with hooks, rods, wires, or other metal parts. This prevents the bones from moving independently from one another.
    • For exceptionally young patients, an adjustable metal rod may be implanted at the top and bottom of the spinal curve. The rod’s length may be adjusted every six months to keep up with the child’s growth spurts.

In addition to surgery, children and adults with scoliosis may be able to treat scoliosis using the following ‘alternative’ means:

  • Chiropractic adjustment and manipulation
  • Electrical muscle stimulation
  • Dietary supplements

How Does Scoliosis Affect Sleep?

People who live with scoliosis typically deal with chronic spinal and lower back pain on a regular basis. If the condition worsens over time, sleepers may experience added aches and pains in other parts of their body, such as the neck, shoulders, and/or hips. Pressure points may also develop around the spine and other sensitive areas. These increased levels of pain and pressure can greatly impact sleep quality for scoliosis patients.

Scoliosis also limits sleep positions for most individuals with this condition:

  • Sleeping on one’s back is considered the best option for most scoliosis patients. This position naturally aligns the spine and equally distributes the sleeper’s weight. For patients with chronic shoulder pain, doctors recommend placing a towel or pillow beneath the shoulder blades in addition to the pillow beneath the neck. For those with lumbar pain, a rolled up towel beneath the small of the back may help alleviate some of the discomfort.
  • Sleeping on one’s side can affect spinal alignment, and potentially lead to added aches and pains. However, this position may also be the best choice for people with scoliosis. Doctors recommend that side-sleepers with scoliosis use two additional towels or pillows: one between their knees to ease discomfort, and the other beneath their rib cage to help correct the curvature.  
  • Sleeping on one’s stomach is highly discouraged for people with scoliosis. This position arches the back and causes the neck to curve unnaturally, and usually leads to more pain and pressure throughout the body.

Additionally, chronic pain and pressure can cause people to be more sensitive to noise and motion when trying to fall and stay asleep.

Mattress Considerations for People with Scoliosis

When shopping for a new mattress and comparing different brands and models, here are a few important factors for people with scoliosis to consider:

  • Support: This is arguably the most important mattress consideration for scoliosis patients. Mattress ‘support’ refers how flat and even the sleep surface is. Supportive mattresses maintain a level surface throughout the night, whereas unsupportive mattresses sag in certain areas. Mattresses that are too soft or too firm may also lack adequate support for people with scoliosis.
  • Conforming ability: Some mattresses are designed to mold closely to the sleeper’s body, forming a contoured impression that helps align the spine, target pressure points, and alleviate aches and pains. Other mattresses offer little to no conforming, and provide less pain and pressure relief as a result. Conforming is tied directly to support; mattresses that conform closely tend to evenly support all areas of the body, while those that do not conform closely may support some areas more than others. Because inconsistent support can exacerbate pain and pressure, most people with scoliosis prefer mattresses that conform closely.
  • Firmness: Although ‘support’ and ‘firmness’ are often used interchangeably in the mattress industry, these two terms are technically different. While support refers to the evenness of a sleep surface, firmness refers to how the mattress feels to different sleepers. Today’s mattresses offer a wide range of firmness options, but firmness can be broken down into these three general categories:
    • On soft mattresses, most sleepers sink deeply into the sleep surface. This tends to be the most comfortable firmness option for people who weigh less than 130 pounds. However, people who weigh more than 130 pounds may sink too deeply, leading to pain and pressure caused by inconsistent support.
    • The medium firmness option (4-6) offers adequate support for most people with average to below-average weights. Those who weigh more than 230 pounds may still feel experience inconsistent support, but not to the same extent that they would on a soft mattress.
    • A firm mattress is usually the most suitable option for people who weigh more than 230 pounds, as well as some people in the average weight group. People who weigh less than 130 pounds may not weigh enough to sink deeply, if at all, and this can lead to pressure and discomfort.
  • Durability: Most mattresses are designed to perform for at least six years, and some may last as long as eight or nine. However, certain mattress types tend to deteriorate somewhat quickly, particularly in surface areas where the sleeper’s weight is centered, and this can lead to sagging and indentations that exacerbate back pain and pressure.
  • Motion isolation: People with chronic pain — including scoliosis patients — are often sensitive to movement on their sleep surfaces. The term ‘motion isolation’ refers to how well a mattress absorbs movement when someone gets up or shifts positions, and isolates this movement to one area of the mattress. Responsive, bouncy mattresses typically offer minimal motion isolation, while mattresses that are slow to respond tend to offer the best motion isolation.
  • Noise: As with motion, people who experience chronic pain may also be sensitive to noise when trying to fall asleep. While some mattresses are virtually silent when bearing weight, others tend to be loud due to squeaky internal parts or electrical components.
  • Ease of movement: Individuals with chronic pain may roll over in bed or adjust their sleep position rather frequently in order to become comfortable. Some mattresses offer little resistance to movement, while those that cause people to sink deeply may hinder position changes.
  • Sleep trial: Many mattress brands and retailers allow customers to participate in sleep trials, which may last anywhere from 30 to 365 nights. Purchasers are able to test out the mattress in their home for as long as the trial is valid, and usually have the option of returning or exchanging the mattress if they are not satisfied with its size, firmness, or other characteristics. A sleep trial can be quite beneficial for people with scoliosis who are unsure which model will work best for them — and the longer the sleep trial, the better.
  • Warranty and indentation depth: Virtually every mattress sold today comes with a manufacturer’s warranty to repair or replace the item if a defect arises. Most warranties include an established ‘indentation depth’ used to determine whether or not the bed is defective. If the sleep surface develops indentations that exceed the listed depth, then the manufacturer will repair or replace the mattress. If the indentations are not deep enough, then the manufacturer will not cover the cost of these services. According to most sleepers, indentations become quite uncomfortable when they measure deeper than one inch — but some warranties will not cover indentations unless they measure one and a half inches or deeper. People with scoliosis may want to consider a mattress with a warranty indentation depth of one inch or less; otherwise they may face high repair and replacement costs that the manufacturer won’t cover.

Which Mattresses Are Best/Worst for People with Scoliosis?

Next, let’s evaluate the five most common mattress types in terms of suitability for people with scoliosis.

Mattress TypeInnerspringFoamLatexHybridAirbed
ConstructionFoam comfort layer(s)
Steel coils in the support core
Polyfoam and/or memory foam layer(s) in the comfort system
Polyfoam layer(s) in the support core
Latex layer(s) in the comfort layer
Latex or polyfoam layer(s) in the support core
At least 2″ of memory foam and/or latex in the comfort layer, as well as other components (such as polyfoam or minicoils)
Pocketed coils in the support core
Foam comfort layer(s) or no comfort layer
Individualized adjustable air chambers in the support core
SupportFair to GoodFair to GoodGood to Very GoodGood to Very GoodGood to Very Good
Firmness OptionsFair to GoodGood to Very GoodGood to Very GoodGood to Very GoodGood to Very Good
ConformingPoor to FairGood to Very GoodFair to GoodFair to GoodFair to Good
DurabilityPoor to FairFair to GoodGood to Very GoodFair to GoodPoor to Fair
Light Sleeper Rating (Less than 130 lbs)Fair to GoodFair to GoodGood to Very GoodPoor to FairFair to Good
Heavy Sleeper Rating (More than 230 lbs)Poor to FairGood to Very GoodGood to Very GoodGood to Very GoodPoor to Fair
Motion IsolationPoor to FairGood to Very GoodGood to Very GoodFair to GoodFair to Good
NoisePoor to FairGood to Very GoodGood to Very GoodFair to GoodPoor to Fair
Ease of MovementGood to Very GoodPoor to FairFair to GoodFair to GoodGood to Very Good
Rating for Sleepers with Scoliosis Poor to FairGood to Very GoodGood to Very GoodFair to GoodFair to Good
ExplanationDeteriorate and sag easily
Limited support in the neck, waist, lumbar, and hips
Minimal conforming
Few firmness options
High noise potential
Easy to move on

 

Close conforming and good pressure relief
Multiple firmness options
Average durability
Strong motion isolation
Virtually silent
Hard to move on
Exceptional support and durability
Adequate conforming for most
Multiple firmness options
Strong motion isolation
Virtually silent
Somewhat difficult to move on
Minimal conforming and pain/pressure relief
Multiple firmness options
Below-average motion isolation
High noise potential
Somewhat difficult to move on
Highly supportive
Customizable firmness options, though some are excessively firm
Strong sagging potential
Quite noisy
Minimal motion isolation

Best Mattresses for People with Scoliosis

The following table features our top-rated mattress picks for people with scoliosis. To learn more about these brands and models, please visit the links at the top of the table.

Mattress BrandAmeriSleepLeesaLoom & LeafSpindleZenhaven
Mattress ModelAS3 (Liberty)Leesa Foam MattressLoom & Leaf by SaatvaNatural Latex MattressZenhaven Mattress
Mattress TypeMemory FoamMixed foamMemory FoamLatexReversible latex
Comfort Layer3″ Memory foam2″ Avena foam
2″ Memory foam
2 1/2″ Gel memory foam
2″ Memory foam
3 3″ Latex layers
Layer firmness varies by selected firmness level
No traditional support core
1 1/2″ Latex
Mattress is flippable with two comfort layers of differing thickness
Support Core9″ Polyfoam6″ Polyfoam7 1/2″ Polyfoam6″ Latex
Both sides share one support core
Firmness OptionsMedium FirmMedium FirmMedium
Firm
Medium Soft
Medium
Medium Firm
Firm
Side 1: Medium Soft
Side 2: Medium Firm
Support RatingVery GoodVery GoodGoodGoodGood
Conforming RatingVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodGood
Durability RatingFair to GoodGoodFairVery GoodVery Good
Motion Isolation RatingVery GoodVery GoodExcellentVery GoodVery Good
Noise RatingExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellent
Sleep Trial100 nights100 nights120 nights365-night comfort adjustment (replace one latex layer)
25-year comfort life (replace unlimited latex layers)
120 nights
Warranty Indentation Depth3/4″1″1″3/4″3/4″
Price (Queen)$1,199.00$940.00$1,099.00$1,349.99$1,899.00
Customer Satisfaction Rating81% (531 customer reviews)76% (74 customer reviews)72% (113 customer reviews)75% (98 customer reviews)80% (924 customer reviews)

Additional Sleep Strategies for People with Scoliosis

In addition to selecting the right mattress, people with scoliosis can improve their pain and pressure by making informed pillow and mattress topper choices.

Pillows: As mentioned above, sleeping with at least one secondary pillow can be beneficial for people with scoliosis who sleep on their back or side. An important quality to consider is pillow loft, or thickness, when choosing primary and secondary pillows. Pillows that are not thick enough can create gaps that lead to inconsistent support, while pillows that are too thick can cause spinal misalignment.

Some pillow types are considered most suitable for people with scoliosis because they conform closely and alleviate aches and pains. These include buckwheat, latex, and memory foam models. Pillows that may not be comfortable for those with scoliosis include down alternative and polyfoam models. For more information, please visit our Best Pillows: Buying Guide and Information page.

Toppers: A mattress topper is an individual cushioning layer that rests on the sleep surface, either freely or fitted around the edges like a top sheet. Most toppers are designed to make the sleep surface feel softer, although some may actually increase the firmness. Toppers can improve support, as well.

For people with scoliosis, a latex or memory foam topper will usually be most comfortable because these materials conform closely and alleviate aches and pains. Toppers that measure three inches thick or more are considered best. Alternatively, toppers made from materials like convoluted polyfoam may increase pain and pressure in people with scoliosis.

A latex or memory foam topper will be most suitable for someone with fibromyalgia because these products conform closely to target pain and pressure points. To learn more, please visit our Best Mattress Toppers guide.

Additional Resources