- How Sleep Works
- Sleep Disorders
- Sleep Resources
- Sleep Health
- Sleep Medicine
Mattress toppers are layers of material – typically 1″ to 3″ thick – that are added to the top surface of a mattress to add extra cushioning and adjust the firmness. Additionally, some toppers are designed to conform closely to the sleeper’s body in order to help align their spine and alleviate pain and pressure points throughout their body.
These toppers can be especially beneficial for sleepers with older beds or mattresses that provide minimal relief for aches and pains. They can also be used on sleep surfaces that are less comfortable, such as pull-out beds and tent floors during campouts.
The toppers that offer the best pressure relief are typically made from materials like memory foam and latex that hug the sleeper’s body closely without sagging excessively. The right level of conforming and pressure relief often depends on the sleeper’s weight and preferred position. For this reason, a topper may be ideal for some sleepers but uncomfortable for others.
This guide will discuss tips for choosing a mattress topper that will offer the optimal level of pain and pressure relief for different sleepers. Below you’ll find our picks for the best mattress toppers for back pain. Our choices are based on verified customer and owner experiences, as well as intensive product research and analysis.
Thickness and firmness customization is key for adequate pressure relief; toppers that offer one or two options may be too limiting for sleepers whose preferences fall outside the available designs. Our Editor’s Pick, the Natural Latex Topper from PlushBeds, is one of the most customizable toppers on the market. It is available in 2″ and 3″ thickness profiles, as four firmness settings: ‘Soft’ (19-21 ILD), ‘Medium’ (24-26 ILD), ‘Medium Firm’ (29-31 ILD), and ‘Extra Firm’ (34-36 ILD). This selection ensures the vast majority of sleepers will find a topper that offers good conforming and pressure relief regardless of their weight or sleep position.
Another key strength of the Natural Latex Topper is temperature neutrality. The topper is constructed with natural Talalay latex that is aerated to promote good air circulation, keeping the topper cool and comfortable. A breathable organic cotton cover is available for an extra charge, as well. It also isolates motion transfer well and produces virtually no noise, making it a good option for couples who share a mattress.
The price-point for the Natural Latex Topper varies by selected size and thickness. PlushBeds will ship the topper anywhere in the contiguous U.S. at no extra charge.
Another highly customizable mattress topper is the Pure Green Natural Latex Topper from Sleep on Latex. This model is available in 1″, 2″, and 3″ thickness profiles, and three firmness options: ‘Soft’ (20 ILD), ‘Medium’ (30 ILD), and ‘Firm’ (44 ILD). We’ve chosen this topper as the Best Value pick because its price-point is much lower than most competing latex topper models, yet it offers the same pressure relief as many of its higher-end competitors. The latex conforms closely to reduce aches and pains in the neck, shoulders, lower back, and other sensitive areas.
The Pure Green also sleeps very cool. The topper is made from natural, aerated Dunlop latex that offers great air circulation and temperature neutrality. Excessively hot sleepers can also opt for the organic-cotton cover, which is available for an extra charge. Like many latex toppers, the Pure Green offers excellent motion isolation, as well. And due to its material composition, the topper is a good eco-friendly option.
Sleep on Latex offers free topper shipping to customers in the contiguous U.S. The Pure Green is backed by a 30-night sleep trial and a longer-than-average five-year warranty.
The Ultimate Copper Topper from PangeaBed, our Best Luxury Pick, is made for comfort. The core is constructed from natural Talalay latex that has been infused with copper. The latex is ‘Medium’ in terms of firmness, conforming to a noticeable extent without sagging or compromising support; this makes it most suitable for sleepers in the average (130 to 230 pounds) and heavy (more than 230 pounds) weight groups. Its 2″ thickness profile is best for back and stomach sleepers, as well as side sleepers who don’t mind slightly firmer surfaces.
The Ultimate Copper Topper is also a great choice for sleepers with poor circulation, since copper actively improves blood flow in sleepers. The topper also promotes temperature neutrality; along with the breathable organic-cotton cover, allowing it to sleep exceptionally cool for most. Additionally, the Ultimate Copper Topper isolates a significant amount of motion transfer and makes virtually no noise.
Customers in the contiguous U.S. qualify for free shipping when they order an Ultimate Copper Topper. PangeaBed backs this product with a 30-night sleep trial and a one-year warranty.
Regardless of their weight, side sleepers usually prefer toppers that offer extra cushioning to their shoulders and hips; this helps align their spines properly, which can reduce pressure points in the neck and back. The Latex for Less Topper is a good option for side sleepers because it offers multiple options geared toward different weight groups. The topper is available in 2″ and 3″ thickness profiles, as well as three firmness options: ‘Soft’ (15 ILD), ‘Medium’ (28 ILD), and ‘Firm’ (36 ILD).
The Latex for Less Topper is also suitable for people with back pain who tend to sleep hot. Ventilated Dunlop latex and an organic-cotton cover provide great temperature neutrality, allowing the topper to sleep cool. Benefits for couples include good motion isolation and no noise, as well as availability in all six standard mattress sizes (many toppers are exclusively offered in Twin or Firm sizes).
Latex for Less offers free shipping to customers in the contiguous U.S. The topper is backed by a five-year warranty, which is longer than average.
Sleeping on your back naturally aligns the spine, but this position requires a flat, even surface; toppers that sag in places where weight is concentrated may create gaps in the sleep surface that compromise support and lead to back pain. For stomach sleepers, sagging is one of the most important issues. Surfaces that sink excessively around the midsection can lead to neck and back pain.
The Avocado Green Natural Latex Topper is suitable for both back and stomach sleepers because it provides a comfortable, supportive surface that won’t sag too much. It is also available in ‘Soft’ and ‘Firm’ options, making it suitable for sleepers in different weight groups.
The Avocado Green Natural Latex Topper is eco-friendly, as well. The topper contains layers of natural Dunlop latex and organic New Zealand wool housed within an organic-cotton cover. These materials allow the mattress to maintain good temperature neutrality and sleep fairly cool for most; the wool layer also ensures that the topper will offer some warmth in colder sleep environs.
The Avocado Green Natural Latex Topper is backed by a 10-year warranty, which is one of the longest topper warranties available today. Avocado offers free shipping and returns, as well.
Sleepers who experience back pain and tend to sleep hot may wish to opt for a cooling topper. Our top pick in this category is the Alexander Signature Cooling Topper from Nest Bedding, which is made from gel-infused memory foam that helps sleepers maintain a comfortable temperature throughout the night; comparatively, many memory foam toppers sleep moderately to excessively warm. The Alexander Signature Cooling Topper also conforms closely and helps align the spine in order to minimize aches and pains in the sleeper’s most sensitive areas.
This product also addresses a common issue for topper users: stability. Many toppers will slip off mattress edges during the night, creating an uncomfortable, uneven surface that sleepers must constantly address. The Alexander Signature Cooling Topper, on the other hand, features elastic straps at all four corners that keep it in place, even when the topper is tugged or sleepers shift positions in bed.
Customers in the contiguous U.S. qualify for free shipping when they order this topper from Nest Bedding. The Alexander Signature Cooling Topper is backed by a two-year warranty.
The term ‘mattress topper‘ refers to an individual layer of cushioning that rests on top of the bed’s sleep surface. Toppers are normally used to provide additional softness for mattresses that are overly firm, as well as extra support for mattresses that sag. Additionally, people with back pain can use a topper to alleviate the aches, discomfort, and pressure points that occur night after night. Toppers may be made from a wide range of materials, but those made from memory foam or latex are considered the best for back pain and pressure relief. While price-points vary by brand and model, high-quality foam and latex toppers are widely available for $150 or less.
This guide will look at the causes and symptoms of chronic back pain, common designs and characteristics of toppers that provide back pain relief, tips for first-time buyers, and our picks for the best toppers for back pain relief that are sold today.
The Mayo Clinic notes that the following conditions are common sources of back pain in adults:
Symptoms of back pain include:
Most back pain does not require medical attention, but the Mayo Clinic urges patients with back pain to see a physician if they experience the following:
Unlike mattress pads and protectors — which primarily protect mattresses from spills and stains, and offer minimal cushioning — toppers are designed to provide extra support and comfort for mattress surfaces. Most make mattresses feel softer, but firmer models for excessively soft mattresses are also available.
Mattress toppers come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and compositions. However, people with back pain should take the following attributes into consideration:
Durability: Toppers, like mattresses, often sag as the materials begin to deteriorate. Sagging can cause the topper’s surface to become uneven, leading to discomfort for any sleeper — especially those with back pain.
Conforming Ability: Some topper materials conform closely than others, forming a cradle-shaped impression around the sleeper’s body. This can help align the spine and alleviate pressure points. Materials that do not conform closely may not provide pressure relief — and in some cases, may cause more pressure to build up.
Firmness: Most toppers are designed to make mattresses feel softer. However, excessive softness can be problematic for heavier people with back pain because they tend to sink too deeply. That can make the surface uneven, which compromises how supportive the sleep surface feels, and may lead to more aches and pains. By the same token, excessively firm toppers can cause stiffness and discomfort in lighter people. Individual preferences vary from sleeper to sleeper, but most people of average weight (130 to 230 pounds) find that ‘medium firm’ toppers offer the right balance of cushioning and support for their bodies.
Density: Density, which is measured in pounds per cubic foot (PCF), is normally used to assess the firmness of foam. High-density foams can be quite firm, whereas low-density foams tend to be excessively soft. Average-weight sleepers with back pain tend to feel most comfortable on foams with a density ranging from 3 to 5 PCF, which is considered medium density. Heavier sleepers may feel more comfortable on surfaces with a density of 4 to 6 PCF, while lighter sleepers tend to prefer a density of 2 to 3 PCF.
Indentation load deflection (ILD): ILD, like density, is used to evaluate the firmness of a sleep surface. However, this measurement is most commonly associated with latex toppers. ILD specifically refers to how much weight is needed to compress a mattress surface by 25%. Common ILD measurements for latex include 18 to 22 for softer latex, 24 to 30 for medium latex, and 34 to 45 for firmer latex.
Thickness: Toppers may measure anywhere from one inch to six inches thick, but thicker does not necessarily mean better. This is because thicker toppers tend to be very soft, which can cause excessive sinkage and uneven support for heavier people. Thinner toppers tend to be firmer. In most cases, people with back pain prefer toppers that measure two to three inches thick.
Sizing: Topper sizing depends on the size of the mattress beneath it. For sleepers who do not share their bed with anyone, the topper’s size should match that of the mattress. Those who sleep with a partner may choose to use a topper that only covers their side of the bed; this is particularly useful for couples with differing firmness preferences.
Composition: A wide range of materials are used to make mattress toppers. The table below compares the pros and cons of the six most common materials used in toppers. To read our analyses of each topper material, visit the links in the top row of the table.
|Topper Material||Convoluted Polyfoam||Feather||Fiber||Latex||Memory Foam||Wool|
|Description||Contoured (‘egg-crate’) polyurethane foam||Outer plumage from ducks or geese||Rayon, polyester, down alternative, and other synthetic fibers||Natural substance extracted from rubber tree sap||Viscoelastic polyfoam engineered to soften when in contact with body heat||Wool sheared from sheep or lambs|
|Conforming||Poor to Fair||Poor to Fair||Poor to Fair||Very Good to Excellent||Very Good to Excellent||Fair to Good|
|Pain/Pressure Relief||Poor to Fair||Fair to Good||Fair to Good||Very Good to Excellent||Very Good to Excellent||Fair to Good|
|Thickness Options||Very limited||Limited||Very Limited||Wide||Wide||Limited|
|Average Price Range||$30 or less||$100 to $150||$60 to $100||$100 to $400||$100 to $200||$150 to $300|
|Overall Rating for Sleepers with Back Pain||Poor to Fair||Fair to Good||Poor to Fair||Very Good to Excellent||Very Good to Excellent||Good to Very Good|
As the table shows, latex and memory foam are usually the most suitable topper types for people with back pain.
If you are shopping for a new mattress topper and comparing different brands and models, here are a few factors to keep in mind: