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Mattress toppers are layers of material – typically 1 to 3 inches 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.
Our Editor’s Choice, the Birch Pillow Top mattress topper, is soft, comfortable, and made with natural materials. The topper is 3 inches thick and contains wool and Talalay latex layers. Talalay is a high-quality latex that contours to the body while maintaining breathability. The Talalay latex provides cushioning that eases stress on pressure points. An organic cotton covers the wool and latex layers, further adding to the cooling quality of the Birch Pillow Top topper.
The Talalay latex of the Birch Pillow Top is OEKO-TEX certified, which means it doesn’t contain chemicals that will off-gas in your home. Talalay latex is also hypoallergenic and anti-microbial. It will not grow mold or harbor bacteria like other materials might. The wool makes the topper fire retardant without the use of harsh chemicals.
Our Best Value mattress topper is the Allswell 3-inch Memory Foam Mattress Topper with Graphite. Each size of this mattress topper costs less than $150, making it one of the most affordable quality mattress toppers on the market. This Allswell Mattress Topper is made of a single layer of memory foam that can provide additional comfort and support to sleepers who don’t feel they’re getting enough of that from their current mattress.
The Allswell 3-inch Memory Foam Mattress Topper is an especially good choice for people who tend to sleep hot. It is made of open cell memory foam, which is more breathable than other foams and wicks moisture. The topper is also infused with graphite, which also cools the body.
The TEMPUR-Topper Supreme mattress topper is our Best Luxury pick because of its advanced contouring support. Tempur memory foam is extremely durable, which is why this topper comes with a 10-year limited warranty. The memory foam of the TEMPUR-Topper Supreme helps relieve stress put on pressure points, providing a more comfortable night’s sleep. It is also hypoallergenic and a good option for people with allergies.
One advantage of the TEMPUR-Topper Supreme is its removable, washable cover. A removable cover is not a common feature in mattress toppers, and makes it easier to keep this one clean. This mattress topper does not come with a sleep trial, however. Customers should be aware that once they’ve purchased this mattress topper, they cannot return it.
The Viscosoft Select High Density Mattress Topper is our pick for the Best Topper for Side Sleepers. This topper is made with a dense, gel-infused memory foam beneath a pillow top cover. The density of the foam makes it more supportive than some other toppers. The supportiveness of this topper helps align the spine of side sleepers, though it is also comfortable for people who sleep in other positions.
The gel infused in the Viscosoft Select High Density Mattress Topper makes it a cooling mattress topper. This topper is one of the few that comes with a removable, washable cover. The removable cover makes it a good choice for people who are concerned about keeping their mattress topper clean, since the topper itself should not be washed.
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.
Our Best Cooling Topper choice is the Saatva Latex Topper. This mattress topper contains a 1.5-inch American Talalay latex layer covered by organic cotton. Latex is known for its cooling properties, and this topper is particularly cooling due to ventilation spots in the latex. The organic cotton cover adds to the topper’s cooling ability, since cotton is breathable.
The Saatva Latex Topper promotes pressure point relief and can make older mattresses feel more comfortable. All of its components are natural and the cover is organic, so this topper is a good choice for customers that prioritize sustainability. The Talalay latex is naturally hypoallergenic. Saatva offers a generous 45-day trial period on this mattress topper, which is longer than what many other brands offer.
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: