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A mattress topper for back pain is an additional layer of foam, fabric, or natural fibers that people can add on top of their mattress. It can be a cheaper alternative to buying a new mattress if individuals need extra support for their back.

Mattress toppers can contour the body and add extra cushioning, which may help support a person’s back and reduce pain.

Here we look at some of the best mattress toppers for back pain and what to consider when buying one.

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Mattress toppers can be useful for individuals who have old mattresses and are experiencing back pain as a result. This extra layer can help distribute weight and remove the strain from sensitive areas, such as the shoulders, hips, and lumbar region.

Toppers may also make the mattress more comfortable and improve sleep quality.

What type of mattress topper is best for back pain?

A firm mattress topper may be comfortable for people who sleep on their back, but those with back problems should opt for a topper that is not too firm. A medium-firm product may provide comfort and support spine alignment.

In a review of studies, researchers studied the firmness effects of soft, medium-firm, and firm mattresses in people with lower back pain. They found that the medium-firm mattresses reduced pain.

According to the University of Utah, a person’s comfortable sleeping position is similar to that when they are standing straight. A soft mattress causes the spine to sag, while an extra-firm mattress leads to a very straight spine, which may lead to back pain.

Those with an extra-soft mattress may consider adding a firmer mattress topper to help align the spine.

A person can speak with a healthcare professional for further advice on choosing a mattress topper to help relieve back pain.

Sleeping with a mattress topper can have several health benefits.

A 2020 article found that a thin mattress topper of 30 millimeters (1.2 inches) in thickness can help reduce body pressure and temperature. It can also improve spinal alignment.

Furthermore, a 2018 study found that high rebound mattress toppers can help reduce body temperature and improve deep sleep.

Before purchasing a mattress topper, a person may wish to consider the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Mattress toppers can improve comfort.
  • Mattress toppers help protect the mattress, which may increase its lifespan.
  • Mattress toppers can help regulate body temperature.

Cons

  • A mattress topper may slide around the bed if a person does not secure it properly.
  • Mattress toppers can be expensive.
  • Mattress toppers are not suitable for mattresses that are lumpy, misshapen, or do not provide support.

Mattress toppers differ from protectors and pads.

  • Topper: Provides additional comfort and can adjust the firmness, temperature, and height.
  • Protector: The purpose of this is to protect the mattress from spills, dust, and getting dirty.
  • Pad: These are thinner than toppers and simply serve to adjust the firmness.

Manufacturers may use synthetic or natural materials to make mattress toppers. Synthetic materials include memory foam and synthetic latex. Natural materials can include feathers or down, wool, and natural latex. The advantages of different materials are as follows:

Mattress toppers are available in a range of materials, such as:

  • Latex: This material is durable, firm, and contours to a person’s body, so it may offer additional support and spinal alignment. However, latex may be more costly than other materials.
  • Memory foam: This material molds to a person’s body shape. Memory foam provides pressure relief and may help reduce motion transfer.
  • Wool: This material is naturally hypoallergenic and antimicrobial. Additionally, wool is soft and comfortable.
  • Feather and down: This material is durable and comfortable. However, feather and down toppers require regular maintenance and are not suitable for people with an allergy to down.

People may wish to consider the following factors when choosing a mattress topper for back pain. According to review and product websites, the following can all play a part in an effective mattress topper:

  • Contouring: A topper that contours with the body may help relieve pressure points and support spinal alignment.
  • Price: A cheaper topper may provide a quick fix, but more expensive models may represent a better investment. People can look for toppers that use durable materials with no sagging and provide long lasting comfort.
  • Quality materials: Certain performance materials or technology can add extra benefits, such as temperature regulation or a springy feel.
  • Firmness: People can also consider whether they want to sink into a topper or not and consider what body weights a topper will support. One study found that high rebound mattress toppers improved deep sleep quality.
  • Thickness: The depth of a mattress topper can alter the amount of cushioning and contouring it provides. A thicker topper may offer greater contouring and pressure relief.
  • Sleeping position: Side sleepers may need more cushioning for hips and shoulders, while back and front sleepers may need a slightly firmer surface to prevent sinking.

One older study found that lower back pain can increase the risk of sleep disturbance and poor quality sleep. If back pain interferes with sleep quality, a person should consult a doctor.

How we choose products

Medical News Today chooses mattress toppers that meet the following criteria:

  • Budget: Products are available for a wide range of budgets.
  • Size: Products come in different sizes.
  • Firmness: Products come in different firmness levels and suit many sleeping styles.
  • Warranty: Products have a warranty policy.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

For different firmness levels:
PlushBeds 100% Natural Latex Mattress Topper

PlushBeds Latex Mattress Topper is 100% natural latex. Its features include:

  • pressure point relief for shoulders, hips, knees, and the back
  • open-cell design to allow airflow
  • 2- or 3-inch (in) thickness for different levels of cushioning
  • choice of four different firmness levels to suit all sleeping styles, with an extra-firm option for people weighing over 250 pounds
  • shock absorbency to reduce motion transfer

For a removable cover:
ViscoSoft Select Memory Foam Topper

The ViscoSoft Select Memory Foam Topper is a 3-in, high-density mattress topper that:

  • relieves pressure points
  • aligns the spine
  • minimizes motion transfer
  • offers a medium-firm feel
  • contains gel-infused memory foam for a cooler sleep
  • suits all sleep styles

For organic materials:
Birch Plush Organic Mattress Topper

Featuring a blend of organic cotton, wool, and natural latex, this 3-in deep Birch Organic Mattress Topper also includes:

  • deep body contouring
  • a natural latex contour layer that cushions pressure points
  • a breathable cotton cover that allows airflow
  • an organic cotton cover to wick away moisture
  • a wool layer to regulate temperature
  • nontoxic and naturally fire retardant materials

People can choose from six sizes and request a 100-night trial.

For a 5-year warranty:
Lift by Amerisleep — Support option

The 3-in thick Support Lift Mattress Topper offers firmer support to a mattress. Additional features include:

  • increased comfort and reduced pain from pressure points
  • targeted support for different areas of the body
  • a breathable cover for a cooler sleep
  • comfort for back and front sleepers

Side or combination sleepers or anyone looking for extra cushioning may prefer the Comfort option.

For gel memory foam:
Sleep Innovations 4-Inch Dual Layer Memory Foam Topper

The Sleep Innovations Memory Foam Topper is a 4-in deep memory foam and quilted cushion. The topper offers:

  • pressure relief
  • a washable quilted cover
  • gel memory foam for a cooling effect
  • a cradling effect to provide comfort and support
  • comfort for all sleeping styles

For a Global Organic Latex Standard mattress topper:
Pure Green 100% Natural Latex Mattress Topper

The 100% natural latex Pure Green Mattress Topper has an optional organic cotton and polyester cover. Its features include:

  • contouring support
  • instant response to body movement
  • three depth options
  • soft, medium, or firm options to suit all sleep positions
  • durable and breathable natural latex

For a linen blend cover:
Keetsa Luxurious Comfort Layer

The 3-in Keetsa mattress topper uses memory foam and padding to provide comfort and support. Features include:

  • body contouring
  • memory foam comprising a combination of natural and synthetic materials
  • a linen blend cover with a soft, smooth feel
  • a fiberfill padding layer for moisture control and airflow

Below are some of the most common questions and answers about mattress toppers.

Does a mattress topper go under the sheet?

A mattress topper sits directly on the mattress, under the sheets. Most of them have straps or ties so that people can secure them in place.

How thick should a mattress topper be for back pain?

Typically, a medium thickness is 2–4 in, offering a feel that is not too soft or firm.

A person should measure their mattress size and choose a topper that fits that measurement. If they buy the product from an online retailer, it may be best to read customer reviews to find out if others have had any problems with its sizing guide.

Depending on the type of back pain a person is experiencing, they should speak with a doctor for further advice on the style of mattress topper that might help.

Is memory foam or a firm mattress better for back pain?

Memory foam provides a snug fit that may be beneficial for those with back pain, as it also adjusts to the individual’s body.

Typically, experts recommend medium-firm mattresses for back pain. However, a person should speak with a healthcare professional, as the cause of their back pain may mean a different type of mattress is more suitable. Additionally, there may be an underlying health issue causing the discomfort.

A mattress topper can be a suitable option for changing a mattress’s feel without the necessary expense or commitment of buying a new mattress. Mattress toppers offering contouring, spinal alignment, extra cushioning, and pressure relief may help relieve back pain.

However, if a sagging or worn-out mattress is causing back pain, a mattress topper may not help, and people may need to consider getting a new mattress.

If a change in bedding and sleeping surface does not improve back pain, individuals can speak with a doctor to explore other treatment suggestions.