Waking up in the morning with back pain is a horrible way to start the day. If you got much sleep at all that is, as nagging back pain can keep you awake, trying to find a comfortable way to sleep to ease existing pain, for hours.
While there are lots of different causes of back pain, the way you sleep – and what you sleep on – can make a big difference. And the good news for back pain sufferers is that you may not need to invest thousands in a new mattress to gain some much-needed back pain relief, as a mattress topper may be all you need.
As they have become more popular these surprisingly supportive bedding items are appearing more and more frequently, meaning there are a lot of different options out there to choose from. To help you find the best mattress topper for back pain for you we’ve looked at some of the most popular and best reviewed available on the market right now.
1. Best Gel Infused Topper for Back Pain: ViscoSoft
Best for Side Sleepers.
Why You’ll Love It: If your mattress is particularly firm or worn, then the thickness of 4 inches of this pillow top should provide an appropriate level of comfort. If you’re a savvy buyer you’ll also like the price-tag of this topper.
Some people love the idea of sleeping on a feather bed, and the down alternative top layer of this mattress topper attempts to go some way to fulfilling this desire. The real back pain relief lies beneath the faux feathers though in the memory foam layer. The ViscoSoft pillow top gel memory foam topper provides a medium/firm comfort level and features down alternative, memory foam and gel.
The memory foam is designed to support the body and will conform, over time, to the shape and even the sleeping style of its owner. It’s an especially good choice for side sleepers whose lower bodies can ‘sink’ unsupported into a standard mattress, leading to cramps and morning leg and lower back pain.
A layer of gel foam has been added to provide cooling, and it is this aspect of the mattress topper that draws the most rave reviews. Some people, who had discarded previously owned memory foam mattress toppers because they, in the words of one reviewer ‘made it feel like sleeping in a swamp’ found that this option slept very cool and remained nice and dry. There also seem to be a large number of reviews commenting upon how muchlove this topper, if your canine’s comfort is also a concern of yours!
Pros: Affordable, 60-day money back guarantee, 5 year warranty, thick, heavyweight topper that can make even a standard spring mattress feel more comfortable. Sleeps cool, down alternative adds a layer of softness, cover is fully machine washable.
Cons: Those who prefer a very firm mattress found the mattress topper was a little too soft for their tastes.
2. Best Charcoal Latex Topper for Back Pain: Saatva
Best for all sleeping positions.
Why You’ll Love It: Luxurious and back-relieving topper from the internet’s leading luxury mattress brand – Saatva- known for their workmanship and quality.
Saatva go all the way when it comes to mattress toppers, as they offer three different options that feature three of the most popular fill blends on the market today (graphite, latex or foam) each of which has something different to offer to different people.
The 3-inch graphite infused memory foam option is a plush, medium support topper that is designed to be especially cooling. The 1.5-inch latex option is crafted from 100% Natural Talalay latex and is specially designed to promote better spinal alignment, making it a great choice for back and side sleepers who suffer from back pain – as recommended by chiropractors and orthopedists.
Finally there is a 1.5-inch high-density foam option that evenly distributes body weight to avoid the creation of pressure points and provides a medium to firm level of comfort and support. All feature a breathable organic cotton cover to help folk sleep exceptionally cool and 4 anchor bands to help keep the topper safely and snuggly secured on your bed.
Overall all the available options are well reviewed and praised for the level of durability and quality. For those who struggle with back pain however the latex is the most popular and best reviewed for back pain relief, and is praised as very cool as well.
Pros: Several fill choices available, offering something for everyone, 45-day returns, free shipping.
Cons: May be hard for consumers to determine just which fill would be right for them prior to ordering.
3. Best Latex Topper for Back Pain: Latex for Less
Suits: Side, back and stomach sleepers.
Why You’ll Love It: The Latex for Less is another fan favorite, and for good reason too – it’s durable, affordable and cooling – guaranteed to give you good night’s sleep. It’s also customizable – so you can choose the firmness level and comfort you want to suit your mattress.
One of the surprises about this mattress topper is that it has gained itself a huge number of positive reviews but is one of the less expensive options on our list. Choose between a 2-inch or 3-inch firmness and a comfort level of soft, medium and medium-firm.
Latex is a material that confuses people. Because they have often only encountered it before in gloves or Band Aid type dressings they think it must be very ‘plasticky’, but that is actually not the case. Natural latex is made from rubber tree sap but when turned into bedding it has a thick, soft feel that some find surprising.
Because this mattress topper is offered in several different comfort levels, the choice one initially makes will affect the amount of support – and back pain relief – you’ll get from making use of it. Many of the reviewers who love this topper who suffer from back pain use it to add softness to a firm mattress and the medium firm seems to be the most popular option among those people.
Although there is no special gel cooling layer the natural breathability of latex means it is cooling, and lots of people remark upon how well it does keep them sweat free even on a hot night.
Pros: Inexpensive, available in several support levels, all natural, sustainable materials, is naturally cooling, has no off-gassing smell.
Cons: Not suitable for those with a latex allergy.
4. Best Down-Alternative Topper for Back Pain: Duck & Goose Co
Best for Side and Stomach Sleepers.
Why You’ll Love: A luxurious and hotel like plush topper with raving reviews that will turn a very hard mattress into a bed of cloud and comfortable haven.
This 2-inch mattress topper is perhaps more like many people imagine one will be; essentially a thick, soft duvet style topper designed to add softness to a firm mattress. It is attractive to look at, can be machine washed and tumble dried in its entirety and is hypo-allergenic and antibacterial, which is great news for allergy sufferers. Choose this topper if you have a very hard mattress you want to improve and body pain yet still want some firmness.
In terms of support this only offers limited support, so may not be firm enough for some people who tend to suffer from back pain. Some people however report having made use of it successfully to add softness to a mattress that was just a little too firm for their tastes. A lot of reviewers also report that sleeping on the topper helped to significantly relieve hip and leg pain where a firmer topper had not helped much.
Pros: Very inexpensive, easy to care for, feels very soft, 10-year warranty, hypoallergenic.
Cons: May not be thick enough for some people’s tastes.
5. Best Gel Memory Foam Topper for Back Pain: Simmons
Suits: All Sleeping Positions.
Why You’ll Love It: This foam gel topper is plush and thick (5.5-inch) and is the answer to a hard lumpy mattress. It is hypoallergenic and features gel memory foam and a fiberfill pillow top leaving you feeling like you’re sleeping on a cloud.
Simmons have been making best-selling beds and mattresses for decades, so that their mattress toppers are also hugely popular should come as no surprise.
This 5.5 inch topper, which offers a medium level of support, features not just one but two types of memory foam. The standard Certi-Pur memory foam featured in many Simmons products and a cooling gel memory foam layer as well.
The result is a nice, supportive mattress topper that conforms well to the unique curves of your body but does not give you the feeling of ‘sinking’ that some memory foam can. The gel layer is cooling, so even those who tend to ‘overheat’ at night can get a more comfortable night’s sleep.
In addition to the memory foams the topper also includes an inch of fiberfill that gives it a softer feeling and the whole thing is hypoallergenic, which is great news for those back pain sufferers who are also bothered by sniffles and sneezing in the night.
Pros: Good quality, supportive mattress topper that also offers a built-in cooling element, made in the USA, 3-year limited warranty.
Cons: Some found the medium support that this topper offers to not offer quite enough support to make a real difference to their level of pain.
Best Mattress Topper for Back Pain Buying Considerations
The options we have just discussed are, as we mentioned right at the start, some of the best mattress toppers for back pain currently available. But they are far from the only ones available and may not be suitable for everyone.
There is a lot to consider when shopping for the mattress topper that is going to perform as expected, one that provides both comfort and support as well as pain relief and to get the best results you will have to put in a little research and comparison shopping time. To help you in those efforts we have put together this basic buyers guide for you to refer to as you begin your personal search for a mattress topper that gives you the comfortable, pain-free rest you want and need.
Do You Need a Mattress Topper or a Pad?
Before we answer that question we’d like to clear up the confusion that sometimes exists when people confuse mattress toppers with mattress pads. The two are both designed to be placed on top of a mattress, but that is about where the similarity ends.
A mattress pad is a thin fabric over that is designed to protect your mattress from dirt and excess wear. Some provide a little extra softness too, but it is minimal as these are very thin bedding items.
A mattress topper, on the other hand, is designed to address any limitations your mattress might have – that it is a little too hard, or a bit too soft, – and add a level of extra support and comfort that is far more significant. When you buy a mattress topper you will be paying for additional comfort. And if you are a back pain sufferer, and make the right choice, you should get some much needed pain relief as well.
Another big bonus that the right mattress topper can offer is that it can take a less than perfect mattress and give it ‘new life’. A high quality mattress is not a small investment, and certainly one that people should make on a whim. A mattress topper can add layers of comfort, support, softness and even cooling while you shop for the right mattress and then make even the best mattress a little better in many cases too.
Types of Mattress Topper Filling
Just what a mattress topper is filled with is of huge importance. Here’s a look at some of the most popular options available to you and what each of them offers (an example of each can be found in our best mattress topper list if you want to read back later.)
Memory foam, when used as a mattress topper fill, cradles your body very well. It feels supportive without being too hard (or too soft) thanks to its contouring abilities. When it’s time to get up throughout the day, the foam slowly regains its original shape (that’s the memory bit in memory foam) so that when you head back to bed at night, the topper is just as supportive as it was the night before.
Most memory foam toppers vary in thickness from 2 to 5 inches and some are denser (heavier) than others. The denser foams are more supportive so often make a great firm mattress topper for back pain.
One of the common complaints about sleeping on memory foam in general however – as it is also now found in mattresses and pillows as well – is that it ‘sleeps hot’. This is because the foam is temperature responsive and as your body contacts it your body heat radiates around you but may have nowhere to go, leaving you hot and sticky, which is not a nice way to try to sleep.
One of the ‘answers’ that mattress topper manufacturers have come up with to solve the problem is to add a layer of ‘cooling gel’ to draw heat away from the body and absorb it, leaving you cooler.
Memory foam mattress toppers have other pros and cons associated with them we should take the time to point out:
- Good support
- Prevents pressure point pain
- Usually very affordable
- May ‘sleep hot’ without a cooling gel layer
- Harder to care for than some other options
- Often have an ‘off-gassing’ smell
- Motion isolation can make it hard to get out of bed.
The latex used in mattress toppers is like memory foam in some ways – especially if you are simply looking at it – but it is springier and not as ‘enclosing’. Where your body sinks into a memory foam mattress topper, it will lie on top of a latex one.
A latex mattress topper can still offer great support, pressure point relief and comfort but it’s often the best choice for those who like the idea of the buoyancy of memory foam but not that ‘sinking feeling’ or the extra heat that can come along with it.
A combination of the fact that latex is an all natural material – it’s made, as we’ve mentioned, from tree sap -and that they body rests on, not ‘in’ the fill- makes it a cool sleeping fill with no need for the addition of gel.
There are other pros and cons attached to latex mattress toppers as well:
- Great support
- Good pressure point relief
- Cool sleeping
- Springy and easy to get up from
- Sometimes more expensive than other options
- Can be hard to take care of
Down alternative mattress toppers – created as an animal and allergy friendly alternative to feather beds – are used more to provide a layer of softness to a hard mattress more than they are for extra support or pain relief. Used alone a down alternative mattress topper is rarely going to help relieve back pain.
Down alternative is being used in mattress toppers in other ways though. A number of manufacturers who offer memory foam toppers – with or without that cooling layer of gel – are choosing to add a layer of down alternative at the very top of the product so that sleepers benefit from all the support and potential pain relief that the memory foam can offer while adding the super soft feather bed feeling as a bonus.
Wondering if memory foam or latex is better for your back pain? Keep reading, we’ll be getting to that soon, but first here are some other basic considerations to keep in mind before you even get to that particular choice.
Less popular topper options also include: egg crate or convoluted polyfoam toppers, wool toppers and feather toppers.
Choosing the Right Topper For You
The chart below shows the recommended guidelines to help you choose the right firmness based on your sleeping position.
Recommended for: Back or side sleepers who enjoy sinking into a bed.
Recommended for: Side sleepers. Perfect balance of comfort and support.
Recommended for: Back or stomach sleepers. Slightly firmer than medium.
Durability and Ease of Care
Although not as pricey as a brand new mattress, you can expect a good quality mattress topper to cost somewhere between $80-$170, not a small investment to make. And while investing in the best pain relieving mattress topper for you can be a real game changer in terms of a good night’s sleep – and a pain free morning – you naturally want a good return on your investment.
Both memory foam and latex are pretty durable and should offer several years of useful life. The difference in durability often comes in the ease of care. Even when covered by a sheet mattresses and mattress toppers can get very dirty and germ filled. Memory foam and latex both perform better than standard foam and down alternative, as one Manchester University study was able to confirm, but they can still get grimy over time.
Most cannot be machine washed in their entirety – a handful can – but having a mattress topper cover that can be removed and laundered on a regular basis is a must if you want your sleeping environment to remain as pleasant, comfortable and healthy as possible.
A mattress or mattress topper that offers great motion isolation can be beneficial in several ways. If you sleep with a partner you might not like being woken several times a night as they shift around in their sleep (actually we’re sure you wouldn’t like it, who would?) and a mattress topper that offers good motion isolation can help prevent that.
Where too much motion isolation can be not such a big help is when it’s time to get up. Some people find that getting up from a mattress topper that they have been literally sinking into all night – as is the case for some thicker memory foam options – can be a struggle.
Most mattress toppers will advertise that they come in standard bed sizes – twin, full, queen, king – and while that is a good rough guide, as many consumers have found out – industry standards in modern bed and mattress construction are no longer as standardized as they once were, and different models of the ‘same size’ bed can actually vary by several inches.
For this reason, you should measure your mattress before you shop and then compare actual measurements for various different topper options. A mattress topper that is too large will slip, slide and fail to provide the support it should, while one that’s too small will just look and feel weird, so getting the sizing as accurate as possible is another must.
Price is important of course, no one wants to overpay for anything if they do not have to. In this regard you’ll usually find that the basic memory foam mattress toppers are the most economical, and the all-natural latex mattress toppers will probably work out to be the most expensive.
You will also probably pay a higher price for any extra ‘bells and whistles’ like a cool gel layer in memory foam mattress or an extra layer of down alternative for that additional softness that some people crave.
But in the end, the sticker price should not be the sole deciding factor. In most cases you really do get what you pay for, and as maintaining the best back health possible is so important it’s probably worth spending a little more to get the best possible mattress topper for you.
Below is the average price point for all mattress topper types.
- Memory foam topper: $100 – $250
- Latex topper: $100 – $400
- Feather topper: $100 -$150
- Egg-crate topper: $30-$70
- Wool topper: $150-$300
- Fiber topper: $60-$100
Warranties and Return Options
What if you have done a ton of research, been through lots of different options, convinced yourself that you have discovered who makes the best mattress topper for back pain and made a choice only to find it was the wrong one when the item arrives?
Shopping for bedding online – or even in a bedding showroom – is hard, because it is really only after a few night’s sleep that you really know what a mattress topper can do for you. This is especially true for those with back pain, as no two people suffer from the same kind of pain.
This is why it’s a good idea to look for a mattress topper that comes along with a good return policy. Some manufactures will call such things an “xx night’s trial” in their marketing materials or they may just put a night count on the time period you have to make a return in the fine print. Either way, this gives you the chance to spend a few night’s getting used to your new mattress topper without the fear that you have just ‘blown’ money on something you really won’t be able to use.
Latex vs. Memory Foam Toppers
Although you will find – even when reading our ‘best of list’ that certain mattress toppers add additional layers – down alternative, cooling gel, microfiber fill – these are not the main make up of a good, supportive mattress topper that will be helpful for those with back pain. These days that choice is almost always between latex and memory foam.
Both have a lot to offer, but the experience of sleeping on them is noticeably different. Here’s a look at some of those differences.
Natural vs. Synthetic Fills
One of the biggest differences between latex and memory foam is that one is a natural material while the other is a chemically based lab created product. Technically anyway. But that, if you dig a little deeper, is not always the case.
Most better quality latex mattresses and mattress toppers are crafted from natural latex. Natural latex is derived from the sap of rubber trees, a substance that is also sometimes referred to as Hevea milk.
After the sap is harvested and collected, it is whipped until it thickens – a lot like cream – poured into large molds and then steam baked. Natural latex is quite expensive to produce, which is why some cheaper latex mattress toppers only contain a certain percentage of it, with the rest comprising synthetic latex.
Synthetic latex is natural latex in its liquid form mixed with petroleum and other chemicals. This not only cuts into its claim to be an eco friendly choice – fossils fuels of any kind are not eco-friendly – but also reduces the advantages to sleepers that latex can offer.
Synthetic latex is not as ‘bouncy’ as natural latex and is often less durable. And because chemicals are present you do get some off-gassing. So, if you want the very best latex topper make sure that it’s truly all natural latex, something that you may have to go to the fine print to confirm.
On the other hand, there is nothing natural about memory foam, it’s all man-made. This is not all bad, there are plenty of man-made things that are perfectly safe and healthy.
Memory foam is crafted from polyurethane and other chemicals to create viscoelasticity. This viscoelasticity is what gives it the ability to conform to the shape of your body and then return to its original shape slowly. Off-gassing can be a problem, but its durability, when compared to natural latex, is not hugely different.
What Do Latex and Memory Foam Feel Like to Sleep On?
If you have never tried to make a comparison yourself physically, you’ll be wondering how different latex and memory foam feel to sleep on. The answer is quite different indeed.
The Bounce Factor
Natural latex is ‘bouncier’ than memory foam. You won’t get that ‘sinking feeling’ sleeping on a latex mattress topper. It won’t however give you the contoured ‘hug’ that a memory foam topper will.
Latex also ‘springs back’ faster when you rise from the bed. This does also mean that when you are sleeping the topper will adjust to your movements faster, which in some cases will make for a more comfortable night’s sleep. If you prefer that hug though, memory foam may be a better choice for you.
The Heat Factor
Without the cooling gel layer that some of the best mattress toppers do have overheating is a common problem with memory foam. Natural latex is lighter and offers more airflow as you don’t sink into it. This may be less of a deciding factor if you are a person who is usually not bothered by overheating at night, but if you are you know how uncomfortable it can be and so is likely to be more important to you.
Latex vs Memory Foam for Back Pain
As this is a piece that sets out to discover the best mattress topper for those with back pain this is a very important issue to discuss. And one that is not simple to answer.
No two people sleep the same way, and no two people have the same back pain. But there are some generalizations that can be made when it comes to this question.
Some people who suffer from back pain – especially lower back pain – think the firmer the mattress the better it will be for their back. As latex tends to be the firmer choice, whatever comfort level you choose, latex should be the winner here, right?
Except that firmness is not the most important factor when it comes to choosing a mattress topper that can help prevent and relieve back pain, at least not according to chiropractors.
Research is limited on the matter, but anecdotal evidence, and a small trial of 300 people, suggests that a medium firm is better for those with chronic back pain than a firm mattress, as it offers enough support to keep the spine supported and aligned, but is not so hard that it can create painful pressure points that can worsen back pain.
So memory foam mattress toppers may still be great for back pain relief too. It’s actually really a matter of preference, and your feelings about the other differences between the two.
Can a Bad Mattress Cause Back Pain?
With all of this talk of mattresses and back pain another question arises: can a bad mattress actually cause back pain? Some people claim they can, but is that all merchandising hype?
It may surprise you to learn however that of the thousands of people who visit a doctor every year for their back pain, many go undiagnosed.
The back is a complicated, delicate thing and it can be hard for even the most expert of physicians to pinpoint a single cause.
While there is no medical evidence that a bad mattress can actually cause back pain – although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that it seems it can – even experts at Harvard School of Medicine agree that the wrong mattress can cause you to sleep in such a way that bad positioning leads to pain.
For example, a mattress or mattress topper that conforms more closely to the contours of your body – which a memory foam mattress does better than a latex one – may be better at keeping your joints supported and aligned, but really only if you are a side sleeper. If you sleep on your back tour spine may twist uncomfortably as you sink into it and so you would benefit from the extra spring and support that latex offers.
The one thing that experts do agree on is that a mattress that is too soft is a bad thing for back pain sufferers. And that is where a firmer mattress topper can be of great help with a thickness of 2-inch or less. Perhaps you have a mattress that sleeps cool, feels comfy, but would benefit from being just a little bit firmer. A mattress topper can do that.
On the other hand, perhaps you choose a firm bed, specifically thinking that it would be best for your back pain. But it’s actually a little too firm. A softer mattress topper can help solve that problem with a thickness of 3 to 4 inches should provide an appropriate level of comfort.
A good mattress is a must for those who suffer from back pain, and research seems to show that the best choice is likely to be one that is ‘medium firm’. But that can mean a lot of different things to different manufacturers and because we’re all different, there is no such thing as the perfect mattress for everyone.
A mattress topper can, on the other hand, help you take a ‘nearly right’ mattress and turn it into an almost perfect for you one, as long as you do your research and follow some of the tips and guidelines we’ve offered you here so you can find the best mattress topper for back pain FOR YOU.