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Lauren Fountain

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A mattress topper is an extra layer of material that rests on top of the existing mattress to modify its feel. Purchasing a mattress topper can be an affordable way to transform your sleep surface without the investment or commitment of buying a new mattress.

Mattress toppers may be particularly useful for people experiencing pressure buildup on their existing mattresses. Most toppers provide extra cushioning and contouring, which can help spread out the sleeper’s weight to take some pressure off key areas, like the hips and shoulders.

Memory foam, polyfoam, latex, wool, cotton, and other materials may be used in a mattress topper. The materials and construction influence the overall cradling and support.

We’ll cover our favorite mattress toppers for back pain. We’ll also discuss other important factors to consider as you shop for a mattress topper.

Product Details

Molecule AirTEC Mattress Topper

Molecule AirTEC Mattress Topper
Firmness:
Medium (5)
Molecule AirTEC Mattress Topper
Highlights:

The Molecule AirTEC Mattress Topper uses advanced materials engineered to cool the surface of the bed while promoting good spinal alignment.

Who it's best for:
  • People prone to sleeping hot
  • Sleepers looking for spinal support
  • Couples looking for more motion isolation

The Molecule AirTEC Mattress Topper includes a layer designed specifically for spinal support, which may make it a strong option for people suffering from back pain.

A cover of polyester and polyethylene transfers heat away from the sleep surface. This cover can be unzipped and washed in a machine using cold water on the delicate cycle. The first layer of the topper uses 1 inch of MolecularFLO, a proprietary polyfoam engineered to allow air to circulate through it even when it’s compressed.

Next, there is a 1-inch layer of AirTEC, a proprietary polyfoam. This material has an open cell structure to allow substantial airflow. It conforms to relieve pressure points while having a bouncier, more responsive feel than most polyfoam. The final layer uses 1-inch of RecoveryFLO, another proprietary polyfoam. This layer is crafted to give the support sleepers need to maintain proper spinal alignment.

The Molecule AirTEC Mattress Topper has a medium feel, giving contouring and cushioning without a lot of sinkage. Due to its advanced materials fabricated for cooling, the Molecule AirTEC Mattress Topper is likely to sleep exceptionally cool for most people. Polyfoam also tends to absorb motion well, so the topper may appeal to partners who don’t want to feel it when their sleep partner moves during the night.

While its medium feel is likely to accommodate most sleepers, some individuals who weigh over 230 pounds may sink in more than ideal, especially when sleeping on their stomachs.

If customers do not like their topper, they can contact Molecule to arrange to donate it for a full refund. A 5-year limited warranty protects the Molecule AirTec Mattress Topper.

Birch Plus Organic Mattress Topper

Birch Plus Organic Mattress Topper
Firmness:
Medium (5)
Birch Plus Organic Mattress Topper
Highlights:

The Birch Mattress Topper uses natural materials, including wool, cotton, and latex, that cushion and contour while maximizing airflow.

Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers who like a plusher feel
  • People who prefer natural materials
  • Those who tend to sleep hot

Constructed of natural materials, the Birch Mattress Topper adds softness and contouring without skimping on the support. This may give back pain sufferers a nice balance of pressure relief and support.

The cover of the Birch Mattress Topper uses organic cotton. This material is soft-to-the-touch, breathable, and slightly stretchy. A layer of organic wool serves as a fire retardant. Wool also has strong temperature-regulating properties, pulling away heat and moisture to help keep the sleeper cool and dry. Finally, a layer of natural Talalay latex gives plushness and pressure relief with a bouncy, responsive feel. Talalay latex is also very breathable to help the topper maintain a more neutral temperature. In total, the Birch Mattress Topper measures 3 inches thick.

Due to its medium firmness, the Birch Mattress Topper feels a bit plush. This may make it especially well-suited for sleepers who weigh under 230 pounds or who are looking for a softer sleep surface.

Latex has low point elasticity, which means that it compresses over a wider area rather than directly under the sleeper’s body. This lends to pressure relief without as much sinkage or hug as most synthetic foams, so the Birch Mattress Topper may also be a good choice for individuals who want pressure relief but prefer the sensation of sleeping “on” the bed to sleeping “in” the bed.

The Birch Mattress Topper comes with a 100-night trial period to try the topper at home. It also has a 10-year limited warranty.

Viscosoft Select Memory Foam Mattress Topper

Viscosoft Select Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Firmness:
Medium (5)
Viscosoft Select Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Highlights:

The ViscoSoft Select Memory Foam Mattress Topper uses gel-infused memory foam that gives a pressure-relieving hug without trapping much heat.

Who it's best for:
  • People who weigh over 130 pounds
  • Sleepers who like the close conforming of memory foam
  • Those who tend to sleep hot

Thanks to its memory foam construction, the ViscoSoft Select Memory Foam Mattress Topper hugs closely to the sleeper’s body for notable pressure relief that may appeal to back pain sufferers.

The cover is constructed of a soft-to-the-touch, breathable bamboo-rayon material. It has four elastic straps to help secure it in place, and the cover can be removed and machine-washed. The topper uses a 3-inch slab of 3.5 pounds per cubic foot (PCF) memory foam, which can be considered low density. Lower-density memory foam like this tends to trap less heat and respond more quickly to changes in pressure than higher-density foam. A gel infusion in the memory foam helps to further cool the surface.

Its medium feel may make the ViscoSoft Select Memory Foam Mattress Topper a better match for sleepers who weigh over 130 pounds. Most individuals in this weight group should enjoy a strong fusion of contouring and support. Those who weigh less than 130 pounds won’t sink in as much, so they may not experience the same degree of pressure relief as heavier individuals.

Because memory foam absorbs motion well, the ViscoSoft Select Memory Foam Mattress Topper can help reduce the spread of motion. This can be beneficial for sleepers who tend to wake up when their partner stirs. Memory foam is often prone to trapping heat, but the ViscoSoft Select Memory Foam Mattress Topper has several adaptations that help it stay cool enough to satisfy many hot sleepers.

However, couples who enjoy a bouncy surface for sex may prefer a more responsive mattress topper. The ViscoSoft Select Memory Foam Mattress Topper can provide some traction but not a lot in the way of springiness.

The ViscoSoft Select Memory Foam Mattress Topper comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee and a 3-year limited warranty.

Plushbeds Latex Mattress Topper

Plushbeds Latex Mattress Topper
Firmness:
Soft (3) Medium (5) Medium Firm (6) Extra Firm (7-8)
Plushbeds Latex Mattress Topper
Highlights:

With four firmness and two thickness options, the Plush Beds Latex Mattress Topper can accommodate a wide range of preferences.

Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers with distinct firmness or thickness options
  • People who often sleep hot
  • Those who like natural materials

With four firmness options, the PlushBeds Latex Mattress Topper can give balanced support and pressure relief for sleepers from any weight group.

These four firmnesses are soft, medium, medium firm, and extra firm. Sleepers who weigh under 130 pounds may like the soft or medium versions of the topper. Those who weigh between 130 and 230 pounds are likely to favor the medium or medium firm. Individuals who weigh more than 230 pounds are likely to find the medium firm or extra firm options most supportive.

Customers can also select between two thickness options: 2 inches and 3 inches. The 2-inch version adds some cushioning and contouring, while the 3-inch option modifies the existing mattress more substantially.

The PlushBeds Latex Mattress Topper is constructed entirely of natural Talalay latex. This material is exceptionally breathable, and PlushBeds further amplifies the cooling by adding small holes in the latex for ventilation. Talalay latex relieves pressure points with a buoyant feel, which some sleepers say makes it feel like they are floating on the mattress. Since Talalay latex has more bounce than most materials used in mattress toppers, couples who prefer a springy surface for sex should opt for the PlushBeds Latex Mattress Topper.

While the PlushBeds Latex Mattress Topper does not come with a cover, an organic cotton cover is available for an extra charge.

The PlushBeds Latex Mattress Topper is not returnable and it comes with a 5-year limited warranty.

How to Choose a Mattress Topper for Back Pain

As mattress toppers adjust the feel of the sleep surface, many of the same factors that you should take into account when choosing a mattress will also play a role in your decision on a mattress topper.

What to Consider When Purchasing a Mattress Topper for Back Pain

There is a wide variety of different mattress toppers on the market that claim to do a number of different things. Rather than getting caught up in jargon and marketing claims, we encourage shoppers to look at the specific factors that contribute to whether or not a mattress topper will feel comfortable for them. Below, we’ll share some of the most important things to take into consideration as you select a mattress topper.

  • Conforming Ability: Most mattress toppers are built to provide some added conforming. A mattress topper that conforms to the sleeper’s shape allows wider, heavier body parts to sink in more, which can help relieve pressure buildup on these areas while supporting the spine’s natural alignment. Thinner and firmer mattress toppers may conform less, while thicker and softer options are likely to conform more.
  • Price: Mattress toppers vary in price based on their materials and construction. Low-priced options frequently use materials that may break down more quickly, but they can provide a budget-friendly, short-term fix for an uncomfortable mattress. More expensive models typically use more durable materials that resist sagging and deterioration.
  • Sleeping Position: A sleeper’s preferred position influences which body parts put force on the mattress, where pressure may build up, and how well-aligned their spine is. Because sleep position is so impactful, shoppers should take how they prefer to sleep into account when selecting a mattress topper. We’ll discuss sleep position in more detail in the section below.
  • Quality Materials: A topper’s materials contribute to its performance and durability. High-end materials may have special characteristics, like temperature regulation or bounce, that could support a more comfortable night’s sleep. Many quality materials also last longer, extending the topper’s usable lifespan. Lower-quality topper components can also be comfortable, though they may not have the same potential benefits as higher-quality options.
  • Firmness Level: The firmness of the mattress topper can affect the level of conforming and support that you experience. As mattress toppers are a quick and easy way to adjust the feel of your bed, people who find their existing mattress too soft may like a firmer topper, while those who feel their mattress is too firm may prefer a softer topper. Body weight is also a significant factor when it comes to what firmness feels right. Sleepers who weigh over 230 pounds may sink too deeply into a soft mattress topper and feel the underlying mattress more, so they may prefer a firmer option. Those who weigh under 130 pounds may not put enough pressure on a firm topper to sink in and feel comfortably cradled, so they’d likely want to go for a softer topper.
  • Thickness: Mattress toppers usually range from 1 to 4 inches thick. The mattress topper’s thickness impacts how significantly it alters the sleep surface. A thin topper may add a bit of cushioning, while a thicker topper is likely to give more significant contouring and pressure relief.
  • Pressure Relief: A mattress topper can help alleviate pressure points by redistributing the sleeper’s weight more evenly over the surface. This can reduce pressure buildup near heavier body parts, like the hips and shoulders. Thicker toppers with more conforming are also likely to have more pressure relief.

How Does Sleeping Position Affect Back Pain?

Back pain can occur as a result of an underlying condition or sleep-related factors. The right mattress topper can help relieve pressure points and support natural spinal alignment, which could also help contribute to reduced back pain. However, each sleep position can affect the spine differently, so those suffering from back pain may want to consider the role of their preferred sleep position.

Side sleepers frequently prefer a slightly softer sleep surface that balances conforming and support. Too firm of a topper may not allow their hips and shoulders to sink in enough, while too soft of a mattress topper may let their hips and shoulders sink in too much. Either of these situations could put a strain on their spines and contribute to back pain. A thicker topper could be ideal for a bed that is too firm, as it can provide ample room for a side sleeper’s hips and shoulders to sink in. A firmer topper that helps prevent sinkage will be better for a bed that is too soft.

Back sleepers usually like a slightly firmer sleep surface that gives them the support they need to maintain their natural spinal alignment, so they may prefer firmer and/or thinner mattress toppers. A topper that is too soft could allow their hips to sink in excessively and make it difficult to keep their spine well-aligned. Too firm of a topper could also be problematic, leaving a gap between the bed and the sleeper’s lumbar region.

Stomach sleepers are often prone to sinking into their beds near their hips and stomachs since most people carry more weight near their midsections. This frequently puts a strain on the sleeper’s spine, which could contribute to back pain. A firmer, thinner mattress topper may be more supportive for stomach sleepers and reduce the likelihood of excessive sinkage.

Combination sleepers can experience the potential benefits and drawbacks of multiple sleep positions. Those who tend to change positions during the night should consider which position they sleep in most often as they select a mattress topper. If they divide their time relatively evenly between positions, a mattress topper with a mid-range thickness may be the best bet for a combination sleeper.

Which Type of Mattress Topper is Best for Back Pain?

Any type of mattress topper may have potential pros and cons. Depending on their personal preferences, back pain sufferers may enjoy different toppers.

As memory foam toppers conform closely to the sleeper’s body, many back pain sufferers find they give a good balance of pressure relief and support. These toppers also usually isolate motion well, so sleepers might not notice when their partner changes position. One potential drawback is that memory foam tends to retain heat, but some models are made with special features for added breathability and cooling. Memory foam is also usually slow to respond to changes in pressure, which can make it harder for sleepers to move around and change position.

Polyfoam toppers conform to the sleeper’s body without the close hug of memory foam. Additionally, this material tends to be more breathable and regain its shape more quickly than memory foam. Polyfoam toppers are also frequently budget-friendly options. While many sleepers find polyfoam mattress toppers comfortable, they’re often less durable than other types of toppers on the market. This is particularly true of toppers that make use of low-density polyfoam.

Latex is prized for its pressure relief, breathability, and durability. Mattress toppers constructed of latex usually cradle the sleeper’s body without much sinkage. Instead, its low point elasticity leads to the compression spreading over a wider area, creating more of a floating sensation. Natural latex also tends to be breathable and highly durable, so it can be a good option for back pain sufferers who sleep hot or want to enjoy their mattress topper for years to come. However, latex mattress toppers are often more expensive than other types of toppers.

Pillow top mattress toppers often use feather and/or fiber fill. These toppers typically provide a plush sleep surface. However, since they do not usually provide much in the way of support or pressure relief, they may not be ideal for back pain sufferers.

Since some individuals are prone to sleeping hot, many mattress toppers have special features designed for cooling. Memory foam can be infused with gel and/or copper to help wick away heat. Many polyfoam toppers use breathable open-cell foam. Memory foam, polyfoam, and latex mattress toppers can also be ventilated using hole punches to allow more air circulation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mattress Toppers

Which type of mattress topper is best for lower back pain?

Memory foam, polyfoam, and latex toppers tend to be most popular with those who suffer from lower back pain. These types of topper mold to the sleeper’s body, relieving pressure while also supporting spinal alignment. Those with lower back pain should select the firmness and thickness of their topper carefully to ensure it has the right feel for their weight and preferred way of sleeping.

Can mattress toppers help with back pain?

In some circumstances, a mattress topper could help with back pain. A topper won’t make up for a sagging or unsupportive mattress, in which case a new bed may be the better option. That being said, if the firmness of your current mattress isn’t a good match, a mattress topper can adjust the feeling of the bed enough to help relieve back pain.

What’s the difference between a mattress pad and a mattress topper?

Mattress toppers and mattress pads are not the same thing. Mattress pads are thin layers designed to help protect the mattress, though some models provide a little cushioning. Pads can provide some added features like waterproofing or cooling. Mattress toppers are much more substantial. Rather than protecting the mattress, toppers are meant to modify the feel and firmness of the mattress.