Buying a new mattress to relieve back pain can be a big expense for any budget, and occasionally an unplanned one if chronic pain comes on suddenly. When your sleep is constantly disturbed with discomfort, your quality of sleep and energy levels are at risk. The right mattress topper can increase or decrease the firmness, comfort, and support of your bed, relieving pressure points and allowing you to sleep soundly once again.
Quality mattress toppers offer the added benefit of keeping your mattress clean and extending its life by reducing wear and tear. The best mattress topper for back pain is the one that offers you the size, firmness, comfort, and thickness you need to adequately support your body, get a good night’s sleep, and wake up pain-free. These top products have been chosen based on type, efficacy, and overall value.
- BEST OVERALL: Sleep Innovations 4-inch Dual Layer Mattress Topper
- RUNNER-UP: LINENSPA 3 Inch Gel Infused Memory Foam Topper
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Zinus 3 Inch Swirl Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper
- UPGRADE PICK: Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR Supreme 3-Inch Mattress Topper
- BEST COOLING: BedStory 3 Inch Memory Foam Mattress Topper
- BEST LATEX: Pure Green 100% Natural Latex Mattress Topper
- BEST MEMORY FOAM: LUCID 3 Inch Lavender Infused Memory Foam Topper
- BEST POLYFOAM: American 3 Inch Thick, Firm Conventional Topper
Popular Types of Mattress Toppers for Back Pain
Mattress toppers are typically made of one of three materials: memory foam, latex, or polyfoam.
Memory foam is actually a dense polyurethane foam, but due to its ability to adapt and contour to your body weight and position, and how it leaves a temporary impression in the material when you get up, it was given the name “memory foam.”
Memory foam is the most popular mattress topper material. Memory-foam mattress toppers are a great choice for people with chronic back, neck, or hip pain because the dense foam moves with your weight to cradle your body and relieve pressure on your joints. However, these mattress toppers can warm up quickly, so they may not be the best option for people who sleep hot.
Latex mattress toppers have many of the same features as memory foam mattress toppers, including soft layers of body contouring material that reacts to body weight and position to properly support every inch of your frame. Latex mattress toppers are different from those made of memory foam. Latex toppers are made using natural rubber compounds that allow more airflow through the material, reducing heat retention for a more comfortable sleep.
This makes these kinds of mattress toppers ideal for individuals who run hot, but who may need body support for a bad back or ongoing hip pain. One downside of latex mattress toppers, of course, is that some people are allergic to latex. If that’s the case you or for anyone in your life who needs a mattress topper, you are better off with memory foam.
Polyfoam, or polyurethane foam, was once the most commonly used material for mattress toppers and even some mattresses, but it has since been replaced with memory foam. If you are having a hard time imagining polyfoam, picture the classic yellow “egg carton” mattress topper. Polyfoam mattress toppers are usually less expensive than memory foam or latex, but they are also low quality and retain heat, which can be uncomfortable when you are sleeping.
What to Consider When Buying the Best Mattress Topper for Back Pain
Before investing in a new mattress topper for back pain, consider these important product features. These factors will help you select a model that reduces your chronic aches and pains.
When shopping for any surface to sleep on—be it a mattress, mattress topper, or even a sheet set—comfort is always a key consideration. After all, it is easier to sleep on a comfortable bed than an uncomfortable one. The most comfortable mattress topper for you to sleep on is the one best suited to your sleep style.
Side-sleepers and back-sleepers benefit from a soft mattress topper that contours to the body so all major joints and body parts, like your neck, spine, and hips, are properly cushioned and supported. Stomach-sleepers will need a firmer surface to achieve the same full-body support. All sleeping positions can benefit from cooling gel-infused memory foam and mattress toppers with airflow ventilation because they decrease heat retention and increase air circulation.
Degree of firmness, or how well your body is supported as you sleep, is another important factor to consider when shopping for a mattress topper. How firm, or how soft, a mattress topper you choose depends a lot on the position in which you sleep.
- Side-sleepers are usually most comfortable on soft mattress toppers that will allow their shoulder and hip to sink into the material so that their head, neck, legs, and spine remain properly aligned. Heavier side-sleepers may be better off with a medium-firm mattress topper that better supports their weight while still cradling their body.
- Back-sleepers can sleep on soft mattress toppers, but would benefit more from a medium-firm mattress topper. This is because back-sleepers don’t need as much “give” in a topper as side-sleepers do. A very firm mattress topper will cause back-sleepers discomfort in the back, hips, neck, and head.
- Stomach-sleepers need firm mattress toppers because the body collapses inward when not properly supported. A firm mattress topper ensures that your hips and shoulders can not sink into the material. Firm toppers will keep your body in proper alignment, and reduce strain and pressure on your joints.
Thickness and Density
Foam mattress toppers typically range from 1- to 4-inches thick. Because mattress toppers are meant to buffer the sleeper from the mattress below, a thicker mattress topper will change the feel of the sleep surface much more than a thin topper will.
The density of a mattress topper is measured in pounds per cubic foot (lb/ft3), though many manufacturers do not include this information in their product details. The higher the material’s density, the more firm and supportive it will be. Mattress toppers 3 pounds per cubic foot or less are considered low density, 4 to 5 pounds per cubic foot is medium density, and 6 pounds per cubic foot or more is high density.
Side- and back-sleepers will normally prefer thick, low- to medium-density foam mattress toppers, while stomach-sleepers may find higher-density or thinner toppers more comfortable because they offer better support.
A key benefit of mattress toppers is that they properly cradle and support the body. They provide relief to your aching joints so that your muscles are not stressed while you sleep. When you recline on a mattress topper with appropriate body weight distribution and firmness, your body should be able to completely relax so you can rest.
Many people do not think about the position they are in when they go to sleep. The ideal sleep position is one that properly aligns your neck, hips, shoulders, legs, spine, head, and back. This reduces the pressure and strain on your muscles and joints, and helps prevent chronic pain. Latex and memory-foam mattress toppers are both great options if pressure relief is a priority.
If you share a bed with someone else, you have certainly felt it move when your partner rolls over or gets out of bed. This movement isn’t just annoying, it disrupts your sleep. Some mattress toppers are designed to reduce the transmission of kinetic energy, so you won’t notice when your partner lies down again after getting up in the middle of the night. Memory foam and latex toppers are built to absorb motion and isolate it within the affected area of the topper. These are good choices if you sleep with someone who tosses and turns.
One drawback of memory foam and polyurethane foam toppers is that they absorb and retain heat from your body and the ambient air. If you run hot or live in a warm climate, this heat absorption can lead to uncomfortable, sweaty sleep. Latex toppers are cooler than foam toppers and circulate air better. The good news for foam-topper shoppers is that some have special features that will keep you cool as you sleep.
One such feature is cooling gel, which quickly releases heat from foam mattress toppers. When it is used in mattress toppers that have built-in air channels for ventilation and air circulation, you can get a comfortable night’s sleep, even on a polyfoam mattress. Mattress toppers with moisture wicking also help regulate your temperature while you sleep by ensuring that sweat and other moisture does not cling to the mattress topper.
Ease of Cleaning
Cleaning instructions for mattress toppers vary. Some must be spot cleaned, as you would a mattress. Others can be laundered in a clothes washer.
Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations for proper cleaning and maintenance of your mattress topper. If it doesn’t say “machine washable,” and you put your topper in the washing machine, you will likely destroy it and have to buy a new one.
Keep in mind that even if you have to vacuum, spot clean, and disinfect a mattress topper by hand, a good night’s sleep is worth the extra effort.
Our Top Picks
These recommendations are among the top options for quality and price to help you find the best mattress topper for back pain.
This memory-foam mattress topper is a great option if you have a queen-size bed, but you want a little distance between yourself and the mattress. The Sleep Innovations topper is 4-inches thick and designed with comfort in mind. The top layer of the mattress topper is a quilted pillow-top filling that feels soft to the touch. The bottom layer is made of a gel memory-foam material that contours your body for enhanced support, and dissipates your body heat so you can sleep comfortably.
The Sleep Innovations mattress topper is hypoallergenic, machine washable, and comes with a 10-year warranty, so you can rest easy knowing your purchase is guaranteed.
The Linenspa mattress topper is made of a gel memory-foam material that is 3-inches thick and contours to your body for enhanced support and body alignment. The cooling gel beads absorb heat from your body and allow it to dissipate so you can sleep comfortably. This topper is great for side-sleepers who want cushioning between their bodies and too-firm mattresses.
This mattress topper comes in a variety of sizes including twin, twin XL, full, full XL, short queen, queen, king, and California king. There’s also a 2-inch thick version of this topper, if the 3-inch version is too plush for your taste. Both versions come with a 3-year warranty.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive product that will help correct your sleeping posture, the Zinus 3-Inch Swirl Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper is an excellent option. This mattress topper comes in twin, full, queen, and king sizes, and in thicknesses ranging from 1 to 4 inches.
The memory foam mattress topper is made with cooling gel and copper alloy, and it’s infused with green tea extract and castor oil which kill odor-causing bacteria. The firm mattress topper is appropriate for stomach- and back-sleepers and has an eggshell airflow pattern that helps regulate body temperature. The Zinus memory-foam topper comes with a 5-year warranty and is Certi-PUR US certified for indoor emissions and durability.
This premium-priced memory foam mattress topper has a removable, machine-washable cover. The 3-inch thick memory foam conforms to the contours of your body so that you are properly supported while you sleep.
The mattress topper comes with a 10-year limited warranty and is made of hypoallergenic materials, so you know you will be able to breathe easy in your bed. Back-sleepers will enjoy the medium firmness of the memory foam, and even side- or stomach-sleepers may see a benefit. Available in sizes twin through California king.
If you live in a hot climate or you run hot when you sleep, a mattress topper like this one from BedStory is an option worth considering. The BedStory 3-Inch Memory Foam Mattress Topper has 2 inches of cooling gel that will help regulate your body temperature, plus another inch of firm foam base for added support. The cooling-gel memory foam and airflow ventilation design helps regulate your body temperature, and reduces pressure on your muscles and joints.
It has a removable, machine-washable cover, and elastic straps on the sides to keep it from slipping off your mattress. It’s also Certi-PUR-US certified for environmentally friendly materials.
A great pick for those without latex allergies, the Pure Green 100% Natural Latex Mattress Topper gives you the superior body contouring that memory foam without having to worry about your body overheating. This latex mattress topper comes in 1- to 3-inch thicknesses and a variety of sizes.
The latex foam stays naturally cool, and the topper’s air chambers increase airflow and ventilation. While some memory-foam toppers react to your body heat and sink during the night, this latex foam mattress topper is temperature neutral. It doesn’t absorb heat, and you won’t wake up an inch deeper than when you fell asleep. Side-sleepers and some back-sleepers will enjoy this topper’s softness, especially if their current mattresses are too firm.
If you need the contouring support of a memory-foam mattress to alleviate chronic pain in your neck, hips, or back, then the LUCID 3-Inch Lavender Infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper is an excellent choice. The memory foam is ventilated to increase airflow and breathability, and it is infused with a soothing lavender scent that promotes relaxation.
This mattress topper comes in a range of sizes, from twin to California king, and 2- to 4-inch thicknesses personalized comfort. The foam in the LUCID topper is CertiPUR-US certified, and the product comes with a 3-year warranty. The foam has an odd smell for 48 hours after opening the package, so don’t plan on sleeping on it for the first few nights.
This mattress topper is a great option if you are a stomach-sleeper who needs a firm surface to keep your body properly aligned while you sleep. The polyfoam, or polyurethane foam, material is not as soft as latex or memory foam, so you won’t feel like you are sinking into the mattress topper. The 3-inch topper can extend the life of an old mattress by adding extra support in areas that may be dipping or sagging from years of use.
This mattress topper is made with environmentally friendly materials, and is available in a range of sizes. Remember, however, that polyurethane foam retains heat—this topper may not be the best option for those who run hot when they sleep.
The Advantages of Owning a Mattress Topper
There are many advantages to owning a mattress topper. They help you sleep better by adjusting the firmness of your sleeping surface to your liking, and keep your body properly supported while you sleep to reduce chronic pain. The best part is, you can make these adjustments to your comfort without the expense of replacing your mattress.
Another benefit of having a mattress topper is that it extends the life of your mattress. A mattress topper acts as a barrier that protects the mattress from dirt, oils, and other substances that would otherwise degrade your mattress. This added layer of protection reduces the overall wear and tear on the mattress.
- Mattress toppers allow you customize your sleep experience without the expense of replacing a mattress.
- They provide additional support for your body as you are sleeping, which can reduce or eliminate body aches and pains.
- Mattress toppers protect your mattress from stains and some wear and tear, which extends the life of the mattress.
FAQs About Mattress Toppers
Continue reading to find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about mattress toppers.
Q. What is the purpose of a mattress topper?
Mattress toppers give you an affordable way to change the feel of your bed. They allow you to get a more restful and rejuvenating sleep, free of pain from poor sleeping posture. There are so many options in mattress topper material, size, thickness, and firmness that it’s easy to customize your bed to suit your personal preferences.
Q. What is the difference between a mattress pad and a mattress topper?
A mattress pad is a fairly thin layer of padding that lays over the top of the mattress. While it does offer a small degree of improvement in the comfort of your bed, a mattress pad’s real purpose is to protect your mattress from stains and other damage.
A mattress topper is more like a mini-mattress that you put on top of your regular mattress. Mattress toppers typically range in thickness from 1 to 4 inches. The purpose of a mattress topper is to enhance your sleep so that your body is cradled and fully supported, and tension points are able to relax so that you can wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free.
Q. Do I need both a mattress topper and a mattress pad?
No, you don’t need both a mattress topper and a mattress pad, though a topper is more intended for cushioning and body weight distribution, while a mattress pad is designed to protect the mattress from stains and general wear and tear. While you don’t need both, given the different purposes of the topper and pad, it is a good idea to have both.
Q. What thickness of mattress topper should I get?
The rule to follow for choosing a mattress topper’s thickness is the thicker the mattress topper, the more cushion it provides. Evaluate how firm your mattress is, and invest in a topper that helps to balance the firm support you need with body-contouring cushioning that will give you a comfortable night’s sleep.
Q. How do you clean a mattress topper?
Care instructions for mattress toppers can vary by manufacturer, so be sure to follow the instructions printed on your specific model. In general, however, you can clean a mattress topper by following these simple steps.
- Make sure you have mattress-topper cleaning supplies on hand, including an upholstery vacuum, an enzyme cleaner or stain remover, laundry detergent, baking soda, cleaning cloths, and cold water.
- Remove and wash the sheets and pillowcases. If the mattress topper is machine washable, launder it along with the other bedclothes, dry it according to the instructions on the tag, and you’re done. If the topper is not machine washable, proceed to step 3.
- Vacuum the mattress topper using the upholstery vacuum. It might be easier to place the topper on the floor, on top of a clean sheet, and vacuum it there rather than on the bed.
- Spot-clean the mattress topper with an enzyme cleaner or stain remover to remove any visible stains.
- Sprinkle the baking soda all over the mattress topper and let it sit for several hours, allowing it to break down acids and absorb moisture and odors.
- Vacuum the mattress topper again to clean up the baking soda.