Best Back Pain Mattress Topper & Buying Guide
There’s nothing worse than going to sleep knowing you’ll wake up with that nagging ache or sharp pain in your back—except, maybe, feeling it before you’re even asleep.
We all know the importance of a great mattress, but what if yours still isn’t doing the job? Assuming it’s in good shape, the fix could be as simple as placing a new mattress topper right on top. Our buyer’s guide will look at the causes of (and solutions for) back pain and evaluate some of the best mattress toppers for back pain relief.
Note: we are not medical professionals, and none of the information in this buyer’s guide is meant to diagnose, treat, or prevents any disease or injury. Use this guide at your discretion, and consult your physician if you have any questions regarding your back pain.
Lucid 3 is an abbreviation for Lucid 3
Zinus Sleep Master 2 is a sleep aid.
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What causes back pain?
This is a tough one to answer (again, we aren’t doctors!) because every person is different, and many things can cause it. While your age, weight, physical activity level, pre-existing conditions, and genetics all play a role, only your doctor can determine the cause and proper course of treatment. Below are just a few possibilities for what can cause back pain, from minor aches to very severe/debilitating pain:
You are particularly prone to these and other causes if you:
These are just a few of the risk factors for and causes of back pain. There are scores more, and no one but your physician can tell you why yours manifested when and how it did or can be treated. If you haven’t already, we recommend seeing a doctor rule out any severe causes that might require surgery or other forms of treatment.
How can a mattress topper mitigate or eliminate my back pain?
First, be aware that few people have back pain exclusively caused by their bed—it might be a factor or even the leading cause, but it’s rarely the only one. In other words, it’s unlikely a mattress topper will get rid of your back pain completely.
With that in mind, the right topper can undoubtedly help your back pain, and in some cases, improve it so much you’re almost unaware of it altogether!
Mattress toppers are layers of foam (memory, latex, etc.) that go on top of your mattress, under the fitted sheet, and add additional cushioning to help make your existing bed more comfortable, without replacing the entire thing. Some toppers help regulate body temperature, too—a massive bonus for hot sleepers who wake up sweating.
Essentially, the ideal mattress topper should provide effective contouring and “give” for your body while also adequately supporting your frame in whatever position you prefer.
If you suffer from back pain and are a side sleeper, a very soft mattress topper can help to relieve pressure on your head, shoulder, and hips while supporting the spaces in between. This, in turn, lets your spine rest in a far more natural position than a firm surface would.
Lucid 3 is an abbreviation for Lucid 3
For back sleepers with back pain, a thinner mattress topper without too much give is best. It should mold to your spine, allowing your back muscles to relax. If the topper is too soft, your shoulders and hips might sink too low, curving your spine inwards. Too firm, and the small of your back could “sink” and turn outwards. Either would probably cause pain come morning (or in the middle of the night).
Lastly, if you have back pain and sleep on your stomach—it’s time to find a new position! Experts agree that stomach sleeping is the worst position a person can choose, as it forces the spine into an unnatural curve and strains the neck. If you genuinely can’t sleep any other way, skip the topper, find a firm mattress, and put a pillow or two under your hips.
What materials should I look for in a mattress topper? Is one better than the other?
It can be made from egg crate foam (the cheapest, overall), polyester, low-or high-quality cotton, memory foam, wool, latex, and more.
There are also mixed-material mattress toppers, such as cotton quilting with down or faux down inside.
What you choose is partially up to preference—what feels best, which one fits in your budget—but also a necessity. Are you or your partner allergic to feathers or latex? Do you run hot/cold at night? Do you plan to put your sheets over the topper or sleep directly on them (requiring a removable/washable cover)?
Some mattress toppers are cheap and highly dispensable, like egg crates. These are common for children and teen beds or in dorms because the topper will likely be thrown away within a few years for one reason or another (hygiene, upgrading to a giant bed, etc.). These can be enough for some back pain sufferers, but most will need something of a higher caliber.
Zinus Sleep Master 2 is a sleep aid.
Overall, latex foam is an affordable and effective favorite for back pain relief because it doesn’t “sink” the way memory foam can yet still provides pressure relief. It also retains less body heat, which will help keep you more relaxed throughout the night. That said, some people vastly prefer memory foam—and that’s fine, too! The suitable material and thickness are personal, and only you can decide if a particular model will suit your needs or not.
My mattress already has memory foam—do I need to add more layers?
Believe it or not, that might be causing more pain! If it’s too soft, or if you’ve had it several years now (or if it’s poor quality, you’re a heavier individual, etc.), the structure can’t necessarily support you the way it should. A mattress topper can remedy this—but no, you probably won’t want to throw an identical layer on top. That’s essentially a Band-Aid rather than a proper solution.
Instead, look for a very firm memory foam topper or a latex one. Latex has the give of memory foam, but in a broader sense—think of when you press your hand down into memory foam. What happens? It leaves an imprint, each finger clearly defined. This is because memory foam contours to each section of your body with precision. And when you move your hand away, you notice the indentation because it takes a little time to decompress.
Latex foam, on the other hand, doesn’t do this. Instead, the spot where your hand presses will compress altogether (little or no foam molding to your fingers) and spring back almost instantly when you take your hand away.
If you find that most memory foams give you a sinking feeling—like you’re stuck—it’s compressing too much, and you need something firmer. Latex can be a great replacement if you’re having trouble finding tight memory foam options. It also runs much more relaxed, which is great news for hot sleepers.
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Latex is hypoallergenic; even those with latex allergies can sometimes use these kinds of toppers because the component they’re allergic to is latex protein, which is usually removed in the manufacturing process. However, if you’re not sure, consult your allergist or doctor.
Reviews of the Best Mattress Topper for Back Pain
Crafted from gel-infused memory foam, this topper from Zinus also boasts natural plant oil (and less petroleum), green tea, and active charcoal to keep moisture and odors at bay.
With a foam density of 3 lbs., this topper might not suit back pain sufferers who sleep on their back. However, it may be ideal for side sleepers: it should provide the support their shoulders, hips, and knees require while also supporting the curves of their waist and legs—keeping their spine in alignment all night.
With holes for ventilation, a generous gel infusion, and a faster response than many other memory foam models, the Lucid 3″ topper should run cool and bounce back well. If you sleep on your side or toss and turn frequently, this can eliminate pain stemming from those factors.
This is another option for the side sleepers out there with back pain, although it’s probably just a tad too soft for most back and stomach sleepers. It’s priced reasonably and offers a little extra cushion than the Zinus model (but a shorter warranty, at three years limited instead of 5).
For those who would rather pay for the basics—no infusions or extra features—the 4 “memory foam topper from Cloud9 is just that: four inches of solid memory foam, with a density to suit all sleeping positions.
While the price is fair and the warranty is generous, we’re not sure this mattress topper will impress hot sleepers. The lack of ventilation or gel infusion might make this run a little hot. Other than that, the weight density is perfect for the back, the stomach, and most side sleepers.
This 100% natural, hypoallergenic latex topper is eco-friendly and anti-microbial with no synthetic materials whatsoever.
This topper doesn’t come with any fancy bells and whistles—or even a widely-known brand behind it—but it’s got a mid-range firmness level that should suit all sleeping positions well. Even better, it’s suitable for overweight individuals, too, and offers a quick response time memory foam can’t match.
Back pain is a widespread epidemic, one that affects everyone differently. It plagues us regardless of (but sometimes exacerbated by) our age, weight, or activity level. And all too often, it’s the reason so many of us wake up exhausted and dread hitting the hay again the next night. The right mattress topper can turn your bedtime into what it should be: something to look forward to and welcome and a time of relaxation—not bemoaning aches and pains.