The Best Mattress Toppers for Back Pain: Our Top Picks for 2021

Amanda Holland
Amanda Holland

If you’re like most people, you will experience back pain at some point. According to the American Chiropractic Association, 31 million Americans deal with back pain at any given time. Back pain can be a chronic condition, and it has many different causes, including injury, illness, and poor posture.

While a good night’s sleep can often help relieve chronic aches and pains, that’s not always the case for back pain. In fact, sleeping on a bad mattress can actually make back pain worse and cause it to continue indefinitely. To create a healthy sleeping environment that’s good for the back, a mattress needs to balance softness and support. Too much softness can lead to spinal misalignment, and too much firmness can cause pressure points.

If your mattress is causing or worsening your back pain, you could think about replacing it. However, new mattresses are expensive, and they are hard to dispose of in an environmentally friendly way. A mattress topper is a far more eco-friendly and cost-effective solution. The right mattress topper can provide comfortable support for proper sleep posture and true relaxation.

How The Right Mattress Topper Can Help With Back Pain

mattress topper for back pain symptoms

The right mattress topper can significantly reduce or eliminate back pain from a bad mattress. If your mattress is too soft, it doesn’t provide enough support for your spine, neck, and hips, which can cause tension and pain from poor sleep posture. Adding a firm mattress topper to a too-soft bed can provide adequate support for your spine, keeping it in alignment while you lie down.

If you have a mattress that is too firm, it can also cause back pain. One issue with firm beds is the formation of painful pressure points, which are especially common for side sleepers. When you lie on your side on a hard mattress, there is a lot of weight on the shoulders and hips, which can create pressure points.

The other problem with a too-firm mattress is that it doesn’t allow the hips and shoulders to sink down enough to maintain the correct spinal curvature and alignment, which can lead to chronic aches and pains. A soft mattress topper alleviates both of these issues by cushioning the body comfortably without eliminating support.

Our Pick for the 10 Best Mattress Toppers For Back Pain

Ready to upgrade your bed and improve your sleeping experience? We’ve compiled a list of the best available options based on research and mattress topper reviews. Read on to find the best mattress topper for back pain.

1. COMFORT BOOST Mattress Topper

A cozy duvet-style option that’s overstuffed with a fluffy down alternative, the COMFORT BOOST mattress topper balances firm support with cloudlike comfort. This mattress topper is 2 inches thick, and it has square baffle stitching that keeps the filling evenly distributed. It’s designed with an adjustable pocket and elastic banding to fit snugly on any mattress up to 21 inches thick. The underside of the cotton cover is made of strong fabric for reliable durability. With a breathable cotton cover, this down-alternative mattress topper keeps even hot sleepers comfortable.

COMFORT BOOST Mattress Topper
Why We Love It:
  • Luxurious 400 thread count cotton cover
  • Entirely machine washable
  • Extra thick, overstuffed filling
Cons
  • Could be too large for smaller household washers/dryers
  • May be too warm in very hot climates

Bottom Line: A plush mattress topper that’s overstuffed with an animal-friendly down alternative filling that provides cozy support and features a breathable cotton cover.

2. ViscoSoft Select High-Density Memory Foam Mattress Topper

This ViscoSoft mattress topper is made of high-density memory foam for reliable spinal support and customized contouring. Integrated ventilation and cooling gel make this mattress topper great for hot sleepers. The removable cover is easy to keep clean in a washing machine.

ViscoSoft Select High-Density Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Why We Love It:
  • Breathable cover and cooling gel
  • Machine-washable removable cover
  • Elastic mattress straps to prevent slipping
Cons
  • Pricier than some other memory foam options
  • Foam may have an unpleasant chemical smell

Bottom Line: Designed to cradle every part of the body and support the spine, this memory foam topper includes a washable cover and cooling gel for reliable temperature regulation.

3. LUCID Ventilated Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper

This memory foam mattress topper is 3 inches tall and made entirely of ventilated gel memory foam. Softer than some other memory foam models, this topper provides a plush surface that relieves pressure points and spinal misalignment caused by a too-firm mattress.

LUCID Ventilated Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Why We Love It:
  • Affordable price point
  • 3-year warranty
  • Soft surface eliminates pain from pressure points
Cons
  • No cover on the spot-clean-only foam
  • May not be supportive enough on a soft mattress

Bottom Line: With an affordable price point and soft feel, this ventilated memory foam mattress topper adds comfortable cushioning to a firm or extra firm mattress.

4. Sleep Innovations Dual-Layer Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper

Featuring two distinct layers, this 4-inch-tall Sleep Innovations mattress topper pairs the support of memory foam with the pillow top coziness of synthetic down. The bottom layer of this mattress topper is made of 2-inch memory foam that’s infused with cooling gel. The top layer is a quilted pillow top that creates a plush feeling and also keeps the memory foam layer clean.

Sleep Innovations Dual-Layer Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Why We Love It:
  • Made in the USA
  • Machine-washable fiber-filled cover keeps the memory foam clean
  • 10-year warranty
Cons
  • May not be supportive enough on a soft mattress
  • May be too warm in hot climates

Bottom Line: This well-designed mattress topper has a cozy pillow top over a layer of gel-infused memory foam for a versatile mix of softness and support.

5. EASELAND Pillow Top Mattress Topper

From EASELAND, this mattress topper is filled with a microfiber down alternative that’s held in place by square baffle stitching with a border on each side. The cover is made of breathable cotton designed to keep the sleeper as cool as possible, and there is an internal allergen barrier as well.

EASELAND Pillow Top Mattress Topper
Why We Love It:
  • Can go in a washing machine
  • Pure cotton cover is breathable
  • Very affordable price point
Cons
  • Must be dried in the sun to regain fluffiness
  • Not as plush as “overstuffed” styles

Bottom Line: Featuring a cotton cover and animal-friendly synthetic down, this quilted pillow top mattress topper is an affordable option for people looking for a bit of extra softness on a decent mattress.

6. Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR Supreme Mattress Topper

With a medium-firm feel and 3-inch height, this Tempur-Pedic mattress topper is a good choice for any sleeper who wants contoured support for better sleep posture and healthy spinal alignment. The memory foam helps relieve pressure points, and the removable cover is easy to toss in the washing machine.

Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR Supreme Mattress Topper
Why We Love It:
  • Machine-washable cover is zippered for easy removal
  • 10-year limited warranty
  • Made of proprietary memory foam designed for longevity
Cons
  • May be too warm for hot sleepers
  • More expensive than other brands

Bottom Line: Featuring an easy-to-clean removable cover and proprietary memory foam that’s also used in the brand’s mattresses and pillows, this Tempur-Pedic mattress topper offers adaptable support that conforms to your body.

7. BedStory 4-Inch Mattress Topper

This mattress topper is 4 inches thick and made of two distinct layers of memory foam inside a hypoallergenic, washable cover. The top layer is memory foam infused with cooling gel and ventilated for maximum airflow. This sits on a 2-inch layer of dense memory foam designed for strong support. Together, these layers create a cushy and contoured sleep surface.

BedStory 4-Inch Mattress Topper
Why We Love It:
  • Polyester cover is machine-washable and hypoallergenic
  • Top memory foam layer includes cooling features
  • 10-year warranty and 30-day return policy
Cons
  • Reviews mention a strong chemical smell
  • Fairly pricey

Bottom Line: At 4 inches tall, this thick memory foam topper is easy to clean thanks to the removable cover and has two layers of certified memory foam for excellent support.

8. RECCI Pressure-Relieving Memory Foam Mattress Topper

Made of memory foam with a bamboo viscose cover, this mattress topper provides a softer level of support that works well for side sleepers or those with extra-firm mattresses. The certified memory foam has a breathable cell structure designed for better airflow, and the bamboo cover also has a cooling effect.

RECCI Pressure-Relieving Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Why We Love It:
  • Cover zips off quickly for easy cleaning in a washing machine
  • Attaches to mattress with adjustable elastic straps
  • Versatile 3-inch thickness works well for most sleepers
Cons
  • Some sleepers may sink down too much on this soft memory foam
  • Must keep foam in a ventilated area while washing cover

Bottom Line: Ideal for those who want a “marshmallow-like” softness with the customized support of memory foam and an easy-to-clean removable cover.

9. Best Price Mattress 5-Zone Memory Foam Topper

This eye-catching memory foam topper features a cutting-edge improvement over traditional egg carton waves with five different textures arranged in zones. The zoned design provides targeted pressure point relief for different areas of the body: head/neck, shoulders, back/hips, legs, and feet. An infused lavender scent encourages relaxation.

Best Price Mattress 5-Zone Memory Foam Topper
Why We Love It:
  • Extremely affordable, especially for certified memory foam
  • Unique zoned pattern to reduce pressure points
  • Lavender scent is calming and relaxing
Cons
  • Some reviews mention durability issues
  • Scent may be overwhelming for sensitive individuals

Bottom Line: A low-priced memory foam mattress topper with several unique features: lavender scent, 3-year warranty, and a combination of waves and swirls designed to eliminate pressure points.

10. Linenspa Gel-Infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper

This 3-inch memory foam mattress topper features integrated cooling gel beads that regulate temperature by dissipating heat. While there is no cover included, this topper is made of pure memory foam and includes a 3-year warranty. For a very affordable price, this mattress topper can make a too-firm mattress comfortably soft.

Linenspa Gel-Infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Why We Love It:
  • Lower cost than other memory foam toppers
  • Creates a soft hug-like feeling
  • Cooling gel beads help regulate temperature
Cons
  • Some reviews say it sleeps hot
  • May have a strong chemical off-gassing smell

Bottom Line: With an affordable price tag and cooling gel, this memory foam topper is a great way to add contoured support to a too-firm bed, relieving pressure points that cause back pain.

How To Choose A Mattress Topper For Back Pain

mattress topper for back pain

There are a lot of mattress toppers available in a wide range of styles, materials, and prices. Whether you are looking for a thin style or an extra thick mattress topper, it’s important to make sure you find the one that’s the best fit for your mattress and sleeping position. For example, taller and heavier individuals generally need toppers that have higher firmness and thickness specifications, and side sleepers often find softer toppers more comfortable.

What To Consider When Buying A Mattress Topper For Back Pain

There are numerous factors to consider when choosing a mattress topper for back pain. Read on to learn more about features such as heat retention, density, motion transfer, and thickness.

Thickness

Mattress toppers come in several different thicknesses. Most are between 1 inch and 4 inches thick. There are many things to consider when deciding how thick of a mattress topper you want. Thicker toppers will change the feeling of your bed more, so if you just want to modify your mattress a little bit, it’s better to go with a thinner topper.

Thicker toppers also tend to cradle the sleeper more than thinner toppers, which can be more comfortable, but also hotter. Tall or heavy people usually get the best benefits from toppers that are at least 3 inches thick. While thick toppers tend to work well for people who sleep on their sides or backs, a thinner topper can be better for stomach sleepers.

Firmness/Density

The density of the material or filling determines how firm a mattress topper is. Memory foam, latex, and down-filled mattress toppers are all available in soft to extra-firm varieties. Denser materials are heavier and firmer, whereas softer toppers are less dense.

Deciding on how firm of a mattress topper you want is mostly based on personal preference. Some people prefer a softer sleeping surface and others like the feeling of a firm mattress topper. Remember, however, that you want to choose a firmness that is soft enough to eliminate pressure points and firm enough to support your spine. Softer toppers also allow you to sink down more, which can be very warm unless you choose a style with cooling properties.

Motion Transfer

If you share a bed with a partner, you have to find a mattress topper that is comfortable for both of you. Another issue to consider is motion transfer. Most mattresses, especially those that have springs, transfer kinetic energy very easily. This means that you can feel it when your partner rolls around or gets out of bed. If you are a light sleeper, these movements can significantly lower the quality of your sleep.

Adding a mattress topper can help reduce motion transfer, even on an innerspring mattress. Both memory foam and latex tend to dampen and absorb kinetic energy, effectively reducing motion transfer.

Heat Retention

All bedding retains body heat to some extent, which is great for chilly climates or people who tend to sleep cold. However, it can be quite uncomfortable for hot sleepers, and some types of mattress toppers can make heat retention worse.

If you are a hot sleeper, it’s important to choose a mattress topper with some cooling properties. If you are looking at a down-filled style, choose a topper with a breathable cover, such as cotton or bamboo. If you are looking at a memory foam mattress topper, look for features like integrated ventilation airways, breathable covers, and cooling gel.

Care and Maintenance

You might not immediately think about cleaning a mattress topper, but it can attract dust, odors, and stains, just like other bedding. When you are choosing a mattress topper, it’s a good idea to check the cleaning instructions so you know how to care for it.

Many comforter-style filled mattress toppers are entirely machine washable, which is very convenient. Machine-washable toppers may need to be line-dried, though some are able to go in a dryer. Latex and memory foam toppers themselves can’t go in a washing machine, though some have removable covers that are easy to wash. Non-machine-washable materials need to be spot cleaned, and you can also vacuum latex and memory foam to get rid of dust and debris.

Types Of Mattress Toppers For Back Pain

mattress topper for back pain

Most modern mattress toppers are made of memory foam, latex, or a down/synthetic down filling. Each material has unique benefits and challenges that make them best for certain situations.

Latex

Slightly spongy, latex is made of naturally occurring rubber compounds. Latex mattress toppers help reduce pressure points by spreading your weight out over a large surface. The material also contours to your body to create customized support. Many people feel that latex creates a “buoyant” effect that gives the impression of floating. Latex toppers tend to sleep slightly cooler than memory foam, and they are a bit more responsive to movement, which many people prefer for intimate activities.

Latex has a few potential downsides. It can still be overly warm, especially for hot sleepers who choose a very thick latex topper. The biggest issue is that some people are allergic to latex, so this type of mattress topper is not a viable option for them.

Memory Foam

Memory foam is used for a lot of mattress toppers, and it’s also a common material for pillows and mattresses. It was originally developed for NASA and intended to be used in airplanes to create a safer environment for passengers in the event of a crash. Nowadays, it’s mostly seen in bedding products.

Memory foam is made of dense polyurethane, and it’s designed to adapt to pressure before slowly returning to its original shape. When you lie on memory foam, the material contours around your body, giving under your shoulders and hips and providing comfortable support for your neck, spinal column, pelvis, and legs. This material works well to reduce back pain and pressure points, though it also tends to retain heat very well, so it can be uncomfortable for hot sleepers.

Down and Synthetic Down Alternatives

While there are a lot of latex and memory foam mattress toppers on the market, those aren’t the only options. Many people prefer toppers filled with down or a synthetic alternative. These mattress toppers are similar to duvets or comforters. They are made by stuffing the filling into a fabric cover and then adding quilt-like baffle stitching to hold the filling in place. Most styles have square baffles that keep the filling evenly distributed and prevent it from piling up in the sides or corners.

Traditional down comes from the undercoat of geese or other waterfowl. There are also many animal-friendly synthetic alternatives. Both natural and synthetic down offer a pillow-like coziness that feels like sleeping on a cloud. These mattress toppers are available in a range of firmness levels, and “overstuffed” styles tend to offer more firmness and support.

Polyfoam

Mattress toppers used to be made of polyfoam before memory foam was invented. This type of foam isn’t nearly as dense as memory foam, so it doesn’t provide the same level of support. Polyfoam mattress toppers are still available, and most of them have an “egg carton” design with wavy bumps across the surface.

Although polyfoam is inexpensive, it has a few cons. It holds onto heat very well, so it’s not a good choice for hot sleepers. Because it isn’t dense like memory foam, it doesn’t provide as much spinal support, and it’s also not as durable. However, polyfoam mattress toppers can be helpful for occasional support. You may want to get one if you use a cot or air mattress while camping.

When Should You Buy A Mattress Topper For Pain?

If you wake up every morning with backaches or notice that back pain is keeping you from sleeping soundly, it’s a good sign that your mattress isn’t doing its job very well. This is a great time to purchase a mattress topper. Before you commit to spending a lot of money on a new mattress, try adding a mattress topper first.

You don’t have to wait until you are in pain from a bad mattress to get a mattress topper. You may decide to get one to put on a brand new mattress. Toppers can make a good mattress even more comfortable, and they can help reduce motion transfer, which is very useful for partners who share a bed. Additionally, a mattress topper can protect your mattress from stains and wear and tear. Placing a topper on a new mattress can ensure that it stays clean and lasts as long as possible.

Commonly Asked Questions About Mattress Toppers for Back Pain

Get answers to the top questions about back pain and mattress toppers.

What is a mattress topper?

A mattress topper sits on top of a mattress to modify the firmness of the sleeping surface. Toppers come in a wide range of materials, firmness options, and styles, so it’s easy to find one that fits your needs.

In general, you should look for a topper that is the opposite of your mattress. You would add a soft topper to a mattress that is too firm and use a firm topper to create support on a soft mattress. However, there are also medium-firm mattress toppers that are very versatile. These can go on top of almost any mattress to add contoured support and more cushioning.

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

You need to consider the cause of your low back pain. If it’s from poor sleep posture and inadequate spinal support, you should look for a topper that’s firm enough to add support. If you are feeling pain from pressure points on your lower back and hips, you may need something softer to counteract a super firm mattress.

Generally, side sleepers are more comfortable on softer toppers. This is because sleeping on your side tends to place a lot of weight on your shoulders and hips. With a soft mattress topper, that pressure gets distributed over a larger area, helping to reduce painful pressure points. A soft topper also helps keep the spine properly aligned.

If you sleep on your back, you may prefer a medium or firm mattress topper to provide more support to your whole back. Most stomach sleepers need a firm or extra firm mattress topper. Without enough support, the body tends to cave inwards, which creates a lot of tension in the spine and leads to chronic pain.

Can mattress toppers help with back pain?

Yes! Many people purchase mattress toppers for this very reason. Mattress toppers are designed to create a soft sleeping surface that also supports a healthy sleep posture. The right mattress topper relieves pressure points and pain from joint tension and spinal misalignment.

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

A mattress topper isn’t the same as a mattress pad. A mattress pad is generally made of a thin fabric designed to protect the mattress from dust, moisture, stains, and odor. Some mattress pads are also waterproof or made of sweat-wicking, cooling material.

A mattress topper is much bigger: usually a few inches thick. Its purpose is to change how the bed feels when you lie on it. Although a mattress topper isn’t the same as a mattress pad, it also protects the mattress from stains and odors, so it can be an excellent alternative to a simple mattress pad.

Can mattress toppers cause back pain?

While mattress toppers often help alleviate back pain from a bad mattress, they can also cause discomfort. You may experience back pain if you choose a topper that is too firm (creating pressure points and bad alignment) or too soft (providing inadequate support).

What’s the purpose of a mattress topper?

The point of a mattress topper is to change how your mattress feels by adding more cushioning, support, or both. Mattress toppers can help relieve pressure points and support your back to keep your spine aligned properly.

Do you need both a mattress topper and a mattress pad?

Generally, no. A mattress topper covers your entire mattress, helping to keep it clean and reducing wear and tear. With this type of coverage, you don’t usually need to add a mattress pad, though you can certainly use one if you want another layer of protection for your mattress.

What thickness of mattress topper should I get?

The answer depends on your unique needs, preferences, and sleeping position. Thin mattress toppers are usually about 1 inch tall, whereas extra-thick styles can be up to 4 inches. Most mattress toppers are 2 inches or 3 inches thick.

Thicker toppers will provide more cushioning, giving you more of a feeling of sinking into or being surrounded by the material. This works well for people who want a cozy, encompassing feeling when they sleep. However, thicker toppers may also retain more heat, so they may not be ideal for warm climates or people who sleep hot.

Thinner mattress toppers don’t change the feeling of the mattress as much. They can be a good choice for people who just want a little additional cushioning or support. However, they aren’t able to distribute as much pressure as thicker styles. Generally, taller and/or heavier individuals should look for a topper that is at least 3 inches thick.

How do you clean a mattress topper?

You should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning your mattress topper. However, there are some general rules to follow. If the mattress topper has a removable cover, wash and dry it (according to the instructions) when you launder your sheets.

If your topper doesn’t have a removable cover, you can vacuum and spot clean it. Vacuuming can remove dust and debris particles. You can then use an enzyme cleaner to get rid of any spots or stains. If you want to reduce odors, you can sprinkle baking soda on the cover and vacuum it up after allowing it to sit for a few hours. Cleaning your mattress topper regularly can help prevent stains and smells and improve longevity by removing things that can break down the material.

About the author
Amanda Holland
Amanda Holland
Amanda Holland is equally passionate about math and grammar, and she has incorporated both into her career. She spent several years as a signals analyst for the Defense Department, creating and editing reports for the intelligence community. After her two kids were born, she transitioned to a career as a freelance writer. When she isn't crafting content, she's usually reading, baking, or playing video games.