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Are Mattress Toppers Good For Back Pain?

Man with neck and shoulder pain with Mattress Topper
Woman Side sleeping

If you add a mattress topper to bed that is already causing you back pain, you will probably not experience any improvement or back pain relief. In many cases, you will make your mattress worse as a topper creates more of a separation between your body and the supportive layers of your bed.

Back Pain And Mattress Toppers

According to recent studies, over 66% of people experienced back pain, at least at one point in their lives. As a chiropractor that has seen thousands of people with back pain conditions, suffering from chronic back pain is not a joke. Many of my patients experience drastically reduce the quality of your life before their back pain is solved. Studies have shown that switching to a high-quality mattress has been proven to offer relief from back pain and improved sleep quality regardless of age.

It would be best if you chose a mattress that balances comfort and support to relax your muscles and ligaments, providing relief from back pain. However, if you are not in a position to purchase a new mattress, you might be considering purchasing a mattress topper to soften or firm up your bed possibly. Unfortunately, in most cases, it’s not that simple and adding a topper to your mattress can cause more back pain.

Mattress Toppers Can Make Your Back Pain Worse!

 

The reason adding a topper can make your back pain worse it can take away more of the support you need.

Your back most likely hurts because the core support layers mattress not appropriately supporting your body. In other words, regardless of how soft or hard your mattress feels on top, the “guts” of your mattress aren’t dense enough to hold you up. This then displaces your body to a point where your back cannot relax without pressure building up and causing your body to sleep out of alignment. 

If you sleep out of alignment, your body can never relax. This is why you feel aches and pains getting up in the morning after sleeping over 6 hours in an unsupportive bed. If your back pain, especially lower back pain, gets worse the longer your night of sleep, the more you probably feel it in the morning.

If the problem lies inside the mattress, will adding a topper solve the problem? And the answer is that it very rarely does. In many cases adding a topper to a mattress that causes back pain can make the situation worse. If you find your mattress is too hard, the additional material can cause you to sink in without the heavier parts of your body getting proper support. If you find your mattress too soft, again, you might harden the top, but you are also creating more separation between your body and the support layers. This has the opposite effect of what you want to achieve, giving the mattress a “sinkey” feeling.

When Can A Mattress Topper Help My Back Pain?

There are rare cases where adding topping can help with support issues, but ultimately, it is up to you to decide.

You will need to find a topper that is very firm and dense, usually 5 lb + high-density latex foam. These toppers help in the beginning because you can create a bit more surface pressure, supporting your body and back. However, this effect is often temporary because eventually, this material also “settles” and softens, losing its supportiveness. Unfortunately, these super-dense toppers have high costs. In most cases, it makes more sense economically to purchase a standard latex mattress, given the duration of time the topper will act as a solution to 

Is My Mattress Right for a Topper?

Your first step is to determine if your mattress is still in good condition and if it has a relatively flat and supportive surface. This means that there are no signs of wear on the top of your mattress. Then a topper can work to improve pressure relief or provide “back-up support”. “Back-up” support is best for people who are willing to sacrifice comfort for support as this layer placed on top of the top, soft layers of a mattress. 

It is not as easy if the condition or design of the mattress itself is part of the problem. A mattress in poor condition could mean that the bed has dips or sags under some regions of the body. 

A mattress design problem would be your comfort layers being too hard or too soft. In this case, a topper will only conform to the dips and sags. At best, this will provide only partial or temporary benefits. At worst, this can lead to even worse problems with alignment.

Choosing a Topper Material for Back Pain

The first step is choosing the suitable topper material for your body and sleeping style. Generally, this will be a choice between memory foam and natural latex. Each has a different type of feel and performance and distribute weight differently. However, both are very good for pressure relief if that is something you value.

Regardless of the type of material, though, I would make sure that the material is higher. This is important since higher quality toppers will be more durable and perform better than lower-quality materials. Lower density foams will soften more quickly and lose valuable support.

If you are a heavier person, this is especially important with higher weights or conditions or a type of usage that may cause more stress and wear on the topper or cause it to soften, compress, or degrade more quickly.

Other Considerations Other Than Toppers 

Pillows and Positions Matter

The right topper isn’t the only thing that matters when managing your back pain while you sleep. The kind of pillows you use is often just as important for avoiding back pain. 

Good pillows for neck and shoulder pain alleviate pressure points and keep the head at a healthy angle, but at the same time are firm enough to hold your head. According to research, natural latex pillows with ergonomic designs are the best pillows based on customer satisfaction with a +93% satisfaction rate. Latex pillow satisfaction is higher than other common pillows like feather and memory foam. 

Also, a study published in 2009 looked at common pillows and sleep quality. They measured how rested people felt and if they woke up without pain. They found that latex pillows were best and significantly improved sleep quality and how people feel when waking up.

Furthermore, if you are looking for a chemical-free sleeping environment, make sure to get the right pillow. Your face is directly on your pillow at least 6 hours a night. The VOC’s that off-gas from some fabrics and foams are right next to your mouth and nose. If you value your health, make sure only to choose pillows made from natural materials, especially if you have young ones who are especially susceptible to toxic chemicals.

Conclusion

While getting a topper might appear to be a quick and easy way to upgrade a mattress that is causing back pain, that is often, unfortunately, not the case. For most people, a topper will not improve their bed and likely even make their back pain worse. While there are some steps you can take to reduce the chance of this happening, you only prolonging the problem, which is having the wrong mattress for you. 

We recommend that you instead look for a new bed if you are experiencing back pain problems, as scientific research has found this to be a good option. As a chiropractor that has treated successfully treated thousands of people with back pain, I strongly recommend a natural latex mattress for their ability to reduce pressure points and promote spinal alignment. When you sleep in spinal alignment, your muscles can relax, which allows them to rest and recover.

About Dr Lawrence Woods

My goal is to create the highest quality mattresses and pillows for unmatched comfort.

With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience in Ireland as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high quality sleep for living a happy and healthy life.

I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and I am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.

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