a couple of years ago

How To Choose The Right Memory Foam Mattress Topper For Your Back 

A memory foam mattress topper can ease back pain by adding more comfort and cushioning to a bed that's too firm, but only if you choose the right one.

My Top Pick

The best memory foam mattress topper for back pain

This mattress topper from Nature's Sleep wins out here because not only does it have great cushioning and pressure relieving qualities, it's also really comfortable, healthy and safe to sleep on.

This article contains affiliate links from which we may earn a commission when you buy.

Sleeping on a mattress that is too firm, too soft, or has seen better days can be a one way street to morning back pain.

And the problem isn't easily fixed as buying a new mattress can be really expensive.

However using a mattress topper is a great way of fixing problems with your old mattress without having to spend a fortune on replacing it. 

As they can add softness, comfort, support, or firmness depending on which type of topper you go for.

And one type that is always a very popular choice is memory foam.

Because memory foam mattress toppers add comfort and softness to your bed, especially if your mattress feels too firm. 

Which gives your body the cushioning it needs to relieve pressure during the night, while also encouraging you to fall into a deeper sleep where your aching muscles body can heal and repair.

However not all memory foam mattress toppers are created equally.

And some can actually do more harm than good.

So you need to know what to look for when buying one to make sure you get one that can help get rid of your back pain, not add to it.

And this is exactly what we'll show you how to do in this article.

The Benefits Of Using A Memory Foam Mattress Topper

Memory foam mattress toppers are great for people with back pain, as they add softness, comfort, and cushioning to your bed.

This is especially important if your mattress feels too firm, as by softening it up you can relieve the pressure on your hips, shoulders, and lower back as you sleep.

Which will go a long way towards getting rid of any aches and pains in the morning.

And this extra comfort also has the added bonus of helping you get a better night's sleep, which will allow your body to rest, heal, and repair itself during the night.

So your back will be feeling better in no time if you choose the right one.

And on top of this there are plenty of additional benefits of using a memory foam mattress topper, such as:

  • They are extremely comfortable to lay on,  giving you a weightless feel that makes it easier to get into a deep and uninterrupted sleep that will leave you feeling refreshed in the morning.
  • If the memory foam has a high enough density it can help to keep your spine in alignment, which eases the strain and tension on your muscles and joints.
  • The foam molds to the contours of your body, which can prevent pressure points from developing.
  • And this keeps you more comfortable in the one position, cutting out the need to toss and turn during the night.
  • It's also good for eliminating motion transfer, meaning you won't disturb your partner as much.
  • Memory foam mattress toppers are also cheaper to buy than toppers made from other materials such as latex.

However it's not all sweetness and light, as certain memory foam mattress toppers come with a few drawbacks such as:

  • They can't give your back the same level of support as a latex mattress topper.
  • If the foam is too low in density (too soft) you can sink in too far which throws your spine out of alignment.
  • Memory foam can trap body heat and as such may be too hot to sleep on for some.
  • Cheaper memory foam toppers may contain harmful chemicals that make them unhealthy to sleep on.
  • You can feel stuck in the memory foam at times, as the way it molds to your body makes it hard to move around in bed.
  • Memory foam can give off an odour at first that may be unpleasant.

However by choosing the right memory foam mattress topper you can reap the rewards and minimise these negative effects.

And greatly improve the health of your back into the bargain.

5 Tips To Follow To Make Sure You Get A Good One

There are a wide selection of memory foam mattress toppers available to choose from, and this can sometimes make it quite a confusing decision.

As they each seem to have different features and selling points.

So we'll explain a few of these features (such as thickness and density) and help you to understand what they mean for your back.

And we'll also go over how to make sure you memory foam topper is healthy to sleep on.

This way you can make an informed choice and get a topper that will serve you and your back well.

So follow these 5 tips to make sure you get your selection spot on.

1. Don't Buy Cheap

None of us like parting with our hard earned cash, but scrimping on a memory foam mattress topper can prove to be a false economy.

When you first start shopping for a memory foam mattress topper it can be really tempting to go for the cheapest option.

After all, they all look the same right?

And if you can get one for under $100, why would you bother spending up to 3 times as much on a different one?

However while you can save yourself money in the short term, it will very quickly turn into a false economy.

As cheap mattress toppers usually come with plenty of comprimises.

Firstly they tend to have a very low foam density, which means they won't last for very long (in fact you'll be lucky to get a years worth of regular use out of some).

Whereas higher quality and higher density toppers could last you up to 5 years.

Also the cheaper ones will be softer and lacking in support, so your back will suffer.

And they are more likely to be manufactured on the cheap using harmful chemicals, which means your general health could take a hit by sleeping on them too.

So you really do get what you pay for here.

However that doesn't mean you have to break the bank, as there are plenty of good quality mattress toppers at reasonable prices to be found.

2. Get One With A High Enough Density

Give your back more support with a higher density topper.

Memory foam mattress toppers come with different foam densities, and you need to pay attention to this when buying one.

As the density of the foam will affect the comfort, feel, and level of support provided by your topper.

You can use the following is a rough guide:

  • Under 3 lbs/per cubic ft - these toppers will be soft and comfortable but lacking in support.
  • Between 3-5 lbs/per cubic ft - these toppers have a medium density that gives you a good mix of comfort and support.
  • Over 5 lbs/per cubic ft - these toppers are made from high density foam that will give firm support but less comfort.

So if you want super soft comfort from your mattress topper, then one with a low density foam may be what you are looking for.

However those of us with back pain will usually need a bit more support than these toppers offer.

Which makes memory foam mattress toppers with a density of between 3-5 lbs ideal for us.

As foam of this density will cushion you but also stop you from sinking too far into the mattress, which will keep your spine in the correct alignment and prevent any strain and tension in your body.

And this is also a better option than the higher density toppers for most people.

Because if you get a topper with a density over 5 lbs it will be pretty firm to lay on.

And this can cause aches and pains in your body, as your main pressure points in your shoulders, hips, and back don't get as much cushioning as they should do.

Which can leave you feeling stiff and sore when waking up in the morning.

So try and stick within the 3-5 lbs density sweet spot when choosing your new memory foam mattress topper.

3. Choose The Right Thickness

Memory foam toppers also come in a range of thicknesses.

With each one having a slightly different impact on your mattress, body, and overall sleep experience.

So as a general rule, the thinner they are the firmer they will feel, giving you more support but less comfort.

While with each extra inch of thickness you get a softer and more comfortable topper with greater pressure relieving qualities but less support.

  • 1" - Too thin to make a major impact on your mattress or offer much in the way of extra comfort. Suitable only for lighter people and to add to good mattresses as an enhancement rather than a fix.
  • 2" - These toppers offer a good level of support as you won't sink into them too much. Again they are better for lighter people. Also a good choice for stomach and back sleepers.
  • 3" - This is the most popular thickness of memory foam topper, because it provides excellent comfort and pressure relief. So a great choice to soften up a firm mattress and good for side sleepers.
  • 4" - This thickness level offers similar benefits to the 3" thick toppers but is a better choice for people that are heavier.
  • Over 4" - There are some toppers that come in thicknesses of up to 6", although these are more like substitute mattresses rather than toppers really.

So when shopping for a mattress topper keep these differences in mind and choose the thickness that will suit your needs the best.

4. Make Sure It's CertiPUR-US Certified

Early versions of memory foam didn't really take the health and well-being of the user or the environment into consideration.

As the foam was constructed using petroleum-based chemicals and also included flame-retardant chemicals to stop the foam from catching fire. 

Both of which would emit harmful off gassing, both during the manufacturing process and after the product was finished.

Which was bad news all round, as it contributed to the world's growing air pollution problem as well as giving off harmful fumes (VOCs - volatile organic compounds) within your bedroom.

And repeated exposure to these fumes has been shown to lead to all sorts of respiratory problems, headaches, and sinus issues.

Which is not the kind of thing you want to bring into your bedroom!

However nowadays most memory foam is much safer and healthier to sleep on.​

And to make sure you are getting a healthy and safe memory foam mattress topper​ make sure you buy one that is CertiPUR-US certified.

As this means it has undergone extensive testing to make sure it's free from harmful chemicals and is low in VOCs.

Which gives you peace of mind and helps you to stay healthy as you sleep.

5. Get One That Sleeps Cooler

No-one likes waking up hot and sweaty during the night.

Some memory foam mattresses and mattress toppers are notorious for feeling really hot to sleep on during the night.

This can happen for a couple of reasons:

  • The memory foam molds to your body, leaving no space between you and the mattress, which traps your body heat at the surface.
  • Air can't pass through the foam as it's not a breathable material.
  • Moisture can't be wicked away from the surface, meaning you get hot and sticky during the night.

And these hot and sweaty nights can feel torturous to sleep through.

However not all memory foam is destined to leave you feeling this way.

As you can choose to buy certain types of memory foam mattress toppers that have been designed specifically to sleep cooler.

These include:

  • Gel-infused memory foam which creates an open cell structure that allows air to flow, regulates your body temperature, and can sleep up to 25% cooler than regular memory foam.
  • A ventilated design in the foam that contains small pinholes across the surface to allow the air to flow through more easily.
  • An open or enlarged cell structure which also allows air to pass through the foam.
  • Using a foam infused with plant materials such as bamboo, which wicks away moisture and regulates your body temperature.

And you can also make your memory foam topper cooler to sleep on by using the right cover and bedding.

As sheets made from cotton or bamboo are breathable and allow the air to flow while also wicking away any moisture.

So there's no need to become a victim of overheating on a memory foam mattress topper as long as you make the right choice.

Memory Foam Mattress Toppers We Recommend

My Top Pick

Pure Green 100% Natural Latex Mattress Topper - Medium Firmness - 2 Inch - Queen Size (GOLS Certified Organic)

The best latex mattress topper for back pain

The latex mattress topper from Pure Green is top dog here, as it's dense, breathable, and provides great spring and support for your body throughout the night

So now you know what to look for to ensure you get a great memory foam mattress topper for your back.

However if you want some specific recommendations from us, then check out our article on the best memory foam mattress toppers for people with back pain.

Or if you want to save yourself time reading through the whole article, you can see which ones came out on top below.

Rounding Up

Using a memory foam mattress topper is a great way of getting more comfort and cushioning from a mattress that is too firm.

And that will make a big difference to the health of your back.

As it will relieve pressure on your body as well as allowing you to drift into a deeper, more restorative sleep.

However you need to make sure you get the right topper to get the full benefit.

And by following the 5 tips in this article you can rest easy knowing you'll choose one that will not just look after the health of your back, but will be good for your overall health as well.

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I'm a psychology graduate and a veteran of 5 spinal surgeries. I want to help people learn how to fight back against persistent back pain just like I have.

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