Best Mattress Topper for Back Pain

The team of physicians at who provide unbiased consumer information about mattresses and mattress toppers note that back pain is directly attributable to the type of mattress on which we choose to sleep at night. Many mattress toppers offer additional comfort, but there are two that promote relief for those who suffer from back pain: memory foam and latex foam.

About Memory Foam

Memory foam is noted for being one of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's more popular consumer spin-offs. The original memory foam, temper foam, was first developed in 1966 at NASA's Ames Research Center for use in airline seating to provide additional protection against crashes and vibration. Memory foam is soft, conforming to the body easily while simultaneously possessing the desirable quality of high-energy absorption. Memory foam found its way into other products, including the helmet padding of professional football teams, the cushioning of shoes, and most notably, for use in hospitals to protect patients against bedsores.

About Latex Foam

Unlike memory foam, which is derived from plastics, latex foam is made of rubber. Latex foam is a durable, springy material that resists wearing and tearing, returning to its natural form even after being compressed. Latex International is the largest supplier of latex foam bedding components in the United States. The company relies on its Talalay manufacturing process to achieve consistency in its latex foam with the ultimate goal of providing firmness and comfort.

How They Provide Relief

The medical review team note that mattress toppers made of memory or latex foams differ from those that simply add softness, such as featherbeds or polyurethane foam mattress toppers. Memory foam and latex foam provide the type of comfort that allows the body to conform to the topper, relieving pressure points for those with back or joint pain and reducing fitful sleep.

How They Differ

Memory foam and latex foam have slight variances. Memory foam's slow spring-back reaction means that when weight is applied and then removed, the foam returns to its natural shape gradually. Latex foam, on the other hand, springs back almost instantaneously once pressure is applied and removed. Memory foam also relies on body heat to soften and mold it, while latex foam immediately conforms to body shape. Both foam types are naturally antimicrobial and resistant to mold and dust mites, which also makes them the ideal choice for those with allergies.

What To Look For

When purchasing a memory foam or latex foam mattress topper to reduce your back pain, pay attention to foam density, thickness, and indentation load deflection (ILD), which grades the softness or firmness of the mattress topper. Density may range from 2 to 6 pounds, while height can vary from 1 to 6 inches. Most bedding experts will tell you that a density of less than 4 pounds and thickness of less than 3 inches simply adds a little more comfort to your existing bed, whereas mattress toppers with higher density and thickness will change the texture of a bed entirely. notes that denser mattress toppers may have more firmness, but this might not always be true, in which case consumers should defer to the product's ILD. Generally, memory foam mattress toppers with an ILD of 15 or below and latex foam mattress toppers of an ILD of 28 or below are sufficient.

Lisa Sefcik

Lisa Sefcik has been writing professionally since 1987. Her subject matter includes pet care, travel, consumer reviews, classical music and entertainment. She's worked as a policy analyst, news reporter and freelance writer/columnist for Cox Publications and numerous national print publications. Sefcik holds a paralegal certification as well as degrees in journalism and piano performance from the University of Texas at Austin.