When selecting a mattress topper to address orthopaedic problems, it's important to find one suitable for your weight, sleeping position and back problem. There is anecdotal evidence that memory foam and latex foam mattress toppers ease back pain by evenly distributing body weight, thus supporting the neck and spine, but the condition of the underlying mattress and quality of the mattress topper should also be taken into account.
Memory foam is made of viscoelastic and moulds itself to the underlying mattress. Consumers report that it gives good overall support, which may help with back pain. It was originally developed by astronauts and, according to the Backcare.org website, responds to body weight to relieve and disperse pressure. However, memory foam should only be placed on a mattress that is firm and not sagging, because it will eventually take on the shape of the underlying mattress. According to a consumer report on the My Foam Mattress website, memory foam offers good support and doesn't sag.
Latex is made from the sap of the rubber tree and, like memory foam, moulds itself to the body. According to Consumerseach website, it gives “much-needed support and reduces the strain on the back, neck and other joints.” Latex is more flexible than memory foam, making it easier to move around in bed, which may help with back stiffness.
Look for high quality latex foam mattress toppers. Pure latex and synthetic blends are available. Memory foam toppers should be at least 4 inches thick with a foam density of 1.81 to 2.72 Kilogram to ensure good support for your back. Cheaper memory foam mattresses will not last long and will not give adequate spinal support.
Both latex and memory foam mattress toppers can add support to a mattress that is too soft or cushion an overly firm mattress. If you are experiencing back pain because your mattress is too firm or too soft, a latex or memory foam topper could be a solution.
According to the Orthopedic Mattress website, toppers cannot compete with a new mattress or perform like a mattress of a similar material. “Although many claims are made for mattress toppers, it seems highly improbable that they can add any genuine orthopaedic characteristics to a mattress. As such, mattress toppers should not be purchased for this purpose alone,” the website said.
According to a report in The Lancet, people with back pain report more relief when they sleep on a medium-firm mattress rather than a firm mattress. Memory foam and latex mattresses have varying levels of firmness.
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- The Lancet: Effect of firmness of mattress on chronic non-specific low-back pain: randomised, double-blind, controlled, multicentre trial
- My Foam Mattress: Latex And Memory Foam Beds Consumer Report Comparison
- Consumersearch: Are mattress toppers or pillow tops worth buying?
- Orthopaedic Mattress: Mattress Toppers
- BackCare: Beds