How To Choose a Mattress Topper To Reduce Shoulder Pain
The quality of your sleep is directly associated with the quality of your mattress. If your mattress feels too firm or too soft, you won’t feel comfortable through the night especially if you are a side sleeper. A 2010 study suggests that prolonged pressure caused by sleeping on one side can result in shoulder pain. When you sleep on your side, your weight is concentrated on two pressure points, the shoulder and hip. If your mattress is too soft or too hard, then the areas of concentrated weight might sink too much or too little and won’t maintain a neutral spine alignment. As a result, you will experience soreness and stiffness in your shoulder.
To choose a mattress topper to reduce shoulder pain, look for a topper that will reduce pressure on the hip and shoulder pressure points and will cradle and support the shoulder.
First, pick the material that is most suited for your needs. Then choose the right thickness, density and firmness for the mattress topper so that it will be soft enough to conform to sleeping on the side but firm enough to support the body in good alignment. Don't forget to consider any extra features that may be important to you, such as price, anti-allergic materials, motion isolation benefits, and cooling options.
- How do you choose a mattress topper for back pain relief?
- How to choose a mattress topper for a side sleeper
- Choosing a mattress topper to help hip pain
What Is a Mattress Topper?
Wondering what a mattress topper is and how useful it can be?
A mattress topper is a removable layer that sits on top of a mattress to provide additional cushioning, comfort, and support.
It can make a firm mattress softer, helping to keep your pressure points cradled, and can sink down enough to maintain a neutral spine alignment. It can also make a too-soft mattress firmer, providing more support. While a mattress topper can protect and prolong the lifespan of your mattress when it starts to wear and sag, more importantly, it is a removable soft layer that accommodates your uneven weight distribution, keeping your body cradled and supported, and hence preventing body aches such as neck pain and support. If your mattress is already showing signs of wear and tear, then the mattress topper can serve as a short-term fix, minimizing lumps and providing a cushioned surface to sleep on comfortably. We've detailed the benefits of mattress toppers as well as how to keep a mattress topper from sliding in other articles.
How Can a Mattress Topper Help Shoulder Pain?
A 2012 Danish study showed an association between one-sided shoulder pain and the side a side-sleeper habitually lies on. It seems likely that sleeping on your side increases the likelihood of shoulder pain. This occurs when your spine is not well aligned. In fact, when you sleep on your side, your weight will be concentrated on two pressure points, your shoulder and hip. When your mattress is too firm, your torso weight can’t sink in enough to relieve the pressure and allow for a straight spine alignment.
A mattress topper can help with shoulder pain by providing a softer surface that cushions the shoulder, keeping it cradled and well supported during sleep. The soft layer relieves pressure points and allows for even body weight distribution. Your shoulder and hip sink down enough to allow a neutral spine alignment.
How To Choose a Mattress Topper for Shoulder Pain
With the variety of mattress toppers out in the market, it can be difficult to select the right one for you. However, there are four main things to always consider before purchasing one. Mattress toppers are usually placed over old mattresses to make them feel new again. Some are designed to make your bed cooler, but most toppers aim to offer comfort, softness, and support. There are many factors you can consider before making a choice, such as the material, thickness, firmness and density, price, and warranty. In case you're curious, yes, you can use a mattress topper on your memory foam mattress.
Step 1. Pick the Material Best Suited to Supporting Your sleep Position
Mattress toppers can be made of latex, memory foam, wool, cotton, polyester, egg crate foam, or feathers. You should consider the pros and cons of each before selecting one to help ease shoulder pain.
Latex Mattress Toppers Are Breathable and Comfortable
Latex toppers are cool, firm, and breathable. They are expensive but can offer great comfort and cushioning. They can help relieve pressure points while maintaining a neutral spine alignment. They are known to be hypoallergenic, as they are resistant to dust mites and bacteria. They are also good at motion isolation if your sleeping partner tosses and turns a lot during the night.
Memory Foam Mattress Toppers For Support and Comfort
Memory foam toppers provide comfort and support. They mold to the shape of your body contours and allow for even body weight distribution. The memory foam returns to its original loft and doesn't retain body imprints on the bed once pressure is released. They come in different densities, giving you more firmness options to choose from.
Wool Mattress Toppers for Softness
Wool toppers are great options if you are looking for a naturally soft and comfortable material. They are hypoallergenic, keeping bed bugs and mites away. They also promote temperature regulation, keeping you cool in hot temperatures and warm during winter time.
Lightweight Cotton and Polyester Mattress Toppers
Cotton and polyester toppers are affordable, light, and breathable. They range from synthetic to organic material. Although they’re soft, comfortable, and mimic the feeling of sleeping on a featherbed, they are not as durable as other materials. The fill tends to compress and wear out easily, and thus provide very little support.
Soft and Luxurious Down and Feather Mattress Toppers
Other types of materials such as goose/duck down or feather are very durable. They provide a soft luxurious feel but are not ideal if you require a firmer and thicker mattress topper to relieve pain or to cover up lumps.
Egg Crate Foam Mattress Toppers for Comfort
Egg crate mattress toppers are foam sheets designed with little bumps that don’t really offer as much cushioning and comfort as other materials. They are light and transportable but much less durable and supportive.
Summary of types of Mattress Topper Materials and Their Benefits
|Mattress Topper Material||Benefit of This Material for Shoulder Pain||Example of Mattress Topper Made of This Material (from Amazon)||Price|
|Latex||Offers comfort and pain relief at pressure points, keeping your spine aligned |
Natural latex is hypoallergenic and durable
Absorbs motion when shifting in bed
|Pure Green 100% Natural Latex Mattress Topper- Firm - 3 inch- Queen size||~$375|
|Memory Foam||Conforms to the shape of your body, but slowly returns to its original shape when pressure is released |
Available in different densities and firmness
Provides comfort, support, and even weight distribution
Absorbs motion when shifting in bed
|4” Memory Foam Mattress Topper, Queen||~$130|
|Wool||Is naturally soft, comfortable, and hypoallergenic |
Isolates motion transfer
|Home of Wool 2- inch Wool Mattress Topper||~$675|
|Cotton||Light and breathable |
Found in synthetic and organic materials
Makes your mattress softer and more comfortable
|Extra Thick Queen Size Cotton Mattress Topper||~$70|
|Polyester||Cheapest option |
Easy to clean
Fluffy, soft and comfortable
|Sweet Home Collection Hypoallergenic Topper Polyester Down Alternative Soft and Luxurious Bed Mattress Pad, Full||~$40|
Step 2. Select a Mattress Topper With the Thickness to Support Good Spinal Alignment While Cushioning Pressure Points
Mattress toppers range from between 1 to 6 inches thick. The topper should be sufficiently thick to cover up the lumps on your mattress, to provide extra comfort, support, and even warmth to your bed.
A thin mattress topper can wear out faster and will provide less support compared to a thick topper. Neither will it cover up any lumps in your regular mattress. A thick mattress topper on the other hand, provides extra cushioning, is more durable, and makes the bed warmer. Bear in mind that the thickness of your mattress topper will change the height of your regular mattress, so take that into account when purchasing a topper.
Take a look at our in-depth guide to mattress topper sizes and thicknesses here.
1-2 Inch Thick Mattress Toppers
A topper of 1-2 inches thick works well if you start with a firm mattress and you just need to add a little extra comfort and support. It works well for small and light people.
3 Inch Thick Mattress Toppers
A medium thickness of 3 inches is ideal if you are not sure which thickness to pick. It offers a fair level of softness and support. It works well for women over 165 pounds and men over 185 pounds.
4 Inch Thick Mattress Toppers
A topper of 4 inches thick provides a high level of support and comfort, and you won’t feel the mattress underneath. It provides enough cushioning to make side sleeping comfortable without destabilizing the spine.
5+ Inch Thick Mattress Toppers
A very thick topper of 5 inches or more becomes too firm and heavy for most people. It can, however, be ideal for heavy weight people over 250 pounds or for those looking to revitalize an old mattress.
Note: You can also cut a memory foam mattress topper to fit the size you need. Read more in our article.
Summary of Mattress Topper Thicknesses Available
|Mattress Topper Thickness||Benefit of This Thickness||Example of Mattress Topper with This Thickness (from Amazon)||Price|
|1-2 inches||Softens your mattress a little more||Milliard gel Memory foam Mattress Topper- 2 inches thick with Premium 2.5 Pound Density, Twin||~$70|
|3 inches||Provides a good level of softness and support||3-inch Extra Thick Mattress Topper with 100% cotton cover, Twin size||~$65|
|4 inches||Provides enough cushioning and support for side sleepers while maintaining a neutral spine alignment||Lucid 4 Inch Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper- Ventilated design- Ultra Plush-Queen||~$220|
|5+ inches||Perfect for heavy weight individuals |
Offers comfort and durability
|AmericanMade King Size 5 Inch thick, Firm Conventional Polyurethane Foam MattressPad, Bed Topper||~$285|
Step 3. Select the Mattress Topper With the Firmness and Density to Support Healthy Spinal Alignment
Density refers to the pounds of material per cubic foot of the topper. In general, higher density means better support. The firmness of the topper also plays an important role in determining the level of comfort that you achieve. Your selection is a matter of personal preference and need.
Side sleepers put a lot of pressure on their shoulder and hip. To alleviate this, select a soft mattress topper that is still firm enough to support your body without destabilizing your spine alignment. Take into account the density of the topper. Most toppers have a density that ranges between 2 and 6 or more pounds per cubic feet. In general, higher density means better support.
Soft Mattress Toppers With a Density of 3 Lbs/Ft3
A density of no more than 3 pounds per cubic feet is light and transportable. However, it is too soft and less supportive so that the sleeper will quickly sink into it.
Medium Firm Mattress Toppers With a Density of 4-5 Lbs/Ft3
A density of 4-5 pounds per cubic feet can suit most people. It offers a balance between soft and firm when pressure is applied. The topper provides a supportive layer, which moulds to the shape of your body slowly.
Firm Mattress Toppers With a Density of 6 Lbs/Ft3
A density of 6 pounds per cubic feet provides a high level of firmness and support especially for those recovering from injuries.
Extra Firm High Density Mattress Toppers
Higher densities are also available for heavyweight people so that their body is well supported on an extra firm surface for a long duration.
Summary of Types of Mattress Topper Firmness Available
|Mattress Topper Firmness||Benefit of This Firmness||Example of Mattress Topper with This Firmness (From Amazon)||Price|
|Soft||Adds a little more cushioning but provides low level of supportLightweightEasily transported||3" Gel Infused memory Foam Mattress Topper 4 Corner Elastic Anchor Band, Twin Size||~$70|
|Medium||Provides a fair level of softness and support||2" OrganicTextiles 100% Natural Latex Foam Mattress Topper/Pad, King Size, Medium Firm||~$320|
|Firm||Alleviates pain and discomfort||2" Pure Green 100% Natural Latex Mattress Topper- Firm- Queen Size||~$190|
|Extra Firm||Provides high level of support for heavyweight people||3" Extra Firm Conventional Memory Foam Mattress Topper, Full||~$380|
Step 4. Consider Any Extra Properties You Desire in a Mattress Topper Like Odor Guards, Allergy Prevention, or Price
Price is always an important consideration, and it can vary considerably between toppers depending on the materials used, but it may be worth it for the most comfortable sleep. Some materials are better for allergies, while others are better at reducing motion. Some toppers are even better at regulating body temperature, by keeping you cooler or warmer throughout the night. So it will be worth it to check for these extra beneficial features before buying a topper.
Will a Pillow Mattress Topper Help Shoulder Pain?
If you have been waking up with soreness and stiffness, you may have been considering trying a pillow mattress topper on top of your regular mattress. The pillow mattress topper has a medium-firm feel due to its multi-layer foam design. It is also breathable and doesn’t retain much heat. Therefore, it ensures that you sleep in a pleasantly cool bed.
There are conflicting reviews about whether pillow top mattress toppers will help shoulder pain. Some customers say that pillow top mattress toppers are just firm enough while others say that they are too firm..
When it comes to relieving pressure, the pillow mattress topper is designed to support your neck and spine really well by distributing weight evenly. A pillow mattress topper may help shoulder pain because of its two foam layers. The top layer is soft and molds to the shape of your body, whereas the bottom layer is thicker and firmer. The latter provides extra cushioning and distributes body weight evenly to ease the pressure points of your shoulder.
While some people report that a pillow topper is just too firm to properly cradle pressure points, others claim that it sags too quickly. Ultimately, whether a pillow mattress topper will help to relieve shoulder pain for someone who sleeps on their side will come down to personal preference, individual body type, and the specific pillow topper in question.
Will an Organic Mattress Topper Help Shoulder Pain More Than a Regular Mattress Topper?
When it comes to bedding items and mattress toppers, it is important to select healthy products made with non-toxic -natural materials that have no off-gassing. For most people, sleeping on a organic product will be better in terms of physical health, and it is undoubtedly better for the environment.
Generally, organic toppers help you create a cleaner and healthier sleeping environment. Organic mattress toppers are made in an eco-friendly manner, are comfortable, durable, and made of high-quality materials, such as natural latex, organic cotton, or organic wool. You can get similar benefits by just keeping your mattress topper clean! Learn how to clean your mattress topper here.
An organic mattress topper won’t help shoulder pain more than a regular mattress topper, unless some of the pain arises directly or indirectly from sensitivity to the materials or exposure to non-organic toxins.
On the flip side, if you are sensitive or allergic to any of the organic materials (latex and wool allergies are common and can be serious), the organic mattress topper can cause more nighttime discomfort and aggravate shoulder or other pain issues.
If you're considering replacing your current mattress, make sure to also take a look at when to buy a mattress topper instead of a new mattress for more in-depth information.