How to Choose The Best Mattress Topper to Reduce Shoulder Pain: Important Shopping Considerations

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Written by: Alex Savy
Read 10 minLast updated on September 28, 2021

Shoulder pain is not uncommon, but this fact doesn’t make it less annoying

However, choosing a good mattress topper can help sleepers reduce shoulder pain and enjoy better rest in many cases.

Today’s guide will help readers figure out how to find their ideal shoulder pain mattress topper and share the aspects to consider when shopping.

Mattress Toppers vs. Mattress Pads: What Is the Best Option for Shoulder Pain?

Many shoppers looking for a mattress topper to reduce shoulder pain often buy mattress pads. Those are typically cheaper, which makes them a preferable option in many cases.

Here’s the deal, though: mattress pads differ from toppers and thus, may perform differently for shoulder pain sufferers.

The thing is, mattress toppers are usually thick and use materials that can offer both extra support and pain alleviation. Mattress pads, on the other hand, are typically thinner. They also don’t usually feel very supportive due to the material choice (for instance, down, fiberfill, or wool).

That is why sleepers with shoulder pain are advised to avoid mattress pads and stick to toppers. The latter would deliver the needed support to make sure there’s minimal to no tension in the body, which often leads to reduced pain.

What Is the Best Type of Mattress Toppers to Reduce Shoulder Pain?

The first step users need to take when searching for the best mattress topper for shoulder pain is to understand the differences between the main types. This would give shoppers more clarity on which topper would be the most comfortable for them.

Now, memory foam usually takes first place in terms of popularity. This adaptive material literally takes the shape of one’s body, hugging the heavier parts and filling in the curves. This allows memory foam toppers to redistribute the pressure evenly all across the body, which often results in pain alleviation.

Another cool thing about memory foam toppers is that they usually have a slow-moving feel. So, those sleepers who tend to toss a lot due to shoulder pain won’t be likely to disturb their significant other. The shock from motion simply won’t transfer to the other side of the bed (1).

That being said, memory foam has its drawbacks. The biggest one is heat retention. It is especially common for thicker and softer mattress toppers that envelop the body more. To avoid that, shoppers need to look for gel-infused or open-cell foam toppers. 

Moving on to the next popular option – polyurethane foam. It is very similar to memory foam but has a slightly shorter lifespan. Additionally, polyfoam is a bit more responsive, so it gets back in shape faster than memory foam when the pressure is applied. Therefore, polyfoam typically feels less restricting.

Latex mattress toppers are also growing in popularity. The main reason is that this material is derived from the natural tree sap and thus, does not involve any potentially dangerous chemicals in the manufacturing process (unlike memory foam). Of course, there’s synthetic latex as well, but it is considered safe nonetheless.

Latex can also adapt to the shape of one’s body and relieve pressure. At the same time, this material is quite bouncy, so it doesn’t feel enveloping. Latex mattress toppers are also favored for their temperature-regulating properties. In other words, latex doesn’t sleep hot.

The main downside of using a latex mattress topper is the price. This material can be pretty expensive and doesn’t always work for budget shoppers. That being said, latex is also among the most durable options on the market. This may explain the higher price point.

There are also wool mattress toppers, but they usually aren’t cradling enough to help with shoulder pain. Therefore, foam and latex remain the most popular options.

How Soft Should a Good Mattress Topper for Shoulder Pain Be?

Here’s the deal: many users believe that a great mattress topper for shoulder pain has to be soft. In reality, a softer topper isn’t always a good idea.

The perfect firmness of one’s sleeping surface has to correspond with their favorite sleeping style. Therefore, a mattress topper for tender shoulders does not necessarily have to be soft.

For example, back sleepers need a medium to medium-firm sleeping surface. In this case, the topper would allow the heavier parts to sink in a little (buttocks and hips) while keeping the rest of the body in a straight line. When the body is aligned neutrally, this can reduce the tension from one’s shoulders. Ideally, this would also lead to reduced pain levels. This rule often applies to back ache as well, but getting a great mattress topper for back pain involves slightly different considerations. 

Side sleepers require a deeper hug, as their protruding body parts can press hard against the surface of the mattress. This is especially unpleasant when shoulder pain is involved. However, a soft mattress topper can help improve the situation. It would cradle the protruding shoulders and hips, giving them enough padding to feel comfortably hugged instead of being pressed against the sleeping surface. For side sleepers who want more information, check out the list of great mattress toppers for this sleeping style here.

As for stomach sleepers, they are usually advised to choose firmer mattress toppers. The thing is, when sleeping on the stomach, the back has to receive sturdy support in order to eliminate any unhealthy curvatures. In other words, the belly shouldn’t sink in, and the body has to remain in a straight line.

However, the rules may change a little for different weight categories. After all, firmness is subjective and would depend on the sleeper’s body type greatly. Thus, petite individuals (less than 130 pounds) need to go slightly softer for each sleeping style. Their body weight simply might not be enough to compress the mattress topper, so it may seem too firm to them.

As for heavier individuals (over 230 pounds), they typically require sturdier support, which means larger folks need to go a bit firmer for every sleep position. This way, they will not sink all the way through the mattress topper.

Naturally, the topper firmness level should also correspond with the firmness of the mattress. For instance, average back sleepers who have an overly soft mattress can try adding a firm topper to create a medium sleeping surface. In other words, users need to keep in mind the final comfort level they are trying to achieve after combining the topper with their current mattress.

What Is the Best Thickness of a Mattress Topper for Shoulder Pain?

Shoulder pain mattress toppers vary in thickness and typically range between 1 and 4 inches. Now, choosing the needed topper height involves multiple factors. 

First of all, thicker toppers often can provide a deeper hug, which makes them ideal for shoulder pain sufferers who need more cradling. Additionally, taller mattress toppers are likelier to have a multilayered design, with soft cushioning on top and a supportive base. Therefore, such models are very likely to aid proper alignment and thus, might help relieve the tension from one’s painful shoulders.

Now, as for thin mattress toppers, they are typically more on the firmer side. Such toppers work well for stomach sleepers or back sleepers who prefer less of a give.

It’s also crucial to remember that the thickness of the topper should correspond with the weight of the sleeper. For example, petite users do not need overly thick toppers to enjoy proper support or enough of a hug. Just like that, a thicker topper would be more likely to offer decent support for heavier sleepers.

Overall, it might be a good idea for users with shoulder pain to get something at least 2 inches tall. However, shoppers shouldn’t forget about the firmness level as well. For instance, a stomach sleeper can get a thicker topper, but it still has to be firm.

Other Considerations to Make When Searching for the Best Topper for Shoulder Pain

Often, users disregard some of the aspects when shopping, as they may seem rather insignificant.

However, they can easily affect one’s experience with their new mattress topper. That’s why readers might want to check these considerations beforehand and keep them in mind while shopping:

  • Cooling. Overheating during sleep is especially common for side sleepers who use softer mattress toppers and sink in deeper into the material. This issue is also prevalent among heavier users. So, a cooling mattress topper could really help many users start sleeping better. In this case, they might want to give their preference to latex models. This material is naturally temperature-neutral and isn’t likely to retain heat. And for those who love memory foam, it might be a good idea to choose gel-infused models. Gel particles draw the excess heat away and lock it in to prevent night sweats. Open-cell foam toppers might also suffice, as they are more breathable.
  • Motion transfer. Sleeping with shoulder pain can often cause users to toss and turn, trying to find the least painful position. This can be a problem when sharing the bed with someone else. So, it would be wise to pick memory foam for those who don’t want to wake their partner up. This material moves very slowly after the pressure is applied. Therefore, it’s not going to bounce when there’s movement on one side of the bed. 
  • Warranty. In many cases, warranty coverage can be a sign of the topper’s quality. Therefore, the longer it is, the longer one’s mattress topper would be likely to serve. Now, the most common warranty for this bedroom accessory is 1 year. That being said, many manufacturers offer 5-year coverage, which is more preferable. 
  • Cover. Many toppers come without one. However, the ones that do often have zippered covers, which makes them much easier to clean. This could be an excellent solution for allergy-prone users, those who love having breakfast in bed, and couples who practice co-sleeping.
  • Fastening system. Again, shoulder pain can cause sleepers to move around a lot trying to find that spot where their shoulder bothers them the least. This can cause the mattress topper to shift, which can be very annoying. In this scenario, it would be a good idea to get a model with elastic straps. Adjustable ones are more convenient to use. Some toppers also work like a fitted sheet, which should suffice as well. However, users need to make sure that the pockets are deep enough to work with their mattress’s height.
  • Zoned design. Getting a zoned topper is not a necessity, but it can be very beneficial for shoulder pain sufferers. A zoned topper would support the body properly, offering sinkage exactly where it’s needed and keeping the rest of the body neutral (in a straight line). This could prevent tension accumulation, helping with pain levels as well.


What is the best mattress topper for shoulder pain?

Memory foam and latex mattress toppers are considered to be the best ones to relieve shoulder pain. However, the best topper would be the one that corresponds with the user’s weight and sleeping style.

Is memory foam good for side sleepers with shoulder pain?

Yes, memory foam mattress toppers usually work great for side sleepers with shoulder pain. Memory foam can gently cradle the aching shoulder and redistribute the pressure evenly to the rest of the body. This often leads to pain alleviation.

Can a mattress topper cause shoulder pain to aggravate?

Yes. This could potentially happen in two scenarios: when the topper is either too soft or too firm. In the first case, an overly plush mattress topper can cause the body to fall into misalignment, as it won’t be able to support it properly. This, in its turn, can lead to tension build-up and aggravated pain. And when a mattress topper is overly stiff, it can crash against the aching shoulder and thus, make it hurt even more.

Wrapping Up

A mattress topper is a simple instrument, but it can become a real salvation for someone with shoulder pain.

To get the most out of it, shoppers need to make sure they pick the firmness level and the topper height suited for their body type and favorite sleep position. Additionally, they need to pay attention to the materials. Each topper type has its specific characteristics that may work for (or annoy) different users.

How long have you been dealing with shoulder pain? And have you ever tried sleeping with a mattress topper to relieve the pain? Let us know in the comments!


  1. Aaron West (July 12, 2021). Choosing the best type of mattress topper. Retrieved from

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