buckling gel topper as good as full gel mattress like intellibed?

Hello, I have been reading through this site for hours and I’m so happy to have found such a wealth of unbiased information about mattresses. I have chronic back pain and need high quality support and pressure relief for all areas of my spine, hips and shoulders. The buckling gel material sounds very promising because of its reverse pressure properties. In checking out the intellibed, it looks like the gel component is just the top layer of the bed (under which is a foam layer and then a spring coil layer). I am wondering if, in theory, you could get the same buckling gel benefits from just using the topper over a supportive latex foam mattress. I live in Norfolk, VA and see that Cozy Pure is located here and has a nice looking latex mattress. I like that this is a mattress I can try out locally, but I also think the buckling gel might be a really good thing for my back. So would a gel topper give me that benefit or is it not thick enough? For background, I am currently sleeping on a 7 year old tempurpedic mattress. I love that the surface is smooth and flat and the edges are as supportive as the middle (since my husband is often relegated to his edge when my back is acting up!). Unfortunately, I just haven’t felt comfortable or supported on it for the past few years. There are uncomfortable pressure points at my hips and shoulders when I sleep on my side and I generally feel out of alignment after a nights sleep. Any thoughts are very much appreciated! TIA

Hi burntsienna,

Intellibed’s intelligel is just one of several versions of buckling column gel that are available in the market with similar properties. The others are SomniGel and Orthogel/Nexgel. They are all very durable materials. There is more information about them in this article and in post #2 here and the posts it links to. A forum search on “buckling column gel” (you can just click the link) will also bring up more comments and feedback about them as well.

In very general terms they all use some type of thin foam layer on top of the buckling column gel to even out the feel of the material and they can be used as a comfort layer on top of any other combination of materials and components that are used as transition or support layers (such as polyfoam, latex, or innersprings). In the case of the Intellibed mattresses they all use a linked innerspring for support.

I would keep in mind that there isn’t a single material or component that will help with back pain because all the layers and components of a mattress will affect all the other layers and components above and below it and the mattress as a whole so one mattress with a buckling column gel component may work perfectly for you in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences) while another mattress that uses the same buckling column gel component in a different design with a different combination of materials and components may be completely unsuitable for you to sleep on.

When you have a history of back issues then the most important factor in choosing a mattress that keeps your spine and joints in good alignment and allows your muscles to completely relax when you are sleeping (so the mattress is doing the work of keeping you in alignment over the course of the night instead of your muscles) but the choice of materials or components is more of a preference issue than a “better/worse” issue. There are too many unknowns, variables, and personal preferences involved for anyone to be able to use a formula or specs (either yours or a mattress) to predict with certainty whether any mattress or mattress/topper combination will work well for you and the only way to know whether any mattress or mattress/topper combination will be a good “match” for you is based on your own actual experience.

There is more about primary or “deep” support and secondary or “surface” support and their relationship to firmness and pressure relief and the “roles” of different layers in a mattress in post #2 here and in post #4 here that may also be helpful in clarifying the difference between “support/alignment” and “pressure relief” and “feel”.

All of this is just a way to say that a buckling column gel topper may be better, the same, or worse on a particular mattress as the same component inside a mattress itself or than a mattress that uses different materials and components completely and the only way to know for certain will be based on your actual sleeping experience.

As you probably know Cozy Pure is one of the members of the site which means I think highly of them and I believe that they compete well with the best in the industry in terms of their quality, value, service, and transparency. Their Organic Comfort Zone mattress are also zoned and this can also be helpful with more challenging body types or difficult circumstances. If they are local to you they would certainly be well worth a visit. Again though … the only way to know for certain whether any combination of materials or components in a mattress or sleeping system will work well for you “as a whole” will be based on your own personal testing or sleeping experience. Whether any specific component is either thick enough or soft/firm enough as a topper will depend on the specifics of your body type, sleeping style, preferences, and on the specifics of the mattress underneath it.

If your mattress is still in good condition and there are no soft spots or visible impressions and all you need is some additional pressure relief and softness then a topper can certainly be a good solution and there is more information about choosing a topper in post #2 here and the topper guidelines it links to that can help you use your sleeping experience as a reference point and guideline to help you choose the type, thickness, and firmness for a topper that has the least possible risk and the best chance for success. It also includes a link to a list of some of the better online sources for toppers I’m aware of as well.