Mattress topper for chronic pain and MCS, plus size

Hi glitterhumamn99,

Glad to have you back on our Mattress Forum! :slight_smile:

I’ve used Mattress Underground before but it’s been a bit, as I’ve mostly been happy with my mattress needs. I’m grateful for all the education I got here on toxic sleep products and how to switch to healthier options.
I currently have a 2-year-old queen size Avocado green mattress with a “pillowtop.” I have pillowtop in quotes because it’s still quite firm even with this addition

The (13") Avocado Green hybrid-latex Pillow-Top is a well-built durable mattress. While it is advertised as having a gentle-firm comfort level, many people still find it too firm. Part of this has to do with the mattress being tufted adds some extra tightness resulting in a firmer feel. The latex underneath will be held in place and compressed more at the points of tufting. It isn’t too common for latex to be tufted in a mattress, as this usually would take away some of the buoyancy and point elasticity that people are seeking with latex.

This said your larger BMI and “apple” body shape will cause you to go through the softer comfort layers and bottom out onto firmer support layers below. People with fibromyalgia condition need thicker and soft enough comfort and transition layers. You are on the right track with adding a topper to the mattress for more pressure point relief. You did not mention what your sleeping position is as this will affect the topper thickness you need (you may want to review the Sleeping positions & your sleeping style & stats articles before you decide on the thickness and firmness level).

The recommendations you received from the CS agents may be correct in the sense that generally, thickness, softness, and sleeper BMI are interdependent. All being the same, a thicker mattress will feel softer to higher BMI range sleepers. As you add the topper and mattress thickness increases and it will feel softer. This said you have many other criteria so I’ll be doing my best to point out some things to factor into your decision.

  • A Higher BMI individual will exert more mechanical stress and wear out the uppermost layers much faster. So, durability and alignment over time may be an issue. The foam will start breaking down and creating some virtual impressions that will eventually lead to spinal misalignment and back pains.
  • Your fibromyalgia condition creates some complications and unfortunately, there is no specific configuration or type of mattress that is "good for fibromyalgia or connective tissue disorder " because each person is unique, and a mattress that works well for one person with a specific condition such as fibromyalgia may be completely unsuitable for someone else with the same condition to sleep on. In very general terms, softer and more pressure-relieving materials that provide a more “relaxed” sleeping surface will tend to work better than firmer materials because for most people with fibromyalgia or connective tissue disorders a softer more pressure-relieving sleeping surface is a more important priority. The pressure point threshold level does vary with individuals, as well as varying day to day.
  • Even though your geneticist “told you” to get a memory foam topper you’d need to weigh in the need for pressure relief and your Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). I am guessing that his recommendation may be based on the “general knowledge” that memory foam is great for pressure relief and is often used in the healthcare industry to help patients recover after major accidents. In this respect, you may want to consider latex (Talalay or Dunlop) instead of memory foam. You’d need to ask your geneticist whether his recommendation was based on something else other than pressure point relief considerations.
  • Latex and wool have been popular combinations mentioned overtime on the forum to help with fibromyalgia, but again everyone is different. A forum search on fibromyalgia (you can just click the link) will also bring up more comments and feedback from others that are in similar circumstances that may be helpful
  • 2 years of sleeping on your latex mattress, seemed to have passed the test for your MCS condition. If you get a “green light” from your geneticist, the next consideration is about latex’s pressure-relieving qualities vs memory foam…again the choice of materials is a personal preference. Memory foam’s greatest advantage is generally considered to be its ability to distribute and relieve pressure. This does not mean however that it is dramatically better than other materials. There are other types of rubber/foam like latex or even high-quality polyfoam that in their softer versions through compression alone are very close to memory foam in their ability to distribute pressure to levels below personal detection for most people.
  • You are correct, memory foam is certainly the most frequently mentioned as being the source of unpleasant MCS reactions, VOCs, and odors. This is made even more complicated by the fact that each memory foam manufacturer makes their memory foam with a different formulation and some people may be sensitive to one type of memory foam but not another or even one batch of memory foam and not another.
  • These types of issues are complex and are generally specific to each person and their individual sensitivities, circumstances, criteria, lifestyle choices, and even beliefs.
  • Latex, on the other hand, can be purchased in ILDs from as low as 14 (Xsoft), similar to memory foam, and it has comparable pressure relieving qualities to memory foam as well due to its ability to form itself to the exact shape of your body profile while you are sleeping and to do this instantly, instead of “by degrees” as memory foam does. Some downside to it latex is that in lower densities a higher BMI individual will wear the topper much faster. You can address this by replacing it with a new one at regular intervals.

I talked with some customer service agents on a few sites but they were recommending firmer options due to my weight. I need pressure relief, though, not just firmness!

  • Another issue you may encounter is that in a 14 ILD firmness at your BMI you will go right through it this topper and bottom out onto the firmer surface below. This is probably why the CS reps are suggesting a firmer comfort option.
  • All the above considerations apply to your pillow selection ( latex vs memory foam. The pillow is very important as well as part of your sleeping setup.
  • One other disadvantage you may have with memory foam is that it tends to sleep hot for most people. This means that you can also absorb any of the VOC and other chemicals much faster. Latex is the most breathable and temperature neutral of all types of foams.
  • For your MCS I’d also consider the topper covers and bedding you are using as these are closer to your skin and any chemicals or pesticides may leech out. I’d make sure that cover and bedding fabrics are 100% GOTS certified. Cotton is soft and breathable. Even though it’s not as good as wool at wicking moisture it still does a good job of maintaining a good degree of coolness. I’d avoid in your case polyester blends with cotton.)

All of this said, generally, nothing can replace your own personal testing, especially with specific health considerations. You’d obviously want to consider something that allows for enough surface comfort while sleeping upon your side and back, and also assists with pressure point relief, while still overall being resilient enough and providing enough support while sleeping. Overall, the two basic functions of a mattress are to support and to provide comfort, with alignment being the first priority and then comfort coming second.

Here’s my problem: it’s always been too firm, and it’s not doing any favors for my multiple chronic illnesses, including fibromyalgia and some back pain/misalignment. I’ve mostly just not dealt with it further because I also have MCS, which means I cannot use any toxic materials in my bedding at all–nothing with any kind of VOC/offgassing. I had a wool topper at one point but it didn’t provide the relief I needed–plus I have night sweats and it didn’t properly breathe with that.

I mostly addressed this issue earlier in this thread and while there may be memory foams that are ‘greener’ and which you may find suitable as a pressure relief layer, of course with the MCS diagnosis, it’s important to make sure that none of the chemicals you are sensitive to are contained in the foam or mattress components or used in their processing. Even if you find exactly what you are sensitive to this can still be a problem as many of the major manufacturers do not disclose this information. You can read more about VOC and off-gassing in this post (Lowest VOC off gassing foam companies?) and the links it leads to.

But last month I got a diagnosis of a connective tissue disorder and my geneticist has told me I have to get a memory foam topper and pillow.
Does anyone know if there are non-toxic or less toxic/organic memory foam options (that are truly this, and not just advertised that way)? And/or does anyone have recoommendations of what can offer the level of pressure relief memory foam does, but organic/non-toxic/otherwise MCS friendly?

You can look over the Trusted Members of the site offering green and organic items. If you know the specific chemicals you are sensitive to I’d check out Magic Sleeper has a 2" convoluted gel foam topper, then Oklahoma Mattress Company has a number of foam mattress toppers of differing density, thickness, and materials as well as Naturally Nestled who carry several organic and natural toppers. Also, Essentia has an ‘organic foam topper’ discussed in this post

If you make a ‘checklist’ of chemicals and compounds you need to avoid due to the MCS, it would just take some time to contact these manufacturers to see what they can tell you about their toppers…if they can’t answer, cross that off the list. You have very specific requirements and there’s no shortcut to doing the research to find a topper that will hopefully help with your health conditions.

To recap you need to address several interrelated issues

  • Topper added to your current avocado green mattress for more comfort.
  • Latex vs Memory foam choice
  • No VOC or off-gassing of chemicals you are sensitive to
  • Toper firm enough to have good support and spinal alignment
  • Topper soft enough to address fibromyalgia and connective tissue disorder.
  • Organic covers and bedding for MCS
  • Temperature-neutral materials and foams for sleeping hot.
  • Most of the green and organic toppers available are made of latex. This would help with your ‘sleeping hot’ issue

All in all, you have some more leg work to do but if you approach this methodically and eliminate one variable at a time, you’d have the best chances of success.
Good luck and I’d be very interested in any updates you might have on your progress.


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