If you’ve seen one acupressure mat, have you seen them all? Acupressure is an ancient healing technique which is seeing a boost in popularity thanks to growing awareness of a product called the acupressure mat. This at-home treatment is said to reduce muscle pain, gastrointestinal issues, insomnia, feelings of stress and more.
Shopping for an acupressure mat can be confusing, especially considering there’s really no other product like it. Here’s your complete guide to shopping for an acupressure mat, including what features to look for when differentiating between different brands.
You might have heard of an acupressure mat referred to as a “bed of nails.” While that description is technically accurate, it’s also far more dramatic than necessary. An acupuncture mat for at-home use is very different from the literal bed of nails found in old-time circuses and sideshows.
An acupressure mat uses needles (or “spikes”) made from commercial-grade ABS plastic. These needles are arranged in small circles, with about a dozen spikes to a circle. The entire mat is covered with circles. A typical acupressure mat has six to seven thousand acupressure spikes.
The spikes aren’t sharp enough to pierce the skin. But the mat can comfortably support a person’s entire body weight thanks to the properties of weight distribution. This allows for directed pressure against specific points throughout the body.
Acupressure treatments have been around for thousands of years. Treatments involve putting blunt pressure against specific points throughout the body. Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, only the acupressure needles don’t break the skin while acupuncture needles do.
The specific points in the body which are targeted are called pressure points. They’re connected to what ancient health practitioners called meridians. These invisible channels connect various vital parts of the body, such as clusters of organs.
A powerful life energy called Chi flows through the body, using these meridians as routes of travel. Manipulating different pressure points directs Chi to specific areas of the body. Increasing the presence of Chi helps the body repair problems and increase healthy function.
Of course, some people have a hard time believing in concepts like meridians and energy flow. Interestingly, Western medicine dismisses most of these concepts but still recognizes the acupressure and acupuncture offer legitimate health benefits. The prevailing Western theory is that stimulating these pressure points signals the body to release pain-relieving hormones while also increasing blood flow.
Pain relief is probably the most common condition treated by acupressure techniques. Chronic pain conditions such as arthritis, sciatica, fibromyalgia and similar conditions often respond well to acupressure. Temporary injuries such as sprains can heal faster, too.
Stomach and digestive issues are also commonly treated with acupressure. Improved digestion, reduced nausea and even weight loss are all potential benefits. Can also be used to treat sea and air sickness.
Acupressure mats also help reduce stress. This can lead to better sleep, clearer thinking and an overall great sense of happiness. Once you become accustomed to using the mat, don’t be surprised if extended use will help you fall into a deep sleep.
Note that when shopping for an acupressure mat, you don’t need to focus too much on what problems you want to treat. A quality mat will be able to target any pressure points you wish.
Start slowly. The key to safely using an acupressure mat is steady moderation. Your muscles and skin need at least a few days to adapt to the sensation.
First, you’ll want to limit the pressure applied to the mat. Drape it over a chair or the edge of a couch. Sit up straight against the mat. This allows you plenty of control over the pressure. If the needles feel too uncomfortable, you can simply lean forward. Use the mat in this way for about 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
You’ll likely feel some mild irritation when you’re finished using the mat. You’ll probably have many small impressions dotting your back. Plus, your skin will probably be red and itchy or sore. These symptoms will lessen in severity and duration as you continue to use the mat.
Next, you’re ready to try laying down on your back. Place the mat on your couch or bed. Lay down on the mat in one smooth, relatively quick motion. You don’t want to put too much of your weight on any small section, as that increases the direct pressure against your skin. Lay down for about 20 to 30 minutes. The cushioning effect of the mattress or sofa will help keep you comfortable.
The final way to use an acupressure mat is the most intense. Instead of a couch or bed, you’ll place the mat directly on the floor. This might be painful for the first few minutes, but soon you should feel a warming, tingling sensation. Over time, this will feel incredibly comfortable.
If you’re new to using an acupressure mat, it can be hard to know what’s a normal sensation and what’s an indication of a problem. Minor soreness, redness and shallow indentations on your skin are generally normal.
But any discomfort beyond the level of “mild sunburn,” or which lasts more than a few days, could be an indication of a problem. You’ll want to stop using the mat and consult with your doctor. You might have an underlying medical condition you need to be aware of.
Generally, the more you use the mat, the more comfortable it should feel. Each time should be at least a bit more comfortable than the previous use. As long as you’re continued to see improvements, any discomfort felt is probably normal.
Most acupressure mats don’t seem all that different from one another. You’ll need to look carefully at a few different characteristics when considering what to buy. Specifically, focus in on the:
Avoid synthetic materials and instead choose a mat with a cotton covering. This helps the mat stay cool while also wicking sweat away from your body. You also want the interior foam material to be non-toxic and plant-based.
ABS plastic is the most common material used to make the acupoints. This is a non-toxic material safe for skin. In fact, it’s the very same material used to make Legos. Avoid any mats which use glue to attach the mat. This glue has smell bad during use and also can wear away with exposure to sweat. Instead, look for needles which are woven into the fabric.
Acupressure mats vary in size but most are no longer than mid-thigh. Typically, if you want to target both your back and lower legs you’ll want to use two different sessions. Using two mats at the same time can be dangerous when sitting up from the mat, as you’ll have no reachable surface area free from needles.
Mats should wide enough to accommodate the entire width of your shoulders. This typically isn’t an issue for most people.
Most acupressure mats roll up just like a yoga mat. The sharp area will be on the interior, which makes carrying the rolled-up mat easy. Many mats also include a carrying case or bag.
Usually, a 30 or 60-day warranty isn’t enough. Adjusting to the mat will take some time. You won’t really understand the quality of the mat until weeks of advanced use (where the mat is on the floor).
Acupressure benefits are often the result of long-term, regular use. So you want a durable mat built to last for years – and a warranty to reflect that.
Not really, but pregnancy does carry certain unique risks when using acupressure techniques. Specifically, avoid pressure points in the hands, feet and lower torso. Manipulating these points can induce labor, which can be dangerous if you’re not ready to actually go into labor.
Consult with your doctor about what role, if any, acupressure treatments should play in your pregnancy. Generally, acupressure isn’t recommended after the first three months. However, sometimes acupressure can play an important role during a rough delivery, but only when administered by a trained professional.
All acupressure mats are definitely not the same. However, they do tend to all look very similar, consisting of multiple circles attached to a thin foam mat. In order to find the best mat, you’ll want to look carefully at the materials used, overall construction and available warranty.
Acupressure mats don’t work wonders overnight. They require daily commitment to produce long-lasting changes in pain levels and overall health. By taking the time to select the best mat for your needs, you’ll be able to prevent problems and conquer chronic health issues.