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Acupressure mats are designed to produce similar results as acupressure massage.
From Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupressure is a technique used to release blocked chi (Qi), or energy, throughout the body. Once these blockages are removed, pain may be reduced or completely alleviated.
Acupressure mats contain several hundred plastic points which apply pressure to many acupressure points in the back. There are also acupressure pillows which can be used on the neck, head, hands, or feet.
There isn’t a large body of research on acupressure mats specifically, although
Acupressure mats themselves haven’t been studied extensively for their potential benefits. Since these mats work similarly to acupressure and acupuncture — by stimulating pressure points along the meridians of the body — they may provide the same or similar types of benefits.
Acupressure mats can take some getting used to. The spikes are sharp and can cause discomfort or pain for several minutes, before they start to warm up the body and feel good.
To get maximum results, use the mat each day for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Remember to breathe and practice consciously relaxing your body.
- Choose the surface to put it on. Beginners often use the mat spread out on a bed or sofa. Intermediate and experienced users may move their mats onto the floor.
- Try sitting on it. You can also sit on or against the mat in a chair, so that your butt and lower back have direct contact.
- Start out with a layer between yourself and the mat. Wearing a light shirt or placing a thin fabric over the spikes may help you acclimate to the feeling of the mat. Users report that they get the best results when the mat is in contact with their bare skin, but don’t feel the need to go shirt-off right away.
- Lie down slowly. Lie down with your weight evenly distributed on the mat. This will help you avoid injury from the points.
- Reposition yourself carefully. Don’t fidget or move around on the mat, as you may more readily pierce or scratch your skin that way.
- Use consistently. Mats take getting used to, but really seem to work for many people. If this product appeals to you, stick with it and give it time to work.
- Mat spikes can pierce the skin, especially when the mats are used incorrectly. To avoid wounds or infection, don’t use an acupressure mat if you have thin skin, diabetes, or poor circulation.
- Most acupressure mat manufacturers don’t recommend using them while pregnant.
- Don’t use an acupressure mat to induce labor. Acupressure for labor should only be done under a medical professional’s supervision.
- Babies, toddlers, and small children should not use acupressure mats.
- If you have high or low blood pressure, talk to your doctor before using.
- Acupressure mats shouldn’t be used instead of medical treatments or prescribed medications.
Acupressure mats are all very similar in design and tend to cost anywhere between $20–$60. The difference in cost is sometimes associated with extra bells and whistles, such as storage bags. The fabric used to make the mat may also be a factor.
In general, more expensive is not necessarily the same as more effective.
Most of the mats we looked at had the same or a similar amount of acupressure spikes, which is the most important criteria you should consider when purchasing.
If you’re ready to try an acupressure mat, these two have very high customer reviews, are made from quality materials, and come from reliable manufacturers.
ProSource Fit Acupressure Mat and Pillow Set
- Key features. This mat set is made from plant-based foam and thick cotton. The mat is full-sized and contains 6,210 plastic spikes. The pillow provides an additional 1,782 spikes. The set is available in several different colors.
- Considerations. Users bemoan the lack of a carrying case or storage bag for the mat, but rave about its pain-alleviating abilities. The cotton cover is removable and can be hand washed. Do not place in a commercial washer or dryer.
- Price: $
- Available to buy online.
Nayoya Acupressure Mat and Neck Pillow Set
- Key features. The Nayoya is slightly smaller in size than the ProSource Fit, but has exactly the same number of plastic spikes (6,210 spikes on the mat and 1,782 points on the pillow). It’s made from cotton and can be hand washed. The foam padding can be removed. It also comes with a nicely sized vinyl carrying case. As with just about every acupressure mat out there, it has the same design and is meant to be used the same way.
- Considerations. Users rave about their results, but also cite the cautions that users of all mats do. These are typically centered around the initial pain or discomfort caused at first by the spikes themselves.
- Price: $$
- Available to buy online.
Acupressure mats haven’t been studied extensively, although users rave about the reduction in pain and other symptoms they experience while using them.
If you have back or body pain, stress, or headaches, acupressure mats and pillows may be worth a try. They do, however, take some getting used to.
You can also consider trying acupressure massage or acupuncture. Sometimes working directly with a professional can be more effective and calming to boot.