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With many individuals seeking alternative methods for pain relief, tools such as acupressure mats are increasing in popularity. As with all things healthcare, there are many pain relief options to consider. This makes it difficult to know which products and treatments are most beneficial. As an occupational therapist, I’ll highlight what you need to know about acupressure mats, including a few acupressure mats worth considering!
What is acupressure?
The use of acupressure is based on acupuncture, which is the process of inserting small, single-use needles in the skin over acupuncture points. Insertion of these needles in specific points serves to relieve pain, inflammation, and other symptoms in the body.
Acupressure is a treatment which uses pressure rather than needles to stimulate those same points (Acupuncture Today, 2017). The use of tools such as acupressure mats allows for multiple points to be targeted at the same time, bringing increased and sustained pain relief, if used appropriately.
What are the benefits of acupressure?
Similar to acupuncture, the benefits of acupressure include the following:
- Relieving stress, tension, and anxiety
- Improving sleep
- Relaxing muscles and joints
- Soothing pain and discomfort of an injury
- Reducing digestive issues
- Minimizing headaches
- Alleviating chronic pain
These areas of relief come from acupressure’s impact on the circulatory, lymphatic, immune, and endocrine systems of the body by improving each organ system’s ability to heal itself (Acupuncture Massage College, 2017).
Claims of acupressure mats make the product quite alluring to a variety of individuals, as the mats can be used by those wanting to improve their current state of health or by those simply wishing to try something new to maintain their well-being.
Research states Chinese medicine has identified around 2,000 pressure points in the body for the purposes of acupuncture and acupressure treatments (Acupuncture Today, 2017).
Are acupressure mats right for you?
- A size that fits most body types
- Has a good impact on relaxation
- Versatility for use on many body parts
- Is significantly less expensive than traditional acupuncture
- Lack of intensity range (it would have been good to have the option of lower intensity mats for those who cannot tolerate as many pressure points)
- The number of pressure points in general (it is an overwhelming number for those who are beginners to the concept)
How much do acupressure mats cost?
These products are very affordable! The mats are also quite durable, making this a good deal for a product which will seemingly receive much use. The average cost of the acupressure mats on the market is between $20 – $35.
As compared to receiving acupuncture or acupressure from a trained professional, or receiving costly pain relief methods such as injections or surgeries, the price is unparalleled. This makes it a worthwhile investment for someone looking for alternative methods of pain relief and relaxation.
A few acupressure mats to consider
Honestly, there are a number of acupressure mats on the market! With this in mind, below I’ll review 4 of the best acupressure mats, including my personal experience.
ProsourceFit and Black Mountain Products Acupressure Mat and Pillow Set
Both the ProsourceFit and Black Mountain Products Acupressure Mats are made of 100% cotton. They also have 6,210 mat pressure points and 1,782 pillow pressure points. ProsourceFit comes in 7 colors while Black Mountain Products comes in 2.
According to ProSourceFit, the benefits of their acupressure mat include:
- Stimulating feel-good endorphins
- Promoting blood circulation
- Reducing pain and muscle tension
- Inducing stress relief
- Increasing energy
- Improving sleep
Also, ProSourceFit specifically notes the recommended usage for each part of the body as follows:
- Neck and back for 10-20 minutes (beginners) or 45 minutes (advanced users)
- Chest and abdominal for 10-20 minutes
- Lower back and buttocks for 10-30 minutes
- Legs for 10-15 minutes
- Feet for 5-10 minutes
On the other hand, Black Mountain Products states the benefits of their acupressure mat include:
- Healing of the body and the mind to assist with blood flow
- Muscle relaxation
- Pain relief
- Joint pain
- Deep relaxation
While the stated benefits of these mats are more general than the benefits of true acupressure, they definitely serve a purpose for those seeking relief from general aches and pains.
They are both portable, easy to clean, and able to be used quite discreetly in any recreation or fitness environment or your own home. Even better, both mats are affordable, costing only $19.99 plus shipping.
Nspire Fit Acupressure Mat
Like the mats mentioned above, the Nspire Fit Acupressure Mat is 100% cotton, has a similar appearance, and contains thousands of pressure points. It also contains a pillow and comes in 7 colors.
Nspire Fit claims the use of their mat will do the following:
- Improve energy and circulation
- Promote muscle relaxation
- Improve pain relief
Advantages of the Nspire Fit mat include:
- Ergonomic design
- The base is made of cotton
- Good for any body part
- Easily portable
Less expensive than the mats, the Nspire Fit mat is $14.99.
Purchase the Nspire Fit Acupressure Mat on Walmart
Sivan Acupressure Mat
The Sivan Acupressure Mat is highly rated and feels like more of a vinyl or plastic, rather than cotton. Furthermore, the company makes a general mention that their mat contains “thousands of acupressure points”.
Sivan also notes the use of their mat will:
- Improve sleep
- Relieve stress
- Decrease aches and pains
- Relieve muscle tension
- Improve blood circulation and energy levels
Advantages of the Sivan mat include:
- The base is made of vinyl (or plastic)
- Good for any body part
- Can use for meditation or muscle pains
Priced at $22.29, the Sivan Acupressure Mat is the most expensive reviewed.
Purchase the Sivan Acupressure Mat on Amazon!
My personal experience using acupressure mats
After regular mat use for over a week, I noticed an improvement in the tension I usually hold in my upper neck. I also became less sensitive to the intensity of the pressure points as the week went on, which served as a reassuring source of relief rather than slightly intolerable.
Honestly, this may be due to the psychological effect of laying down, as this is typically how I meditate and relax. Laying down is naturally a position of comfort and rest for me so this does meet the standard of working to relieve the body and the mind.
Being there is a large discrepancy between the number of acupressure points in the body and the number of pressure points on the mats, it makes sense to say these mats are not targeting each acupressure point specifically, nor are they isolating any points. Therefore, the use of these mats will not guarantee relief in one specific, local area of the body.
However, the distribution of the points on the mat allows for widespread contact with larger parts of the body. This can greatly assist in breaking up tension and stiffness resulting from minor injuries, lifestyle choices, or general muscle aches.
With this in mind, the likelihood of such acupressure mats making a large improvement in old injuries or chronic pain is not good. The best use of these mats would be to assist in stretching after a workout, to relieve lower or upper body tension in those who sit or stand all day at work, and to assist in meditation or yoga practices.
Important things to consider
It is important to be mindful of the recommended times for each part of the body, as some areas are more sensitive than others. For example, ProSourceFit recommends use on the feet for only 5-10 minutes, as there are many acupressure points on the feet and prolonged use over multiple sessions can have negative side effects. Therefore, methods other than acupressure mats should be sought for persistent foot pain.
As mentioned earlier, this is likely a good choice to relieve minor aches and pains, along with general bodily stiffness rather than chronic pain affecting multiple body parts. Those experiencing any pain of this nature should aim to seek more targeted treatment from a trained rehabilitation professional.
What has your experience been like with using acupressure mats? Leave your feedback in the comments below!