8 Benefits Of Acupressure Mats To Take Your Health To The Next Level
As a functional medicine practitioner, it’s my job to stay up-to-date on the latest wellness tools. And while acupressure is something that has been around for years (not just decades - we’re talking hundreds of years!) it is now gaining popularity as an at-home wellness therapy.
But how can acupressure mat use benefit your health? Let’s dive into all the benefits and tips you need to know when it comes to this simple, yet effective, healing tool.
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What is acupressure?
Not to be confused with acupuncture, acupressure utilizes the same concepts as acupuncture but without invasive needles. Instead, this complementary therapy targets pressure points on various areas of your body that work to stimulate your central nervous system (CNS) for a wide-range of health benefits.
What are acupressure mats?
Acupressure is typically done manually by a trained physician who is experienced in locating the appropriate pressure points on your body. But instead of always having to make an appointment for this therapy, an acupressure mat allows you to take advantage of acupressure from the comfort of your own home.
These textured mats are lined with pointy plastic spikes and are designed for you to sit or lie down on for a set amount of time without puncturing your skin. In addition to mats, you can find pillows and foot pads that you can stand on for more targeted therapy.
Acupressure mat benefits
While more research needs to be done on the benefits of acupressure mats, emerging studies have given us a glimpse into how acupressure can help elevate our health, specifically in the following areas:
- Neck pain (1)
- Stress (2)
- Depression + anxiety (3)
- Insomnia (4)
- Fibromyalgia pain (1)
- Chronic headaches + migraines (1)
- Chronic back pain (1)
- Increased self-esteem
Studies are looking at the exact mechanisms by which acupressure influences these health problems, but as of right now, researchers believe it has to do with the release of endorphins. When you lay on an acupressure mat, your body feels just enough pain to encourage a release of endorphins that have been linked to everything from improved mood, alleviated stress, and reduced pain.
How long do acupressure mats take to work?
Since endorphins are released right away when using acupressure mats, chances are high that you’ll experience some immediate benefits. However, with most wellness tools, consistency is key when it comes to sustainable, long-lasting results with 20 minutes being the recommended amount of time you should lay on your mat each session.
Acupressure vs acupuncture and massage
Even though acupressure mats are great for home use, they are not meant to replace appointments with trained professionals - especially for acupuncture and massage. Not only will your practitioner tailor your session to your particular needs, they are trained in identifying underlying health problems and using their expertise to aid in your specific health case.
Plus, acupuncture, massage therapy, cupping, and other therapies all have their own unique clinically-backed benefits that might be more aligned with your health problems than acupressure. With that being said, acupressure mats can be used in between regular appointments as part of a comprehensive wellness plan.
Tips for using acupressure mats
Follow these best practices when starting to use acupressure mats:
1. Cover up
Even though the spikes on acupressure mats aren’t meant to puncture your skin, they are still really sharp. To mitigate any pain when first starting out, wear long sleeve pants, shirts, and socks until your body gets used to the sensation.
2. Be conscious of your time
Laying on an acupressure mat for too long can cause damage, irritation, and bruising on your skin. So how long should you lay on an acupressure mat? You shouldn’t use an acupressure mat for more than 30 minutes. As a beginner, start off slow and listen to your body before increasing your time.
3. Incorporate breathwork
If acupressure mats are uncomfortable at first, breathwork can help you relax while amplifying the benefits of acupressure at the same time. Take slow, deep breaths and use this time as a meditation.
4. Start with a soft surface
Placing the acupressure mat on a softer surface like a bed instead of a hard, flat floor can mitigate the intensity of the pressure which can be beneficial if you are more sensitive to the sensation of acupressure. Once you get used to the sensation, you can move the acupressure mat to the floor.
5. Be consistent
Using your acupressure mat on a regular basis will help you get used to the sensation quicker and allow you to reap the most benefits out of your mat.
Types of mats
When looking to purchase an acupressure mat, you can spend as little or as much as you want depending on the type of materials and other items included with your purchase. Here are a few things to consider when choosing your acupressure mat.
The biggest determining factor of the price of your acupressure mat is the materials it is made out of. Eco-friendly materials are going to cost more than synthetic materials. If you aren’t sure if you are going to like using an acupressure mat, you can start off with a cheaper option and invest if you notice it is something that moves the needle in your health case.
Do you want a full body mat, a pillow, or just something you can stand on? Your height and desired use will determine how big of an acupressure mat you might want to purchase.
Acupressure mats vary on the number of spikes and style. A mat is likely to be more comfortable if it has more spikes on it. But it can also be more expensive!
These are the brands I recommend if you are looking to try an acupressure mat for yourself:
Made with high-quality materials free of dyes and toxic glues, Pranamat includes both a mat and a pillow to target all areas of your body. This option is on the more expensive side, but it is worth the investment for a non-toxic acupressure mat that will last for years.
Made with coconut fiber and memory foam, this pillow and mat set comes with its own carrier and is a perfect option for those who want to invest a little more on an acupressure mat while still being budget conscious.
Not so sure you want to invest in an acupressure mat just yet? This pillow, mat, and carrier set is $40 on Amazon and allows you to experience the full benefits of acupressure without the big payout.
Who shouldn’t use acupressure mats
In general, acupressure mats are safe for most people however, if you have issues with poor circulation, are on medication, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk with your doctor before using an acupressure mat. And if you have an open wound, it’s best to avoid acupressure mats altogether to limit the risk of infection or irritation from the spikes.
Studies surrounding acupressure mat benefits are limited, but the anecdotal evidence that I have seen in my telehealth functional medicine clinic speaks volumes. If you are struggling with chronic back or neck pain, headaches, or stress, acupressure mats are a natural tool to add to your routine to enhance your physical and emotional wellbeing without breaking the bank.
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- Chen, Ya-Wen, and Hsiu-Hung Wang. “The effectiveness of acupressure on relieving pain: a systematic review.” Pain management nursing : official journal of the American Society of Pain Management Nurses vol. 15,2 (2014): 539-50. doi:10.1016/j.pmn.2012.12.00
- Yildirim, Dilek, and Özlem Akman. “The Effect of Acupressure on Clinical Stress Management in Nursing Students: A Randomised Controlled Study.” Journal of acupuncture and meridian studies vol. 14,3 (2021): 95-101. doi:10.51507/j.jams.2021.14.3.95
- Hmwe, Nant Thin Thin et al. “The effects of acupressure on depression, anxiety and stress in patients with hemodialysis: a randomized controlled trial.” International journal of nursing studies vol. 52,2 (2015): 509-18. doi:10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2014.11.002
- Yeung, Wing-Fai et al. “Self-administered acupressure for insomnia disorder: a pilot randomized controlled trial.” Journal of sleep research vol. 27,2 (2018): 220-231. doi:10.1111/jsr.12597
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.
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