Acupuncture or acupressure treatments may not always be possible or convenient. Such treatments typically last an hour and benefits are generally not achievable after only one session. In general, the cost of a session ranges from $75 to more than $150.
Acupressure mats are an inexpensive and convenient alternative to expensive and time consuming acupressure or acupuncture sessions. High quality acupressure mats generally cost less than $100. You can use an acupressure mat anywhere and anytime, whether you are at home, the office, or traveling. Acupressure mats are also very easy to use; you only need to rest your body on the mat and let gravity and the mat's needles stimulate the various acupoints on your body.
What is an Acupressure Mat?
Acupressure mats are foam or fibre mats that have thousands of acupoint needles generally grouped in discs and securely placed on top. The plastic acupoint discs are generally specially designed and positioned to stimulate various points on the body. Acupressure mats come in body-length sizes to ensure that they target many acupoints in the body. Smaller-sized mats and pillows are also available to target specific regions of the body.
Acupressure mats are based on the principles of acupuncture, one of the methods of treatment in traditional Chinese medicine that has been practiced for thousands of years. Acupuncture is based on the concept that the body contains thousands of acupoints. When these acupoints are stimulated it closes or opens the chi (the body’s life force or energy). In particular, stimulation of acupoints allows the flow of chi to be distributed through the regions of the body. When the flow of energy is blocked, it results in the manifestation of diseases or ailments.
Acupuncture is performed by inserting needles into the different acupoints of the body. Acupressure is the non-invasive form of acupuncture and also targets the same acupoints. Acupressure can be practiced by using the fingers to apply pressure and stimulate the various acupoints. Alternatively, spiked or pointed tools can also be used to apply pressure, including diagnostic sticks, hand rollers, foot rollers, and acupressure balls. These devices can be easily pressed on to an acupoint, grasped by the hand or rolled by the foot.
Acupressure mats replicate the sensation of acupressure and acupuncture. The mechanism underlying the acupressure mat can be traced to the bed of nails that Hindu yogis used to help them in meditation.
One of the earliest versions of the modern acupressure mat is the one that was created by Ivan Kuznetsov several decades ago.
Kuznetsov was a school teacher from Russia. One day, he was asked to treat the school building with insecticide. He performed the task without adequate protective gear, which resulted in him becoming poisoned by harmful chemicals. He suffered from chronic pain, impaired peripheral circulation, and intense muscle spasms which rendered him immobile for lengthy periods of time.
The doctors that Kuznetsov approached could not cure his ailments, and even declared he had a hopeless case. Despite the circumstances, Kuznetsov did not give up and looked for alternatives. He tried acupuncture and discovered that his condition improved. However, he found it too expensive and inconvenient to go to an acupuncture session regularly. He tried to perform acupuncture by himself but also found it too difficult to reach specific points on body, especially the back.
These challenges led Kuznetsov to devise a contraption that mimicked acupuncture. He achieved this by inserting office pins into a sheet of rubber tire, upon which he then lied down. With the pins evenly distributed on the sheet, the pins were able to support Kuznetsov’s weight. The pins did not pierce his skin and he was thereby able to experience the effects of an acupuncture treatment anytime he desired.
When Kuznetsov approached his doctors and had himself re-examined, they were surprised to discover that he was healed. They advised Kuznetsov to present his creation to the Ministry of Health in Moscow. However, his invention was rejected by the Ministry because of the lack of scientific research to support the claimed benefits of his device. Kuznetsov went on to give treatment to people who were also deemed hopeless by conventional medicine with the use of his invention and recorded his cases in his journals.
In 1980, Kuznetsov successfully received a patent for his invention. His device was officially called the Kuznetsov Ipplicator. However, Kuznetsov and a group of researchers found that the metal needles could not be used at home. They developed another version of the device, this time creating it from plastic shaped into spikes and carefully arranged in modules.
Health Benefits of Acupressure Mats
People who use acupressure mats generally report feeling more relaxed. Others report feeling relieved from their back and muscle pains. Some also say they experience an improved night’s sleep.
Other benefits experienced by those who have used acupressure mats include:
Soothed aches and pains;
Feeling more calm, possibly caused by the release of endorphins and oxytocin, or “feel-good” hormones;
Feeling more energized; and
Improved metabolism and digestion.
It is also believed that regularly using an acupressure mat can increase blood circulation. As a result, a person may be able to experience improved skin condition, encourage new cell growth, lower their heart rate, and support a stronger immune system and better mood.
Scientific Studies on Acupressure Mats
The study by Tanya Zilberter and Jim Roman is perhaps one of the most credited studies to explore the benefits of acupressure mats. A pilot study was conducted to assess the effects of mechanical stimulation of the skin. The study involved 200 participants who used their acupressure mats for at least two weeks. 95% of those who used acupressure mats reported experiencing positive results. Participants also answered questionnaires which demonstrated that 98% experienced pain relief, 96% felt relaxed, 94% reported improvement in the quality of their sleep, and 81% felt an increase in energy levels.
Another study by Saha et al. involved 91 participants who were advised to use acupressure mats daily for two weeks. The results showed that although there were no significant differences in pain intensity between the two weeks, there was immediate pain relief after use of the acupressure mats. The researchers concluded that acupressure mats can provide short-term pain relief for people suffering from chronic back pain.
Another study by Li et al analyzed how cobblestone-mat walking affected the health of older adults. The study involved 40 participants whose average age was 72. Participants were asked to perform a test spanning eight weeks. An experimental group was asked to perform a 45-minute cobblestone-mat walking activity for three sessions per week. This group reported improved physical and mental scores, psychological well-being, and reduced daytime sleepiness and pain. Acupressure mats may be able to provide the same benefits to the elderly, although research has yet to be conducted to explore this.
How to Use an Acupressure Mat
Using an acupressure mat is very easy. All that needs to be done is to lay it on a flat surface, such as the floor or a bed. You then simply lie down on the mat. To get the best results, it is recommended that you remove your clothing so that there is direct contact between the acupressure needles and your skin. If this feels too painful, thin clothing can be worn or the mat can be covered with a towel or sheet to serve as a buffer between the points and you skin.
A pillow or rolled blanket can be placed under the mat so that the acupressure points can target the neck and shoulders. Some acupressure mats come with a pillow that also have pointed discs. You can simply lay your head on the pillow to target the acupoints in that region.
Acupressure mats also help to release tension in the muscles. Lying sideways targets the iliotibial band (known as the IT band). To experience relief from back pain, bend the knees, or place a pillow under the mat and position it in the middle to give it a curved shape which mirrors the natural shape of the spine.
Another way to use the acupressure mat is to stand on it. This allows for body weight to push down on your feet and therefore make the pressure and contact more effective. Targeting the acupoints on the feet is beneficial because it contains various acupoints connected to the different systems and organs of the body.
You can also try sitting on the mat, which targets the buttocks and lower back. This is especially helpful for people who spend hours glued to their chairs during the work day.
Regardless of the manner in which you use your acupressure mat, it is generally recommended that you use it for a period between 20 and 30 minutes.
Acupressure mats are also versatile and can be used together with other activities. In fact, it can create complementary health effect when used in yoga. For example, certain poses like savasana can help in reaching a calmer state when using an acupressure mat. Other examples include the apanasana pose, which is achieved when both knees are brought to the chest and hugged while lying flat on the mat. Another example is the ardha apanasana pose, which is achieved when one knee is brought close to the chest while keeping the other leg extended and flat. You can also try the forward fold pose with the palms and feet planted on the mat.
What to Expect When Using an Acupressure Mat
Some people find the initial sensation of using an acupressure mat to be uncomfortable. This effect can be lessened by using the acupressure mat gradually. This can be done by gently laying on the mat section by section, until the body lies completely flat. The mat can also be used for a shorter duration at first. An initial 10-minute session on the acupressure mat will suffice until you become accustomed to the sensation and feel more comfortable lying on the mat.
Who Can Use Acupressure Mats?
Anyone can use acupressure mats, and they can be especially beneficial for people who are suffering from physical ailments. However, it is recommended that pregnant women as well as people with open cuts and wounds, malignant or benign tumors, or skin diseases refrain from using the mat until their conditions change.
Types of Acupressure Mats
There are many brands of acupressure mats for sale in the market today. It is very important to do your due diligence before deciding which to buy.
In particular, you should ensure that the acupressure needles are attached to the mat using non-toxic glue. You should also stay away from mats that may contain BPA (bisphenol A). You should also ensure that the mat’s fabric is a breathable type, such as cotton or linen. An ideal material for the foam is organic coconut fiber, eco-foam, or non-toxic rubber foam.
Many manufacturers (including many selling on Amazon) sell acupressure mats at relatively low prices. Please be wary of these manufacturers. In most cases these acupressure mats have been mass produced and are held together using toxic glue. In addition, the foam pads and acupressure points are made of synthetic materials which contain harsh chemicals and have a strong chemical odour. Using these cheaper mats may result in skin infection, allergic reactions and other health ailments, in addition to greater environmental harm.
Our acupressure mats are unparalleled in quality and are 100% eco-friendly. Each mat is carefully handmade using the highest-quality, hypoallergenic natural linen. Each mat also contains a removable cushion made of 100% natural coconut fibre. Our mats also feature more than 4,500 high-quality acupressure points in the beautiful shape of lotus flowers. These unique acupressure points are made of toxic-free surgical plastic and have been ergonomically engineered to have the greatest relaxation and healing effects.
Acupressure mats can be an excellent way to enjoy relief from aches and pains. However, acupressure mats are not a cure-all remedy for ailments. Always seek professional medical advice to verify that an acupressure mat can be used for your condition.