When it comes to working out deep rooted tension and boosting all-round wellness, many swear by the healing power of acupressure. But while we could all use a massage every now and then, finding a helping hand that's both willing and able isn't always possible.
Enter, acupressure mats. These peculiar (and somewhat intimidating) mats feature strategically placed spikes that allow users to access acupoints virtually anywhere on the body. If you like the idea of tapping into the potential pain and stress relief benefits of acupressure anytime, anywhere, but can't quite figure out if an acupressure mat is right for you, keep reading. We've laid out the fundamentals to help you decide.
How does acupressure work?
If you're experiencing pain or tension, sprawling out on a bed of spikes or applying concentrated pressure to painful areas might seem counterintuitive. However, proponents of alternative medicine claim that the benefits of acupressure are well worth any initial discomfort.
Why? Well, according to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, acupressure works to clear blockages within the body's energy channels (known as meridians) through the application of pressure to key points. This allows energy (or "chi") to flow freely once more, restoring balance and promoting physical, mental, and spiritual well being.
While most Western practitioners don't wholeheartedly support this theory, many still agree that acupressure can boost blood circulation, ease muscle tension, and stimulate the release of endorphins, leading to an overall sense of wellness.
What can an accupressure mat do?
Quite simply, acupressure mats eliminate the need to seek out specialized treatment from an acupressure therapist, allowing users to treat pain, tension, nausea, fatigue, and more from the comfort of home.
The average acupressure mat consists of a layer of foam and fabric, covered with spiked "rosettes". Although exact numbers can vary from model to model, most quality acupressure mats feature anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 spikes.
This generous concentration of spikes practically guarantees stimulation of various key acupoints, regardless of whether you choose to stand, sit, or lie down on your acupressure mat.
Acupressure dates back over 5000 years and targets all the same points used in acupuncture, making it an excellent alternative for those seeking a less invasive treatment with similar benefits.
How should you use it?
How you use your acupressure mat is all up to you. You could lie down flat on your mat to target your back, shoulders, and head — or you could even lie face down if you're experiencing pain along the front of your body. Alternatively, you could choose to sit or stand on it for concentrated pain relief.
Tips for using an acupressure mat
Many people enjoy the sensation of resting on an acupressure mat and even find that using one induces a state of deep relaxation. However, they can take some getting used to, so if you're new to the world of acupressure mats, it might be best to ease into things slowly.
Take a look at these tips to find out how you can get from "ouch" to "ahh" in record time.
Don't go bare the first time around. While seasoned users often feel that lying on an acupressure mat with absolutely no barrier between the spikes and their skin delivers superior results, direct contact may be a bit too much for novices. Donning a T-shirt for your first few sessions will give your skin an opportunity to get accustomed to the feel of the mat.
Place your mat on a flat, but soft surface. Rather than laying your mat directly on the floor, try placing it on your bed or couch. Softer surfaces with a bit of give can help take the edge off using an acupressure mat for the first time.
Take it slow. When positioning yourself on your mat, lie down slowly, taking care to distribute your weight evenly across the surface.
Find a comfortable position. Some areas of the body may require an extra step or two before you're really able to hit the spot. For instance, placing a small pillow under your knees will help boost comfort and improve posture when treating the lower back.
Don't forget to breathe. Taking deep, slow breaths can help promote relaxation, making it that much easier to overcome any initial discomfort.
Limit the length of each session. A typical acupressure treatment averages between 30 and 40 minutes. Aiming for 15 or 20 minutes at first is a decent place to start. It's also a good idea to limit each session to no more than 40 minutes at a stretch — regardless of how relaxed you're feeling. Remember, your skin needs a break too.
Grab a pillow. The natural curvature of the cervical spine can make it nearly impossible to achieve contact with the back of the neck, but if you're trying to treat a headache or neck pain, it's a necessity. An easy way around this problem is to place a small pillow or bolster under the mat. This should elevate it just enough to fill the gap under your neck.
Dive in feet first. There are numerous acupoints located in the feet and simply standing on your acupressure mat may help alleviate pain, tension, and fatigue throughout the body.
Interested in learning more about choosing an accupressure mat? Find out what to look for here.