I Tried an Acupressure Mat and Here’s What Happened 

One of my most ridiculous fears is that during one of my bi-weekly acupuncture sessions, I’ll somehow roll over—or completely off—the massage table and impale myself with the needles. Like I said, ridiculous.

While I do fall into blissful sleep when I go to acupuncture (a delightful side effect), I have never done anything during these naps but stay perfectly still. I am face down during my acupuncture sessions for issues related to my back and neck, so the thought of trying an acupressure mat—in which I would be flat on my back—made that old, absurd phobia return. (Funnily enough, I also go to acupuncture for my anxiety, which instantly melts away during my sessions.)

What if I fell asleep too long on the mat? After all, my acupuncturist gently removes the needles and helps me come back down to earth after an acupuncture session. What if I went down too fast or hard on the mat and poked myself? There was only one way to put these concerns to, ahem, rest: finally try an acupressure mat.

What Is an Acupressure Mat? 

An acupressure mat is a foam mattress (about the size of a yoga mat) that has plastic “spikes” all over. These plastic mats work to “activate blood flow to the epidermis and dermis” and the “increased blood flow helps to relax the muscle tissue,” explains Dr. Teresa Wlasiuk, a doctor of acupuncture and Oriental medicine at Golden Needle Acupuncture in Los Angeles.

I wanted to give one a try to add some extra care to my routine. Acupuncture has been nothing short of a lifesaver for me over the past few years by minimizing some serious back and neck pain I had been experiencing, as well as my aforementioned anxiety. While my acupuncturist charges very affordable rates, I knew there would be days I wouldn’t be able to make it to the office and would want the same kind of relief at home.

So, What’s the Difference Between Acupuncture and Acupressure? 

“The beauty of acupuncture lies in the breaking of the skin,” says Dr. Wlasiuk. “As a result, a cascade of events happen, both locally and systemically.” This skin-breaking technique results in releasing “feel-good” endorphins, as well as regulating hormones and neurotransmitters, and locally causes blood and fluids to pool to the area while triggering mast cells, which are part of your immune system. In short, this helps “regulate immunity, autoimmunity, inflammation and allergic responses.”

Acupressure, which doesn’t break the skin, rather uses touch and pressure and “activates acupoints and meridians,” she explains.

While acupuncture and acupressure are different in how they work, both can be effective in alleviating various symptoms.

Acupressure Mat Uses and Benefits 

After purchasing an acupressure mat (and pillow!), I gingerly lay on the mat on the floor. While it felt weird at first, as to be expected, I felt that familiar relaxation and pain relief that washes over me during my acupuncture sessions.

Research has found that acupuncture can help with easing chronic pain, as well as other benefits like reducing the frequency of tension headaches and prevent migraine headaches (1). And, like Dr. Wlasiuk says, though acupressure works differently than acupuncture, it can offer some of the same benefits.

I tried to create a setting similar to the one at my acupuncturist’s office: I made the room a cozy temperature and put my favorite calming essential oils into a diffuser. While I didn’t make my “session” nearly as long (20 minutes, as opposed to the usual hour), I felt the benefits almost immediately.

I have since made the mat part of my self-care rotation, using it for 20 minutes, three times a week, in addition to my regular acupuncture appointments.

If you’re going to start your own cycle, “See what works for you,” Dr. Wlasiuk suggests. “You should be able to judge if you are overusing it or underusing it.”

Plus, acupressure mats are totally affordable: I purchased mine for about $20.

Are There Any Risks to an Acupressure Mat? 

While I personally haven’t experienced any issues with my mat, Wlasiuk says it is important to be “mindful of pressure you are applying, as this plastic could potentially puncture the skin.” She also warns: “Be careful of using on bare skin if you have any type of infection. For example, you could spread a foot fungus.”

When not in use, it’s best to keep your mat out of reach of pets and children.

You may also want to purchase a mat that is eco-friendly, Wlasiuk says, so you can recycle it if and when you’re done with it.

Once you find a time and comfort level that works for you, this modern “bed of nails” may just be one of the best purchases you make. I know it has been for me.


Have you ever tried using an acupressure mat? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!


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