I consider myself a person who would try anything in the name of wellness. I’ve thrown back many a shot of apple cider vinegar, aligned my chakras on a crystal bed, and stimulated my vagus nerve in a Magnesphere. It can’t hurt, right? But when it came to a wellness trend that involved a literal “bed of nails,” I resisted. (That one, it seemed, actually could hurt.) But I’m grateful that I eventually changed my tune, because, unlike those experiences above, the acupuncture mat and its pain-relieving wonders are something I can easily—and gladly—incorporate into my regular wellness routine.
Featured image by Riley Reed.
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The Viral Acupuncture Mat, Tested and Reviewed
The turning point came after noticing a particular acupressure mat, the ProsourceFit set (with back mat and neck pillow), pop up for the umpteenth time on a holiday gift guide. Priced at just under $30 on Amazon, the bestseller has garnered thousands of 5-star reviews to the tune of “it seems crazy but it works!” My interest was piqued and my perpetual neck pain was ready. My acupressure mat showed up promptly at my door in a feather-light box. (Note: the spikes are plastic and the mat is made with 100% cotton.)
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Our first encounter together did not go well. I slowly lied down with mostly bare skin as the ProSource Fit website recommends. (In retrospect, I would recommend a light blanket or towel as a barrier for the first go around.) In truth, I could barely handle it. I forced my boyfriend to try it too, but he lasted all of two minutes before asking why someone would willingly do this to their body. I tucked the lightweight mat away and chalked it up to another weird wellness trend.
But then I remembered that soothing warmth the Amazon reviewers promised and decided to try again a few days later. With my mind better prepped for what to expect, the experience was much more palatable. The next time, it felt even better, especially when you know that about one minute in, your body will relax and that wave of warmth really does roll across your body, melting away muscle pain and tension. Afterward, my back was red and covered in tiny indentations, but it felt amazing.
My experience made me a believer, but I still didn’t totally understand what made the acupressure mat feel, as one brilliant Amazon reviewer put it, “sort of like curling up with a hedgehog and finding it surprisingly tolerable… and then comfortable.”
So I tapped Dr. Janine Mahon, a doctor of Chinese medicine and owner of an eponymous line of intimate wellness formulas, for more insight into the bed of nails’ tension-relieving magic.
How do acupressure mats work?
Acupressure mats have little spikes that stimulate acupressure points on the surface of the skin. These points on the body, if properly stimulated, can regulate the flow of Qi (energy), blood, and body fluids. The spikes are not painful and do not penetrate the skin.
Chinese herbal therapy is an internal manifestation of this medicine, adding to what the body already has. Acupressure mats, however, do not stimulate specific points like the ones selected by your acupuncturist but instead offer a general treatment to the whole body without penetrating the skin.
What are some benefits of an acupressure mat?
Acupressure mats invigorate the flow of Qi. When Qi is stuck, we experience a multitude of issues such as pain, tension, poor digestion, headaches, menstrual cramps, and insomnia. How it will affect you depends on where your Qi is stuck.
How long should you lay on an acupressure mat?
Laying on your back for 15 minutes will release the channels that run down your back, boosting your immunity while relieving pain.
It is not the same as a group of acupuncture points specifically selected by your acupuncturist to address your individual needs. Nonetheless, it can still be very helpful.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t try an acupressure mat?
Anyone with broken or inflamed skin should not use an acupressure mat. People that are pregnant or who may become pregnant should check with their acupuncturist first to find out what areas they should avoid stimulating. It takes Qi a little over 28 minutes to circulate through all the meridians, which is why during an acupuncture treatment your practitioner will leave the needles in for around 30 minutes to make sure the circuit is complete.
Dr. Mahon’s Pick for the Best Acupressure Mat
Personally, I recommend the Shakti mat. Not only is it made with organic cotton and dyes that are safe for the skin and for our planet but they also give back to the community of people making the mats for our use.
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