Given that a lot of wellness 'cures' involve hard work, the prospect of something which is good for you and involves lying down is almost impossible to resist. Enter the acupressure mat. Acupressure mats are foam mats with hundreds of plastic spikes on them. They're designed to be sat, lain or walked on for 15 - 30 minutes. Sounds terrifying, but the testimonies and countless reviews suggest that they really do work. They're a big hit with A-listers too. Elle Macpherson, Jennifer Lopez, Kate Beckinsale and even Britney Spears are all huge fans.
Designed to function in a similar way to acupressure treatments, the plastic spikes apply pressure to several different pressure points on the back. And according to Chinese medicine, when you access these certain acupressure points you can clear blockages in the body and release Qi (aka energy), relieving pain. What's more, you can also find acupressure pillows. They can be used on the neck and head to help alleviate neck pain and headaches. Sounds good, right?
To find out everything you need to know about acupressure mats including their many benefits and the best ones to buy now, scroll on down...
Do acupressure mats hurt?
Yes, it hurts, but in a nice way. It's a good pain - like getting a deep tissue massage. If you're a beginner then you can start off by lying on the mat while wearing a thin t-shirt. This makes the experience less intense. Over time you can work up to doing it with bare skin, and increase the amount of time spent on the bed. Many devotees report falling asleep on theirs.
What are the benefits of acupressure mats?
The mats are also said to improve blood flow, increase energy levels, and reduce stress and anxiety whilst also relieving tension and muscle aches. I saw a notable reduction in my shoulder pain and an improvement in the quality of my sleep. My favourite part of the whole mat is that you can do your mat time while lying on the sofa or in bed, so it's easy to fit it into your daily routine.
Research also indicates that using a mat can have a positive impact on your mental well-being. For instance, one study conducted in 2015 found that depression, anxiety, and stress can all be positively impacted by acupressure. The participants who used an acupressure mat three times a week for four weeks showed positive results. They had a lower rating on the Depression, Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) compared to the control group.
How do acupressure mats work?
According to the founders of Bed Of Nails, the experience of lying on the tiny spikes 'triggers the body’s innate way of healing itself, is an effective tool for easing tension, pain relief and inducing a state of deep relaxation.' If you want to get scientific, it releases endorphins to fight the (mild) pain from the spikes and, as we know, endorphins help relax and energise your body.
SHOP: The Best Acupressure Mats To Buy Now UK 2023
Here's our round-up of the best mats and mat and pillow sets that we have tried and genuinely loved:
Our Favourite Acupressure Mats
Bed of Nails
It's the most expensive, but it's got five-star reviews for a reason. As it's a little less sharp than the Shakti it would suit someone who is starting out with acupressure. It's sustainably made from recycled non-toxic ABS plastic - and it comes in black or green.
Yogi Bare Black Acupressure Set
If there's anywhere we can trust for lifestyle goodies, it certainly is Oliver Bonas. Including an easy-to-fold mat as well as an acupressure pillow, this is one to snap up.
Base Yoga Mat
It's true that you get what you pay for, so these mats don't have the same story or sustainable background as the more expensive ones. But they're a great starting point and they do the job. A gateway mat, if you will.
Core Balance Acupressure Mat and Pillow
Core Balance is known for its high-quality exercise accessories and the acupressure mat is no different. With over 6,210 acupressure spikes and an easy-to-hold drawstring bag, it's a steal.
The Shakti Mat is a little sharper than the Bed of Nails, so a more intense sensation, but that's no bad thing. It's also cheaper but doesn't compromise on ethics. The Shakti Mats are made in a purpose build all-female workshop in the holy city of Varanasi.
Are acupressure mats safe to use?
Designed to be used daily, acupressure mats are safe to use. You may experience a stinging, sharp sensation to begin with but this will eventually subside as your body warms up and starts to feel good. Many acupressure mat manufacturers advise that you shouldn't use them while pregnant and if you have thin skin, be cautious of the spikes and have a layer of material between you and the mat. If you have high or low blood pressure, seek medical advice before using it.
How long should you stand/lie on an acupressure mat?
It can take a while to get used to the feeling of an acupressure mat. The guidance from Bed of Nails recommends that you initially lie on the bed for 10-15 minutes. As you get used to the pressure you can build up to 20-30 minutes. If 10-15 minutes feels too long, to begin with, you can also lean against the mat instead of lying on it to acclimatise.
Also, as we mentioned above, you can lay a sheet on top of the mat or wear a layer of clothing to ease yourself in and get used to the sensation.
How to use an acupressure mat for back pain
There are several reported health benefits of using an acupressure mat consistently, including alleviating backache and sciatica. To target your back, there are a couple of different ways of using the mat. First of all, you can sit on the spikes so the pressure points on your lower back are targeted. Or, you can lie down on the mat (either on the floor or on top of a sofa/bed). Just remember to remain still and continue to use it daily for the best results.
How to use an acupressure mat for sciatica
As with back aches, several testimonies suggest that an acupressure mat can also help relieve sciatica. Reviews recommend lying on the mat just before bed and as soon as you wake up in the morning. This increases circulation in the body and reduces inflammation. Double win! Others advise using the mat as and when you feel discomfort.
Is it worth spending a lot of money on one?
In order to assess the claims that these mats can make a significant difference, I tried out the Shakti Mat, Bed of Nails, and a couple of cheaper replicas from Amazon. I was an immediate convert to the more expensive mats. According to the founders of the Shakti Mat, the muscles start to relax after approximately 6 minutes and the tension begins to ease.
If you're not sure whether you'll like using one, you could start with a cheaper mat and then trade up to the Shakti or Bed of Nails, but in a time when we're all trying to shop less, the more expensive mats, which are both made sustainably, feel like a stronger choice.