For over seven years, a buzz has been growing around the so-called “acupressure mats.” Also known as a “bed of nails” or an “acupressure needle stimulation pad,” these mats are the latest trend for at home relaxation, pain relief, and enjoyment.
Featuring thousands of tiny spiking crowns melted onto a non-organic cotton and foam mat, the acupressure mat can seem somewhat troublesome, especially when considering that it is recommended for users to lay on the mat for a minimum of 10 minutes daily to rid the body of toxins, to release endorphins and oxytocin, to stimulate energy, and to break through stress. It is further claimed that use of this mat will result in long-term alleviation of anxiety, headaches, constipation, insomnia, fatigue, tension, back pain, muscle aches, and discomfort.
So how exactly does it work? Well, first it is essential to understand that the idea is far from new. In Ancient India, a healing tradition was practiced that required laying on a legitimate bed of nails. The nails would press firmly into pressure points thus relieving tension and muscle aches. Now, thousands of years later, this tradition has evolved from actual nails to thousands of non-toxic plastic spikes that are harmless to the skin.
To use the mat, one can stand, sit or lie down for approximately 10 to 20 minutes on the floor or bed; however, it is best to start slow and find a position that works best for the individual. If there are specific areas that cause pain or tension, it is recommended to try different positions on the mat.
Claims of the mat’s benefits go far and wide, although many feel wary of trusting celebrity endorsements at this point. However, Dr. Scott Weiss, a licensed physical therapist, believes that regular use of the mats lead to better sleep and improved circulation, as well as reduced stress, anxiety and migraines.
In 2011, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine completed a small study that found people were able to “subjectively relax” meaning their self-rated relaxation gradually increased over time in all conditions. While the study did seem to show that the mats aided in relaxation, it is hard to take anything conclusive from this study alone.
While many yogis and dancers genuinely believe that the mats are helping their bodies, acupuncturists want to make it understood that these mats are not the same as acupuncture. In fact, Justine Lynch, a licensed acupuncturist in NYC, said, “The difference between seeing an acupuncturist and using a pressure mat would be like the difference between eating a meal and looking at a picture of a meal.” Further that statement, Lynch states that the most crucial part of acupuncture is working with an actual human who can personalize treatment, whereas that can not be replicated with a mat.
While the verdict of the mats effectiveness is still out, many believe that the mats are capable of relieving minor pains and aches, such as muscle tension and discomfort. And since they are far cheaper than other options, they could be worth a shot. However, these mats are not necessary, and should not be used in place of health treatment plans.
If you are unsure of whether you should try remedies such as the acupuncture mat rather than traditional pain treatments, speak with your doctor before making a decision.