Why Acupressure Mats Are the Next Big Thing for Pain Management

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We all can be weary about celebrity-endorsed products, as some star-powered energy drinks and miracle creams have left us totally perplexed. But we won’t deny our curiosity when we got word of Miranda Kerr’s endorsement of a funny-looking acupressure mat, a health-improving tool she says aids in relieving back pain and naturally boosts energy levels. 

Normally we’d be inclined to write the whole thing off as another celeb-fueled health craze, but some esteemed wellness experts say it’s more than just a fad, as regular use of such mats reportedly promotes better sleep and proves to be a less costly alternative to acupuncture treatments. 

To determine whether acupressure mats are all hype or actually the real deal, we asked health and wellness experts to fill us in on the ins and outs of the recent trend. Curious about trying this out yourself? Here’s everything to know about acupressure mats before you actually buy one. 

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What Is It?
Unlike your average yoga mat, acupressure mats are usually used to relieve back pain, as the mat’s nontoxic plastic spikes press firmly into pressure points, relieving tension and muscle aches. And while mats like these are popping up at Whole Foods and online retailers, Bed of Nails founder Carina Tannenberg says that the acupressure tradition isn’t exactly new, as the practice itself has been around for thousands of years. 

“Inspired by an ancient Indian healing tradition, bed of nails is believed to have been around for thousands of years,” says Tannenberg. “Today it is reinvented in a more modern form with thousands of nontoxic plastic spikes that are harmless to the skin.” 

However, it wasn’t until the early ’00s when acupressure mats became more mainstream. Benjamin Buada, president of acupressure mat company HeavenlyMats, states that mats became largely popular in Sweden first and then their popularity boomed in Europe shortly after. 

Acupressure mats weren’t popular here in the U.S. until they received media attention from influential personalities such as Dr. Oz. “Acupressure mats got a huge boost when Dr. Oz featured them on his show,” says Buada. “He also demonstrated the benefits of using acupressure mats, including weight loss.” 

The Benefits
Aside from relieving muscle aches and tension, Buada notes that mats can help with other ailments such as stress, anxiety and migraines. In addition, licensed physical therapist Dr. Scott Weiss states that regular use of such tools also boast additional benefits such as better sleep and improved circulation. 

“Regular use of mats also help with promoting relaxation, better sleep and improving blood circulation,” he says. 

How to Use Your Mat
While acupressure mats look pretty intimidating, they aren’t very complicated to use. Tannenberg usually recommends laying down your mat for approximately 10 to 20 minutes. This can easily be done on the floor or on your bed. 

“You can use your mat to warm up muscles and joints, or to alleviate stress, back pains, tensions or sleeping problems,” she says. “Regular use of the mat helps increase blood circulation.” 

Standing on your mat is equally encouraged, as Buada states that some users like to stand on the mat to help stimulate pressure points in the feet. But just remember that there is no real skill or expertise to using your mat, as Dr. Weiss explains that it’s best to start slow and find the position that works best for you. 

“Just lie down on the mat, don’t move and relax into it,” says Dr. Weiss. “It is recommended to start off for a few minutes, but eventually one can increase their duration over time. For those who have specific areas that are causing them pain, or simply want to experience something new, it is recommended to try different positions on the mat.”

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Is It Better Than Acupuncture? 
Acupressure mats are arguably less expensive than acupuncture treatments (mats can easily be found online for less than $100). But while they boast a cheaper price tag, medical professionals like licensed acupuncturist Joel Granik find that mats shouldn’t replace your acupuncture altogether. Unlike mats, in-office acupuncture treatments pierce the skin and get directly into the muscle, making them much more effective. 

“Acupuncture is about targeting and customizing treatments for your needs, while acupressure mats press everywhere so they hit all the points on your back,” says Granik. “Acupressure mats should be used in between sessions to extend the benefits of acupuncture.”

Does It Really Work? 
With claims of improved sleep and increased circulation throughout the body, the appeal of acupressure mats are definitely extraordinary. But despite the endorsements from supermodels and media personalities, Dr. Weiss finds that tools like these can make a difference for anyone affiliated with chronic pain. And proving to be much more cost-efficient than professional treatments, you can use these mats anywhere at anytime. 

“Acupressure mats are effective and really help with relieving muscle tension and discomfort,” says Dr. Weiss. “And even better news is that acupressure mats are significantly cheaper than spending money on a professional treatment every time.”     

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