woman acupressure mats

Acupressure Mats: Do They Work to Relieve Pain?

Acupressure mats are now trending in popular healthcare. At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, we are always interested in new tools to provide our patients with relief from aches and pains, particularly ones that can be used at home. While the results of research on acupressure mats so far are largely positive, it has been limited to small studies. Nonetheless, anecdotal evidence suggests that using an acupressure mat can provide multiple benefits. 

Our physiatrists, who specialize in pain relief and restoration of function, are always open to new ideas in holistic medicine. Since we routinely administer acupuncture to accelerate the healing of musculoskeletal disorders, we are intrigued by acupressure mats and eager to see their efficacy more thoroughly tested.

What Are Acupressure Mats and What Are They Designed to Do?

The idea of acupressure mats, like acupressure itself, is based on acupuncture, a medical technique that has been used successfully in many parts of the world for over 3,000 years. Acupressure, like acupuncture, is routed in the concept of Qi, the energy source that flows along pathways throughout the body. When these pathways (meridians) become blocked, pain and illness result. Therefore, by applying pressure to carefully charted trigger points along those meridians, we can restore a healthy flow and relieve pain and illness.

Acupressure mats are constructed with small plastic “spikes” that will press into the skin to stimulate the designated acupoints. By sitting, lying, or standing on an acupressure mat, the individual experiences therapy that mimics an acupuncture or acupressure treatment administered by a trained professional. As such, it may duplicate the therapeutic effects of such a treatment.

Possible Benefits of Using an Acupressure Mat 

Although not yet scientifically proven on a large scale, many individuals report, and many small studies point to, the benefits of using acupressure mats. These include:

  • Easing muscle tension and promoting relaxation
  • Relieving chronic neck, foot, and back pain
  • Alleviating chronic headaches
  • Boosting energy levels
  • Reducing menstrual pain
  • Lessing depression, anxiety, and stress

Despite these reported positive outcomes, in several studies blood pressure, pulse rates, and cortisol levels (that measure stress responses) remained the same, indicating the need for definitive studies on larger groups.

Acupressure Mats Are Not for Everyone

Because acupressure mats take a bit of getting used to, you wear thin clothing during early usage until you become acclimated to the sensation of the points against your skin. Within a short time, discomfort is replaced by warmth and revitalization. However, some people should avoid using acupressure mats altogether, including those with:

  • Thin skin
  • Diabetes
  • Open wounds
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Poor circulation

Importantly, individuals who are pregnant or have heart disease, cancer, or arthritis to speak to their doctors before trying acupressure mats. 

The Takeaway

Acupressure mats are a promising innovation in complementary medicine. Except for individuals in the categories mentioned in the last section of our blog, trying one out may be a good idea since they are relatively inexpensive and, in most cases, do not seem to have adverse side effects. If you are experiencing intense pain or have a chronic condition unresponsive to previous treatments, contact Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine to discuss other options.