We needle into the details of this painful-looking trend with the help of Third Space Sports Med.
What are they?
Acupressure mats have been making noise in wellbeing circles for some time – and we’re not just talking about the uncomfortable yelps from their users. Lying on an acupressure mat is not at all dissimilar to lying on a bed of nails. The latter was used for centuries in Indian culture for the healing and medication of myriad ailments; the modern day acupressure mat is a slightly toned down version with thousands of plastic spikes that won’t puncture your skin.
How do they work?
Despite their scary history, this bed of spikes promises a range of benefits, from knocking out sleep problems and easing daily stress to helping alleviating arthritis aches and reducing the appearance of cellulite. The claim is that the spikes work in a similar way to acupuncture needles, increasing blood flow and endorphin release locally to help you stay calm and relaxed.
To get the benefits you can lie, sit and even stand on your mat for between 20 and 40 minutes. The initial sensation of the spikes will ease after a few minutes (longer if your muscles are particularly tight). If you’re a fan of reflexology then you should focus on standing on the mat, with some claiming it can improve everything from improved gut health to reduced brain fog and increased alertness.
Are they worth it?
We don’t yet have the answers. There has been very little real research to measure the benefits of these mats. Whether there is a particular physiological mechanism at play, or if they simply provide a few minutes for you to lie and focus your thoughts isn’t clear. But they have a huge following who have found them to be beneficial in the reduction of everyday pain.
Try one a few times before making your mind up. It won’t be an immediate result. Some people report feeling better after a couple of sessions using them; some report positive benefits (particularly when correcting pains that have been around for a while) after over a month of regular use.
They’re not expensive at entry level and so are certainly worth a try. The worst thing that may happen is you are forced to have some alone time with your thoughts or listening to your favourite podcast. Just don’t expect to get comfortable right away. Those little pricks take some getting used to.