Acupressure mats (sometimes called acupuncture mats) are a widely available alternative medicine tool that gives a user the benefits of acupressure in their own home. Most of these mats are made from cotton or other similar materials, that have plastic acupuncture points that stimulate specific areas of the body to bring pain relief or help with other issues. While these mats seem pretty straight forward, people new to the practice may wonder how to use an acupressure mat.
Many people may be concerned about puncturing their skin and wary of things like acupuncture. With an acupressure mat, the skin is merely stimulated. Because the weight of your body is spread out over the mat, it works more like a bed of nails. Acupressure mats can be used on nearly any part of your body, and even used on your hands and feet for reflexology.
In this article, we’ll cover the basics of using acupressure mats and how to use them for specific issues.
Note: there has been very little scientific testing about the effectiveness of acupressure mats for treating diseases and conditions. Make sure to consult with your doctor about any medical conditions and treatments you try.
How Do Acupressure Mats Work?
Acupressure mats use the same principals at acupuncture, acupressure, and reflexology. There are two schools of thought on what makes the mat work.
The first thought is that using a mat with so many “pins” on them (most mats have over 6000 points), increases the chance of a novice stimulating the 100+ acupressure points on their back (known as meridians). This can give some of the same benefits as a professional acupressure or acupuncture sessions. The main difference is the acupressure mats are not able to target specific issues or points.
The second though comes from the increase of blood flow the mat stimulates. The first time you use the mat it may feel a little uncomfortable to have those thousands of points digging into your skin. That pressure increases blood flow to the areas it stimulates. Give it time. After a few minutes, you will feel your back (or other body parts) getting warmer, which causes the muscles to relax.
That increased circulation is thought to be healing in addition to relaxing.
Acupressure Mat Benefits
People who use acupressure mats say they have a ton of awesome health benefits. Because the mat causes your muscles to relax, it helps your whole body relax. As a result of releasing that tension, it can help reduce sore muscles. Many people find relief in back and neck pain from using acupressure mats.
If you use the mat for an extended period of time, your entire body will relax as a result of the stimulation. This relaxation is good for relieving stress or anxiety and helping your body release the day’s tension to get a good night of sleep. If you find your acupressure mat to be relaxing, you may want to meditate while you’re using it.
The pressure of the pinpoints also help release endorphins and oxytocin, which make you feel good, so using the mat can also help boost your mood.
How to Use An Acupressure Mat
If it’s your very first time using an acupressure mat, we highly recommend wearing a t-shirt or laying a towel or sheet over the mat to reduce the intensity of the pinpoints. As you gain more experience, you will be able to use the mat directly on your bare skin (which is the recommended method).
Generally, you want to lay the mat down on a flat surface. This could be on your bed, on the couch, or on the floor. To make yourself more comfortable if using the mat on the floor, you may want to put a yoga mat or rug underneath the acupressure mat. Feel free to use props like yoga bolsters or pillows to cushion your head or legs.
Lay down on the mat, positioning your back evenly on the nails. Feel free to shift your body as needed to find a comfortable position. If you want to target your lower back, bend your knees or prop them up on a pillow.
The spikes may feel uncomfortable for the first few minutes, so give it a little bit of time to let your body adjust. Once it starts to feel good, lay on it for 20 minutes to feel energized and rejuvenated or for 20-40 minutes to feel calm and relaxed. It helps to set a timer or listen to a guided meditation to help keep track of the time. (Learn more about meditating with an acupressure mat.)
Note: make sure to have the weight of your body evenly distributed across the mat. The pin points are sharp and you could puncture your skin if you concentrate the pressure on a small area (like a fingertip).
This technique is generally used for back pain, relaxation, or to help induce sleep. Now that you know how to use an acupressure mat, we will go into specific techniques below for other issues.
Acupressure for Back Pain
The most common use for acupressure mats is to relieve back pain. Users believe that the increased blood flow helps heal muscles and let them relax to release pain and tension.
First, lay the mat down on a flat surface. Sit down at the base of the mat and slowly roll your back down until you are lying on the mat. The acupressure on the spikes will bring immediate healing warmth to your back as blood circulation increases.
If you have pain in the lower back, you can roll up a towel and place it under the mat to create a curve to hug against your spine. Another option is to bend your knees or rest your knees on a pillow or rolled blanket, which will press your lower back into the mat.
If you have pain in your shoulders, you can place a rolled towel under the upper part of the mat or use an acupressure pillow to increase pressure on the neck and shoulders (we’ll talk more about neck pain in the next section).
Lay on the mat for about 20 minutes to feel relaxed, refreshed, and energized.
If you want to try acupressure for your back pain, check out the best acupressure mats for back pain.
Acupressure for Neck Pain
Many people who suffer from chronic neck pain will use an acupressure pillow to specifically target their neck. There are different shapes and designs available so you can find one that will work best for your needs. If you just have a mat you can still find relief for neck pain by using some props.
If you want to use just an acupressure pillow: lay down on a flat surface or find a tall-backed chair or couch to sit on. Place the pillow behind your neck and adjust it until it feels comfortable. Use it for 20 minutes or until you feel a reduction in pain.
If you want to use a neck pillow with an acupressure mat, lie the mat on a flat surface. Slowly lower yourself onto the mat and place the pillow under your neck. Adjust your body and the pillow as necessary until you are comfortable. Use for 20 to 40 minutes.
If you just want to use an acupressure mat, roll a towel and place it under the head end of the mat. Slowly lower your back down so your neck rests on the “bump” created by the towel. Adjust your body and the mat as needed. Use for 20 minutes to feel energized and up to 40 minutes to relax your body.
Acupressure for Anxiety and Stress
Because lying on an acupressure mat relaxes your body, it can also help relax your mind as well. Many people find it helps reduce their anxiety and also relieves stress.
You should use the mat similarly to how you use it for back pain–you want to lay on it in a comfortable position. You may want to do it on your bed or couch since that surface will be a little softer than lying directly on the floor.
Once you lay down on the mat and get comfortable, breath deeply and relax. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. This may be a good time to listen to a guided meditation or repeat a mantra. You will want to lay on the mat for at least 25 minutes and up to 40 minutes to fully relax your body and your mind.
Acupressure for Energy
If you control the amount of time you spend laying on your acupressure mat, it can actually leave you feeling energized. This is a great thing to do in the morning to get ready for the day or in the afternoon when you start to get tired.
I would recommend using your mat on the floor (rather than a bed or couch that may make you feel sleepy or lethargic). You can use it on a rug or a yoga mat if you have a hardwood floor or just need a little extra cushioning. Lay on your mat and set a timer for 20 minutes. Make sure you’re comfortable. Do not use your mat for more than 20 minutes as it will start to make your body relax.
When you get up your body and your mind should feel energized.
Acupressure for Cellulite
I will admit that this one seems a little too good to be true, but many people claim that regular use of an acupressure mat on certain parts of the body helps to reduce the appearance or even eliminate cellulite. The idea is that the increased blood flow to the area helps reduce cellulite
Areas of the body you can use the mat to reduce cellulite include legs and thighs, butt, and stomach. If you work a sedentary desk job, you can place a mat on your desk chair and sit on it while you work to get the positive effects. It also has the side effect of helping to increase blood flow in the lower half of your body, which is good for you in general.
Most people say using it for 15-30 minutes on each area per day will greatly reduce the appearance of cellulite. The effects are unfortunately not permanent and you must continue the practice regularly. You also want to make sure you’re making healthy diet and exercise choices.
You can use any type of acupressure mat or pillow that works well for the part of the body you’re targeting, or you can even by a cellulite massage mat specifically designed for the purpose.
Acupressure for Sleep and Insomnia
Because using an acupressure mat helps relax your body, many people say it’s great for helping to induce sleep and cure insomnia.
Many people claim that using an acupressure mat in general at any time during the afternoon or evening is enough to help them sleep better. If you’re specifically using acupressure to help with insomnia or other sleep issues, I would recommend you use it immediately before you go to bed.
Do your normal bedtime ritual and once you’re ready, lay out your mat. I would recommend using it directly in bed, but some people prefer to use it on the floor. Lay down on the mat and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing to help aid the relaxation of your mind.
Use the mat for at least 20 minutes, until you start to get sleep or actually fall asleep. Just make sure to remove the mat and do not sleep on it all night.
If you make using the mat a part of your regular bedtime ritual, you may find it’s easier to fall asleep because it becomes a cue to your body that it is time to relax, let go, and sleep.
Acupressure for Feet and Reflexology
If you work on your feet all day or suffer foot pain from uncomfortable shoes, acupressure mats can help relieve that pain. They can also help with reflexology on the bottom of your feet to relieve other health issues.
You can use a mat or pillow, depending on your technique. Some people stand directly on the mat, which is said to have an energizing effect. Others use one foot at a time to apply pressure to different areas similar to a massage.
This video covers how to use a Pranamat for energy by standing on the mat:
Standing on the mat may help to relieve headaches and migraines, though some users say that simply lying on the mat helps with headaches.
If you find standing on a nail mat uncomfortable for you feet, there are many mats made for feet available that are more comfortable and provide a feeling similar to a massage.
Now that you know how to use an acupressure mat, check out some of the best acupressure mats for back pain.