Are There Real Benefits To Acupressure Mats?

Acupuncture, which has its roots in ancient China dating back approximately 3,000 years ago, is a therapeutic method that includes puncturing fine needles into specific body spots to liberate blocked energy flow to cure various physical injuries and mental ailments. The practice of acupuncture was initially described in "The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine" as "an organized system of diagnosis and treatment" and likely stems from medicine traditions passed down over centuries, per a 2014 study in the journal Global Advances in Health and Medicine. Over time, acupuncture has become a standard practice around the world and has also undergone constant evolution to become more relevant in the medicinal scene.

One popular invention inspired by the practice of acupuncture is acupressure mats. The goal of acupressure, like acupuncture, is to apply pressure to sensitive points along your back to activate the circulatory system. However, acupressure is non-invasive and is generally safe for laypeople to practice. Per GoodRx, acupressure mats contain needle-like plastic spikes that apply pressure to specific points on your body to produce benefits that are comparable to the conventional methods for reducing tension. While the intended goals are the same, the difference in the methods begs the question of whether there are any real benefits to acupressure mats. Here are some insights.

Acupressure mats promote blood flow

The most obvious advantage of acupressure mats is that they allow you to experience what a skin-pricking massage feels like sans fine needles. Therefore, if you'd like to try acupuncture but are deterred by the sharp needles, acupressure is an easy way to warm up to the practice. When using an acupressure mat, you may simply lie flat, sit, or stand with bare feet like you usually do with your yoga mat. The spiky texture of the mat plus the stabbing effect might discomfort your skin at first, but it's not painful and you'll soon get used to it. This innovative approach to healing yields benefits that are distinct from acupuncture.

Acupressure mats provide pressure on a large surface area, while acupuncture applies pressure to selective points to treat pain (via GoodRx). While the mat spikes cannot invade your skin like needles, there's adequate pressure on the muscle fibers to relieve muscular tension while boosting blood circulation. In this regard, acupressure mats are fit to use for the alleviation of back or neck pain. Another benefit of acupressure mats is that you only need to use one for approximately 20 minutes per day to start seeing benefits, according to certified strength and conditioning specialist Eric Madia (via Runner's World). Madia also notes that acupressure mats can facilitate the strengthening of feet and ankles, which not only helps enhance athletic performance but also helps you function better in your daily life.

Acupressure mats help you snooze better

By promoting blood circulation and relieving tension, acupressure mats can also help you sleep better. According to medical acupuncturist Jamie Bacharach, acupressure mats can help your body to release endorphins that enhance relaxation and bring on sleep faster (via If you'd like to use an acupressure mat for sleeping, acupuncturist Tom Ingegno suggests putting your mat on your bed with a shirt beneath your back to give you a bit of cushion from the spikes on the mat. To start, use it daily for about 20 minutes before bed to build up your tolerance and gradually extend or shorten the time until you find what feels best for you. At the same time, you can practice meditation or listen to calming zen music or Gregorian chants to feel more at ease and be better equipped to snooze.

Although acupressure mats are safe self-help aids, they have certain drawbacks. On No Sleepless Nights, a review of the Spoonk acupressure mat claims that lying on "a bed of nails" can put a momentary red mark on the skin and might be intolerable for those with sensitive skin or a low pain threshold, which might make it unfitting for those with blood pressure issues or certain skin conditions. Due to a scarcity of findings pertaining to the benefits of acupressure mats, you might want to consult your healthcare provider before using one.