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This $22 acupressure mat was one Amazon impulse buy I don't regret. It practically melts away my tension and back pain.

Insider
Insider
 2022-01-25

Prices are accurate at the time of publication.

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  • Acupressure mats are designed to relieve muscle tension and soreness by stimulating key points on your body.
  • I found this $20 mat on Amazon and it became one of my most useful purchases in aiding back and shoulder pain.
  • Though it helps release muscle pain and tension, it's not the most comfortable method for daily treatment.

I'm always on the hunt for products capable of helping ease my back pain and shoulder tension. From a posture corrector I discovered while watching "Shark Tank" to an at-home shiatsu massager I impulsively purchased on Amazon, I'm willing to try almost anything once.

My latest solution is this $22 acupressure mat from Amazon . After seeing several articles where people claim they've been a lifesaver for helping to alleviate their own muscle tension, I couldn't resist. And everyone from former coworkers to perfect strangers sings their praise.

Uncomfortable relief

Using the acupressure mat — which is covered in shallow plastic spikes designed to stimulate acupressure points — makes me feel like I'm lying on a pile of literal fire ants. Comfortable is the last word I'd use to describe what it's like to have my bare back and body weight pressed against its surface of spikes.

But every time I sit up from using it (usually after 10 to 20 minutes), I notice a huge wave of relief come over me along with a distinct softening of my muscular tension. At that moment, the uncomfortable nature of the acupressure mat is a distant thought.

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You can use the mat with or without a shirt on. I suggest starting with some sort of protection before you try direct skin contact, though I've found it to be more effective when I use it bare.

A doctor's take

I was unsure if this relief was a result of the acupressure mat working as advertised or if it was a consequence of the endorphins my body was very obviously releasing. I decided to consult Dr. Pooja Shah, a double board-certified doctor of integrative and family medicine and the Director of Integrative Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, for help.

Dr. Shah, who trained in medical acupuncture at Harvard, explained that acupressure points are located all over our bodies and that they "follow 'meridians' or energy channels of the body," she told Insider.

Some scientists think these energy channels might be linked to the myofascial tissue around our muscles. When you stimulate certain acupressure points, you may feel relief in other areas of the body. This is why during an acupuncture treatment, needles placed in your calves release tension held in your back or shoulders.

However, Dr. Shah clarified that the acupressure mat "does not stimulate acupressure points specifically, but rather stimulates many points at once."

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I took this to mean that the term acupressure mat is likely a misnomer since proper practice involves the very precise placing of pressure around the body along energy channels and nerve pathways. Dr. Shah offered up a different (and possibly better) theory as to why or how they work.

"The gate control theory of pain may explain how these mats may help some pain syndromes," she said. "Basically, a non-painful stimulus (such as the mat) may prevent painful sensations from traveling to the central nervous system, thus suppressing pain. These mats may also stimulate endogenous endorphin release from your brain, helping to alleviate pain transiently."

Although these mats aren't necessarily performing any sort of true acupressure, there are still very real theories as to how and why they can help reduce pain and release tension.

I can't speak for every acupressure mat available but the one I got was just $20 on Amazon and it was one of the more valuable impulse purchases I've made.

Should you buy it?

If you suffer from painful muscle tension and soreness, then yes. At just $22, it offers incredible value and, for me, delivered even better relief. It can be uncomfortable to use but that paled in comparison to the softening of my tension.

What are your alternatives?

There are many similar acupressure mats a simple Amazon search away, though this one from ProSource was all I felt I needed. Larger mats can target more of your body, while acupressure pillows can provide similar therapy to your head, neck, and shoulders.

The bottom line

From a personal perspective, I've found this mat to be a helpful way to manage my own discomfort, and I recommend it for anyone looking to relieve back or neck pain. Though you can use it while wearing a shirt for a less intense experience, I find it most effective with my bare skin against the mat.

Keep in mind that it's best to start slow and try it first with a layer of protection, like a thin shirt or sheet. I recommend beginning with a few minutes at a time and working your way up once you get used to the feeling. Your adjustment period tapers off the more often you use it.

Pros: Inexpensive, works well to relieve tension

Cons: Can be very uncomfortable

$21.99 FROM PROSOURCE FIT $19.98 FROM WALMART $18.98 FROM AMAZON Originally $24.99 | Save 24%


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