The reason an acupressure mat is incredibly effective for treating back pain is because it forces the muscles from contraction to relaxation.
When I use an acupressure mat, the first thing I experience is overstimulation, it’s overwhelming.
You can feel so much going on in your back from all the spikes. The mind wanders, jumping around from area to area.
It’s super intense to start with, and the thought of overstimulation and intensity might seem odd when you’re trying to relax.
However after a while your mind and body completely surrenders and enters a state of total relaxation.
It works for pain because lying on the spiky surface promotes blood flow to an area, relaxes the muscles and in turn, releases tension.
Using the mat on a softer surface, like a bed is my personal preference as the spikes stimulate more pressure points:
- Hard surface (e.g. floor): intense, you will feel more acupressure points in the areas that have most contact with the mat (such as lower back and shoulders).
- Softer surface (e.g. bed): the mat will contour around the back and results in a more even distribution of the pressure.
I like putting a yoga bolster (you can use a pillow if you don’t have one) under the knees. This adds extra comfort to the therapy and enables the back to relax completely. Melting into the spikes in that position is absolute bliss.
You could liken it to say heat therapy in a sauna or cold water therapy, where it can be overwhelming and hard to focus on anything except how hot or cold you feel.
The closest I’ve experienced to it is, unsurprisingly, acupuncture. It’s like the at-home, DIY self-administered ‘light’ version of acupuncture.
Anyone who’s tried acupuncture will know that feeling when the needles go in, there are so many different sensations going on. Then after a while you become so relaxed you can even fall asleep.
I believe that one of the most unique benefits of an acupressure mat is its ability to completely calm the mind and switch your thoughts off.
Other at-home back pain relief products, such as a massage gun or creams and gels, don’t have that same distracting impact on your mind.
Plus those that do, such as a cold dip or sauna, are expensive and take up a lot of space. An acupressure mat can cost as little as $20 and be rolled away easily.
When you’re looking for at-home therapies and products to treat back pain, acupressure has to be right up there at the top of the list.
It’s relatively cheap, easy to use, offers drug-free pain relief – and that all important relaxation and escape we need at times.
Don’t just take my word for it though, let’s have a look at the research…
A study conducted by professors at Michigan Medicine, focused on 67 people struggling with chronic low back pain.
Throughout the trial, acupressure was compared with usual forms of treatment, including pain relief medication.
After reviewing the findings, researchers were able to conclude:
Compared to the usual care group, we found that people who performed stimulating acupressure experienced pain and fatigue improvement and those that performed relaxing acupressure felt their pain had improved after six weeks.
Another investigation in 2017, looking at chronic low back discomfort, came to a similar conclusion.
As well as highlighting how the therapy could provide relief, they also identified a number of other advantages:
…acupressure does not require expensive equipment and large space. Using acupressure, therapists can teach patients a technique to control their own pain, as it is relatively easy to learn key points.
In addition, a significant association has been found between complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use and self-rated excellent health and health improvement.
As a manual technique derived from CAM, acupressure has the potential to save the healthcare costs while improving patient satisfaction and outcomes by promoting self-management of pain.
They were keen to highlight however that further research is needed to fully understand the level to which it can offer relief.
We should also note that investing in an acupressure mat isn’t some miracle cure for getting rid of your back issues.
It effectively just treats the symptoms of the condition in the short term, whether it’s pain or a stressed out mind.
However with very few reported side effects, it can be a highly effective tool for dealing with your condition.
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- University of Michigan (2019). Lower Back Pain? Self-Administered Acupressure Could Help [Online]. Available from: https://www.michiganmedicine.org/health-lab/lower-back-pain-self-administered-acupressure-could-help [Accessed 30 June 2023]. ↩
- Adams, A., Eschman, J. and Ge, W. (2017). Acupressure for chronic low back pain: a single system study [Online]. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5574337/ [Accessed 30 June 2023]. ↩