There has been a growing trend lately for the use of acupressure mats, which are linked to a long list of health benefits. According to advocates of the small, spiky bed; it can help to relieve back pain, sooth sciatica, alleviate stress and reduce anxiety. Quite the boast for something that looks more like a torture device than a tool for wellness.
However, when someone dangles the carrot of 'losing weight whilst lying down' in front of us, we simply cannot resist; into the basket it pops and hey presto we have a new wellness toy destined for the understairs cupboard, or is it?
Here's our verdict.
The first time you lie on the mat, it does feel a little intense while your body makes sense of the prickly sensation. However, if like me, your pain threshold is relatively high thanks to lots of experimental treatments, then any real discomfort soon disappears. In fact, it feels good. This is partly due to the small rush of endorphins that your brain releases as the spikes settle into your flesh, which is the point (pardon the pun).
Lying there, you can feel the tension in your muscles gently melt away as you relax into the mat. It definitely works on more than one level and I was distinctly aware of a change in energy throughout my entire body. Whether this was the meridian lines being tapped into, or purely a placebo effect, there's no way of being 100 per cent sure. Although, it is true that the sense of calm it instilled in me remained for quite some time after coming off the mat.
The concept behind the mats and how they are marketed quite clearly draws from the ancient practice of acupuncture, however the two should not be confused. While the mat does work by stimulating acupressure points all over the area on which it is used; it's very general and superficial. Unlike acupuncture treatments, the mat cannot 'unblock' specific energy channels and target the root cause of bodily aches and pains.
Instead, acupressure mats have been proven to generate an overall sense of wellbeing and reduce pain through the release of endorphins. I can certainly vouch for this. Having incorporated it into my yoga practice for Savasana (Corpse pose, or the lying down bit usually at the end of a practice), my experience of using it has been very positive.
It's difficult to pinpoint exactly how and why I feel like it's working, but there's no doubt that it is. Instead of being relegated to the understairs cupboard, the acupressure mat has become a part of my daily routine.