Acupuncture and the Use of Acupressure Mats
Have you seen acupressure mats advertised, or maybe you have purchased one? I first saw Dr. Oz talking about them on his show. Intrigued, I ordered a Spoonk Mat from Amazon.com. Since I bought my own mat for personal use, my patients will sometimes casually ask me if I believe the mats are useful. I normally say yes, they are ok to use, especially if you feel they help your condition. Several brands of these mats are available for sale on the Internet and elsewhere. Two of the brands that I see most often are the Spoonk Mat and the Bed of Nails. Health claims are touted in the marketing for both of these brands, such as providing relief for insomnia, activating the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems for relaxation, and relieving pain, among other claims. From the Spoonk Mat website (spoonkspace.com/FAQ), “regular relaxation prevents the buildup of stress and the manifestation of stress related diseases”. The implication is that the use of the mat encourages this process. At the Bed Of Nails website (bedofnails.org/faq/), research results are presented. The implication is that use of the mat “increased circulation” and “slowed the heart rate” although “no effects were found on depression, anxiety, and sleep”. At least they were honest about the findings.
One drawback of acupressure mats is that the thousands of prongs contained are made of plastic; for acupuncture, we use metal needles. Part of the way acupuncture benefits you is that the electricity is conducted between the practitioner and the patient via the metal needle. Plastic is a poor conductor of electrical charge. Plus, there is not an engaged practitioner under the mat directing where the mat’s prongs access the body. Therefore, the effectiveness of the acupressure mat is limited from the start because of the plastic and because it contacts all sorts of areas on the body in a random way.
You have to use your body weight on the mat by lying down or standing on it. To prevent scratches, it is best not to move suddenly against the prongs on the mat. Do not allow the prongs against your bare skin because it can be uncomfortable. It is preferable to use a lightweight t-shirt or other fabric between your skin and the mat’s prongs.
Do not sleep on the acupressure mat all night. If you are lying on the mat in bed, remove it after 15-20 minutes or less.
Do not use the mat on the same day that you have an acupuncture treatment.
Do not use the mat on various body parts in one session. In my opinion, it would be too stimulating for your system if you use the mat on your torso and limbs at one time. Use the mat on your torso only, and in a separate session on another day, focus on your extremities. If you are using the mat with your neck, you can also use it with your back in one session. If you have a one-sided problem (i.e., right hip pain), use the mat to relax both right and left sides.
With these tips in mind, most people can use acupressure mats beneficially. You can use the mat, but remember that the effect is non-specific and does not take the place of a real acupuncture treatment. The mat is fine to use in a pinch.
Kerri Winston, Ph.D., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist with a practice in Atlanta, Georgia's Buckhead area. If you are interested in learning more about how acupuncture can help you or your loved ones, please call 404-949-0550 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.