Here’s What Experts Actually Think About the $21.99 Acupressure Mat Everyone’s Talking About

updated Mar 18, 2021
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I’ve been wanting someone to crack my back for months now. After a year of staying at home, I find myself often seated in a c-shaped position, whether at my desk or scrolling aimlessly on my phone for hours on end. Unfortunately, going in for a massage isn’t the safest pandemic activity — as a result, I told myself that the discomfort was a for-now issue, a byproduct of our new working-from-home landscape. 

I didn’t consider an alternative for relieving my back pain until I saw ProsourceFit’s Acupressure Mat and Pillow Set all over my Twitter timeline. The set is a top-selling product on Amazon, with over 28,000 reviews — and 82 percent of the reviews are above three stars. I was curious what all the hubbub was about. The cotton mat looked like 25 inches of pure pain with its bed of plastic needles.

At $21.99, the mat certainly seemed like a bargain, but I still wondered if it would actually help my discomfort. As someone who doesn’t have a doctor at the moment, I was eager to know what experts, in particular chiropractors and physical therapists, thought of the mat. I reached out to the professionals to find out if the popular set was too good to be true. 

What are the benefits of an acupressure mat? 

Dr. Ashok Gupta, a trained physiotherapist and the COO of pain management solution at TheraNow, told Apartment Therapy that “acupressure mats may help with certain conditions like back pain, sciatica pain, neck pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, stress, and tension” because the mats work on “releasing energy throughout the body.” Even so, Dr. Gupta noted that the mats have not been “extensively studied,” but that anecdotal evidence suggests there could be a benefit. “It has been reported helpful by users,” he said.   

According to Dr. Bruce McElwain, a professional chiropractor of over 40 years, “the mat could provide mild stimulation to distress[ed] muscles and nerve pathways due to its comfortably contoured pressure points.” He added that the mat could be rejuvenating and relaxing for those who experience mild discomfort caused by day-to-day posture and alignment issues — but that you should consult a chiropractor or doctor if that stiffness turns into outright pain, or your discomfort persists over the course of multiple days.

What do I need to know about using an at-home acupressure mat?

Every health professional Apartment Therapy spoke with noted the importance of using the mat correctly to avoid any injury, and that includes taking your time getting on and off that mat. ProSourceFit recommends that first-time users lay on the mat for up to 20 minutes and for more experienced users to remain on it for up to an hour. However, Dr. Gregory Funk, the owner of Ideal Health Chiropractic, informed Apartment Therapy that all users should “only lay on the mat for no longer than 20 minutes at a time.”

Users should keep in mind that it may take users some time to adjust to the mat. Dr. Gupta explained the mat’s numerous plastic spikes “may cause discomfort or pain for some people until the body warms up.” 

However, both Dr. Gupta and Dr. Funk expressed the importance of listening to your body — stop using the mat if something feels “off,” and consult a doctor if you’re worried.

Is the mat safe to use? 

If you’re concerned about the safety of this set, Dr. Funk is here to put your mind at ease. “In general, acupressure mats are safe for users, especially since these mats simulate acupuncture but do not actually puncture the skin,” he said. 

There are exceptions to that rule, however. “People with conditions like diabetes or low blood circulation may be exposed to the risk of wound and/or infection,” Dr. Gupta noted. The physiotherapist added that children and pregnant people should not use the mat. 

In the end, an acupressure mat should not be considered a replacement for any professional treatment. “While this acupressure mat is a good option for relieving pain, I believe nothing beats the experience of a real acupuncture appointment or other pain relief therapies,” Dr. Funk said, adding that working with a professional will offer a more personalized strategy for alleviating a patient’s pain. “Their more targeted approach will help alleviate your pains more effectively than an acupressure mat ever could!”