In ancient India, gurus and yogis would lay on a bed of nails, which was an oblong piece of wood with thousands of nails embedded in it, with their points facing outward.
It’s believed they would meditate on a bed of nails based on the theory of acupressure, and today’s modern bed of nails products are based on the same theory.
This once strange practice has started to gain popularity with many people trying these ancient methods in their own home.
The big difference is that the steel nails have now been replaced with harmless plastic spikes embedded into a foldable mat, known as an acupressure mat.
Acupressure massage is a traditional therapeutic practise based on the idea of stimulating acupressure points, which in turn stimulate the natural release of beneficial hormones.
An acupressure mat has been shown in recent studies to reduce pain, promote relaxation and improve circulation .
In this post, we’ll go deeper into what an acupressure mat is, how it works and the benefits you can expect to gain from using one.
Then, we’ll review some of the best acupressure mats and recommend the one that rises above the rest.
What Is an Acupressure Mat?
An acupressure mat is a spiky chiropractic mat you lay on that stimulates acupressure points throughout your back.
Some also come as an acupressure mat and pillow set with a carrying bag.
The spiky neck pillow works the same as the mat except it is for your neck and head.
The mat is filled with thousands of nail-like plastic spikes.
How Does An Acupressure Mat Work?
According to the American Chiropractic Association, about 31 million Americans are having lower back pain at any given time.
Back pain, in general, is the leading cause of disability worldwide , and billions of dollars are spent each year on pain medication as a result.
Acupressure offers an all-natural, drug-free approach to relieving back pain, and the more you use it, the better your results will be.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupressure works by stimulating acupressure points, which are pressure points just below the skin.
Stimulating these points corrects imbalances within your body’s systems, improving the physiological functions of organs.
Thus, the therapeutic benefits you receive from acupressure result from a return to equilibrium within your body.
While the exact mechanisms of action haven’t been proven, modern scientists have found acupressure and acupressure mats to have specific therapeutic effects in people.
In one study, 15 minutes of daily use for 3 weeks reduced pain levels in patients with back pain.
Acupressure mats are shown to measurably reduce your heart rate and breathing rate, which are markers of stress levels .
Researchers also found that back temperature increases when an acupressure mat is used, indicating its ability to boost blood flow.
Many of the benefits of acupressure mats come from the increased circulation it brings, but also from the release of endorphins, which are natural pain-relieving hormones.
You also feel these benefits on a mental level, with better mental clarity and mood.
By using your acupressure mat each night before you go to bed, you can relieve the stress from your day and get to sleep more easily.
By getting on it for a while in the morning, you can help prevent neck and lower back pain from creeping in during the day.
What Does Lying on an Acupressure Mat Feel Like?
If you suffer from back pain, stretching out and lying on a hard surface feels good, because it relieves the pressure from your spine.
Like when laying on a back stretcher, laying on an acupressure mat lets your spine decompress.
It may seem like the plastic spikes would hurt, but they aren’t painful.
You get the most benefit laying on the mat without clothes coming in between you and the spikes, but it may feel uncomfortable this way at first.
However, after regular use, this pain should disappear within a few days.
You do feel a prickly sensation, but it’s a relaxing and stimulatory feeling.
What Should You Look for In a Good Acupressure Mat?
If you’ve decided that you want to try out an acupressure mat for yourself.
Here are a few things to look out for when choosing an acupressure mat and pillow.
The more “nails” or “needles” the mat has, the better because it’s able to stimulate more pressure points.
Most acupressure mats have over 6,000 needles, but some have as many as 14,000.
When you’re laying flat on your acupressure mat, you’ll probably want some support for your neck.
You can grab a pillow you already have, but if your mat comes with a pillow that’s ergonomically designed and filled with more therapeutic “nails,” that’s even better.
There are tons of acupressure points along your neck and scalp, so stimulating them will only add to the benefits you get from an acupressure mat.
If you’re looking to get a full-body experience then look for a product that includes both an acupressure mat and pillow.
You get the most benefit from your acupressure mat when you lay on it with direct skin contact.
Ideally, you want your mat to be made with non-toxic materials so that you’re not exposing yourself to toxins.
For a start, look for mats made with BPA-free plastic.
However, some are even more eco-friendly and made with organic materials.
When you’re trying out a new type of therapy for pain relief, your biggest concern is, “does it work?”
Look for a product that has a money-back guarantee so you can take the time to try it and return it if you don’t get results.
A Look At the Best Acupressure Mat and Pillows On the Market
We’ve done the research on 7 of the best acupressure mats out there, so you can compare the pros and cons.
1. Acuswede Acupressure Mat
The Acuswede mat is more expensive than the typical acupressure mat, but it’s designed to provide maximal therapeutic value.
With 14,000 points and a large surface area, you get more stimulation throughout your body.
You can stimulate acupressure points from your head to your glutes all at once, and there’s enough space width-wise to lay your arms on the mat, too.
It’s long enough to align it along the back and seat of your desk chair so that you’re using it on your glutes, hamstrings and back at the same time.
Developed in Sweden, it’s made of high-quality, durable material akin to a wetsuit, so that it’s comfortable, easy to clean and long-lasting.
It has a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can return it if it doesn’t produce the results you’re looking for.
Pros: Very high nail count for maximal pressure point coverage, large surface area lets you stimulate pressure points on your back, shoulders, glutes and hips at the same time, money-back guarantee, includes carry bag
Cons: You pay more, harder to travel with because it’s larger
2. Nayoya Back and Neck Pain Relief Mat
The Nayoya acupressure mat costs a lot less than the Acuswede, but it provides great value because it comes with a pillow that stimulates your neck, the tops of your shoulders and back of your head with more therapeutic spikes.
The mat has over 6,000 nails and definitely covers a smaller surface area than the Acuswede.
The other main difference is that it’s made with materials that are lower in quality.
Since the Nayoya acupressure mat is mainly comprised of foam, it’s prone to flattening over time and is harder to clean.
Pros: Package includes acupressure mat and pillow, ergonomic neck pillow effectively stimulates more acupressure points than you could reach with a flat mat, great price
Cons: Harder to clean, made with weak foam that flattens over time, carry bag not included – you have to use the box instead
3. Ajna Eco Acupressure Massage Mat
The Ajna mat is a highly-rated eco-friendly acupressure mat with over 5,000 spikes.
Ajna also offers an acupressure pillow that pairs well with the mat, but it’s not included.
It’s made with high-quality materials and it’s easy to wash.
Interestingly, users who found other mats too hard and painful on their bare skin found that the Anja mat wasn’t too sharp for them.
It’s received an overwhelming amount of praise from customers who use it for pain relief and relaxation.
The only drawback to it is that it’s not particularly large in size, so it doesn’t cover much surface area beyond your back.
The price is a little high considering it’s not a larger mat like the Acuswede, and if you buy the pillow in addition, you’re paying around the same amount as you would if you bought the Acuswede.
Pros: Not painful or too sharp, made with high-quality eco-friendly materials that are easy to wash, cotton carry bag included
Cons: Small size compared to larger mats like the Acuswede, not a complete acupressure mat and pillow set – pillow is sold separately
4. Spoonk Acupressure Mat
The Spoonk mat is good value because it includes 3 acupressure items around the price most mats cost.
In addition to the mat, it comes with a smaller mat that rolls into a pillow and a spiky acupressure ball you can use as a massage ball to release pressure points anywhere on your body, from your scalp to your feet.
The larger mat alone has 6,200 points and can stretch from your shoulders to your glutes, depending on your height.
Some users find the acupressure spikes on the Spoonk mat painful and sharp compared to other mats.
While the smaller mat rolls into a pillow, it’s not as effective as actual acupressure pillows because there’s no stuffing inside and the rolled mat tends to sink too much under the weight of your head.
Still, it’s nice to have a smaller mat you can easily travel with and stand on or use on a portion of your back for a bit of acupressure therapy on the go.
Pros: Complete acupressure set Includes 3 products in 1 set providing more value, made with quality and durable materials, filled with plant-based foam
Cons: Spikes are sharper, smaller mat isn’t very supportive when rolled up into a “pillow”
5. Pranamat Eco Set
The Pranamat Eco set includes an acupressure mat and pillow.
Used together, they give you the benefits of acupressure from your scalp to your glutes.
It has a 30-day money back guarantee and even a 5-year warranty.
Plus, it’s made with eco-friendly, organic materials, so it’s non-toxic and environmentally sustainable.
It’s well rated for its effectiveness and high quality, but it’s much more expensive than most acupressure mats, including the Acuswede.
Nonetheless, some users have compared it to cheaper mats and decided the Pranamat was more effective and made with better, more durable materials.
Pros: Includes a pillow, eco-friendly and non-toxic, money-back guarantee
6. Bed of Nails Original Acupressure Mat
Bed of Nails also sells an acupressure pillow, but it’s sold separately.
Many users report that the acupressure massage mat is effective, but there’s nothing special about it to warrant its higher price point.
It’s highly comparable to the Nayoya and Spoonk mats, as it’s about the same size with the same number of points.
The spikes are made of non-toxic plastic, and the mat is easy to wash.
Unfortunately, there’s no money-back guarantee, so if it turns out this type of therapy isn’t working for you, you may not be able to return it.
Pros: Non-toxic, easy to wash, includes carry bag
Cons: Expensive, small mat size considering the price, no money-back guarantee, does not include an acupressure pillow
7. LYAPKO Acupuncture Mat
What makes the LYAPKO mat different from other acupressure mats is that it’s made with various metals, predominantly silver.
These metals add to the therapeutic value of the acupressure mat by emitting beneficial nanoparticles that lower inflammation and neutralize free radicals.
LYAPKO defines their mat as an “acupuncture” mat, but its “needles” obviously aren’t designed to penetrate the skin.
The spikes are quite long, however, and many users find them too painful.
Because it’s made with metals instead of purely with plastic, they may actually be harder.
While this may be more akin to the ancient “bed of nails” ancestor of acupressure mats and make it more therapeutic than plastic, the intensity isn’t for everyone.
Some users say they loved it after slowly acclimating to the painful spikes.
Unfortunately, the mat is quite small, and only has 2,700 spikes.
Pros: Made with beneficial metals, provides more intensity
Cons: Made with fewer spikes compared to most acupressure mats, expensive considering its small size, carrying case and pillow not included
Our Recommendation: Acuswede Acupressure Mat
The Acuswede is our top choice because of the outstanding customer reviews it’s received, and all the features that maximize its therapeutic value.
Its extra-large size lets you get more out of the 15 to 20 minutes a day you spend on it.
With 14,000 spikes, it stimulates more pressure points.
This makes the mat more effective in bringing your body’s systems and organs to a state of equilibrium.
Whether you need pain relief or you have trouble sleeping, the Acuswede will be more effective in a shorter amount of time.
Plus, it’ll last you a long time because it’s made with durable materials.
If you prefer to get an acupressure set which includes a mat and pillow, then the Nayoya acupressure mat is a good option.
It also comes at an affordable price and is great for anybody who is looking to test an acupressure mat out for the first time.
Acupressure Mat Best Practices
When you’re brand new to using an acupressure mat, you want to start slowly at 3 to 5 minutes a day and work your way up to 15 to 20 minutes a day.
The key is to use it every day, because this will allow you to acclimate quickly to the sensation and provide you with the most benefits.
If laying on the mat feels too painful at first, even with clothes on, you can try placing it on the back of a chair and leaning back against it so your full weight isn’t on it.
As you adjust with regular practice, you can start laying on it.
Eventually, you can get to the point of making direct skin contact with it, which will give you the most benefits.
Acupressure mats allow you to reap the benefits of reflexology in your hands and feet, as well as acupressure on virtually any part of your body.
While they’re mostly designed for your back, you can also sit on them, stand on them, lay the front of your legs on them and lay your head down on them.
There are pressure points all throughout your body, and the tiny spikes on an acupressure mat are exactly what trigger them to produce beneficial effects for your body.
If you’re still not sure about trying an acupressure mat, choose one with high ratings and a money-back guarantee like the Acuswede, and you can’t go wrong.