Relaxation, improved sleep, reduced aches and pains. Sounds pretty good, no? All these—and more!—are the purported benefits of acupressure mats, or mats covered with hundreds of short, tiny plastic spikes. Shorter and thicker than a typical yoga mat, they provide stimulation to acupressure points along the Acupuncture Massage College “What Are Meridians In Traditional Chinese Medicine?” View Source (places where energy is purported to flow, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine) when you lie down or step on them. They’re affordable, lightweight, and generally come with few risks. Whether you struggle with chronic pain or you just want to optimize your health and well-being, an acupressure mat might be the perfect addition to your wellness arsenal.
The hardest thing about using an acupressure mat (besides getting used to how it feels) might just be deciding which one to buy. To help narrow your search for the perfect mat, we took five of the most popular products on the market through many rounds of testing. This included hours of hands-on experience, sifting through peer-reviewed studies, and interviewing health experts.
The Prosource Fit mat came out as the clear winner. It offers an experience that’s identical or nearly identical to its competitors—for a fraction of the price.
Here’s the TL;DR on how the best acupressure mats stack up:
The Best Acupressure Mat
ProsourceFit Acupressure Mat and Neck Pillow
- Available in multiple colors
- Made of cotton and foam with plastic spikes
- 16.5 x 8 x 9.5 inches
- Comes with a comfortable pillow
- Unbeatable bang for your buck
- No third-party verification to back up organic claims
The ProsourceFit mat made me a firm acupressure mat believer. While all the mats looked nearly identical and felt roughly (no pun intended) the same, this one accomplished everything the much more expensive mats could at a much more affordable price point.
Like its competitors, the ProsourceFit is easy to set up. Just remove it from the packaging, roll it out on the floor, and you’re ready to go. While you can spend more on a mat that comes with a storage bag, this feature wasn’t a huge draw for me. If I needed to pack the mat up, I’d just roll it up and toss it into a bag. For storage, this mat features little tabs that a more organized person would use to hang it up on a hook. (I shoved mine in a corner and warned my kids not to step on it, which they promptly did anyway while yelling, “Ouch!”)
The ProsourceFit mat’s spikes weren’t the sharpest. But the outer covering, the firmness of the mat itself, and overall feel were nearly indistinguishable from the others.
Following each of my mat sessions, my chronic left-sided neck and shoulder tightness eased up. I also felt a sense of increased calm. It’s hard to say whether I felt more peaceful than I would have by simply spending 10 minutes lying on my back while listening to a podcast or staring at the ceiling, but I can definitively say the pain relief was a direct result of the mat. And who knows—maybe I felt more relaxed because my pain subsided.
Although the ProsourceFit didn’t elicit any change in my overall mood or sleep improvements, I was thrilled with the pain relief I experienced. (And, to be clear, I experienced the same benefits with every mat I tried.)
Like other mats we tested, the ProsourceFit has a cotton cover that’s easily removable for washing. Unless you put your mat through some serious abuse, it seems like something you could use regularly for years without any significant issues.
Although the brand claims the mat is made of 100% cotton and plant-based eco foam, I couldn’t find proof of any third-party certification. But with over 40,000 Amazon reviews averaging 4.3 of five stars, most consumers don’t seem to mind if their acupressure mat loses a few eco-points.
What Is an Acupressure Mat?
All the acupressure mats are comprised of an approximately one-inch thick foam mat encased in a removable cloth covering, one side of which is covered with small, sharp spikes. Many also come with accompanying pillows. You can utilize these spikes by lying down or stepping on the mat, which sink into the skin but do not puncture it. This provides an intense feeling of pressure. Acupressure mat companies claim their products are an alternative to acupuncture (which does puncture the skin) that can help with a variety of ailments, including insomnia, chronic pain, and muscle soreness, and even improve sleep, mood, increase energy levels, and promote relaxation.
What Are Some Acupressure Mat Benefits?
The mats certainly have their benefits. Still, they don’t work on your body the same way individual acupuncture, massage, or acupressure treatments do, according to Tom Ingegno, licensed acupuncturist at Charm City Integrative Health in Baltimore, Maryland. “ Chinese Medicine “Point specificity in acupuncture” View Source have shown that there is point specificity, which means that we can see specific physiological changes in the body when a certain point is stimulated.” Those changes include systemic vasodilation, or opening all the body’s blood vessels, which stimulates the digestive system.
On the other hand, when you lie on an acupressure mat, its “tooth-like” spikes “can cause some increased circulation to the surface layers of the skin, fascia, and muscles.” These are not point-specific, says Ingegno, and won’t bring on these physiological changes.
Ingegno has still seen acupressure mats help with pain relief and relaxation, both for himself and his patients. This may be due to the increased circulation they elicit. “[This] could trigger your autonomic nervous system… to enter a parasympathetic mode, which is rest/digest,” he says, as opposed to being in a sympathetic, or fight-or-flight mode. Because increased circulation is International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance “Relationship Between Blood Flow and Performance Recovery: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study” View Source , using an acupressure mat may help relieve muscle soreness from exercise.
Meanwhile, data suggests that acupressure can be an effective pain reliever across a variety of situations. In a small 2012 Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine “The Benefit of a Mechanical Needle Stimulation Pad in Patients with Chronic Neck and Lower Back Pain: Two Randomized Controlled Pilot Studies” View Source , subjects who self-administered a needle stimulation pad reported significant decreases in neck and back pain over a two-week period. In another Pain Medicine “A Self-Administered Method of Acute Pressure Block of Sciatic Nerves for Short-Term Relief of Dental Pain: A Randomized Study” View Source , 46 of 60 participants found acupressure relieved their dental pain. And a Complementary Therapies in Medicine “ Acupressure for primary dysmenorrhoea: A systematic review” View Source including more than 400 subjects suggests acupressure can help with menstrual cramps. Another study found that Applied Sciences “Efficacy of an Acupressure Mat in Association with Therapeutic Exercise in the Management of Chronic Low Back Pain: A Prospective Randomized Controlled Study” View Source , when used in conjunction with rehabilitative exercises, helped relieve low back pain.
What Acupressure Mat Benefits Should You Not Expect (Yet)?
So far, there isn’t any clinical research to back up claims of improved sleep. But if sleep problems are due to minor neck or back pain, or stress due to minor neck or back pain, there’s plenty of Sleep “How an Acupressure Mat Could Benefit Your Sleep” View Source showing that acupressure mats may offer some assistance.
There are also insufficient studies to prove the mats’ effectiveness or to show exactly how they work. But it may come down to increased circulation, according to Ingegno. By increasing blood flow to the fascia, the sheath-like connective tissue between your skin and your muscles, the mat can help reduce muscle inflammation along with any associated pain.
How Do You Use an Acupressure Mat?
Ease into it: The prickly sensation takes some getting used to. Sit down on the mat, then slowly lower down so your head rests on the pillow. If the mat doesn’t have a pillow, you can roll a towel beneath the mat where your head goes or simply use a regular pillow. Some may want to wear a thin t-shirt the first few times they try it and place it on a couch or bed rather than the floor. You can also target your feet by standing on the mat, either barefoot or in socks.
Start with a short period of time (one to five minutes) and gradually increase the duration to fifteen minutes. It took me about three shorter sessions to work up to a 15-20 minute session. I found that once I got used to it, I was happy to stay long past my 15-minute timer went off.
Are Acupressure Mats Healthy?
According to Ingegno, the biggest risk for most people is the small financial setback you’ll experience if you’re unhappy with your acupressure mat.
That said, certain populations should steer clear of this product category. While most users (myself included) find them uncomfortable initially, they shouldn’t cause increased pain. “As a general rule of thumb, your body will let you know when an acupressure mat is doing harm and not good. It shouldn’t be painful,” says Jamie Bacharach, licensed medical acupuncturist and head of practice at Acupuncture Jerusalem.
Additionally, people with thin skin or bleeding disorders should avoid acupressure mats due to the high risk of bruising, says Ingegno. (The same goes for people who are on blood thinners.) He also suggests using caution if you’re pregnant and avoiding exposing open wounds or skin conditions to the mat’s sharp spikes. Talk with your doctor if you aren’t sure.
The Nessie Rating: Healthy
You should avoid acupressure mats if you’re in a high-risk category, and they won’t eradicate serious chronic pain or other conditions. Still, there’s enough evidence showing a link to pain relief and general relaxation. This, plus their relatively low barrier-to-entry cost, make them healthy enough for most people to try.
How We Got Here
Meet Your Guinea Pig
I’m Pam Moore, a health and fitness junkie and freelance journalist who happens to live with some pesky aches and pains. Most notably, I deal with chronic left-sided neck and shoulder tightness that—no lie—has gotten markedly better since I started testing the acupressure mats.
Before I became a freelance health and fitness writer, I was an occupational therapist. For more than a decade, I worked in a variety of healthcare settings, helping people with chronic and acute medical conditions (think strokes, joint replacements, and head injuries) function as fully as possible. This meant designing treatments that helped my patients grow stronger, more coordinated, and more self-aware. I also educated patients and their families on how to make their homes as safe as possible.
In addition to my healthcare experience, I’m an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, intuitive eating coach, and women’s health and fitness podcast host. Although my first love is endurance sports—I’ve completed six marathons and two Ironmans—I’ve also dabbled in CrossFit and weightlifting. As a group fitness instructor, I teach indoor cycling and barre.
Our Testing Process
Long before a single spike touched my skin, I researched acupressure mat market. After spending four hours scouring the internet for information, I came up with an initial selection of mats to test. We then collaborated to choose the five mats that made the final cut. Ness then purchased these mats for testing.
The testing process was straightforward. For each mat, I laid on my back at least three times. Before and after each testing session, I gave myself a numerical rating in several categories. This included any pain I was experiencing, how relaxed I felt, and my mood. I also noted session duration and other observations, such as how long it took to get used to the prickly sensation, how I slept that night, and anything else that set any of the mats apart from the others.
Although I noticed that I consistently experienced pain relief and increased relaxation after each session, regardless of which mat I used, some felt sharper than others. The mats looked almost identical, so I wanted to ensure I wasn’t influenced by appearance or branding. To create a more objective test environment, I recruited my kids as volunteer lab assistants. One blindfolded me and took responsibility for randomly switching out the mats. The other recorded my observations on a chart. Along the y-axis was the name of each mat. Along the x-axis were blanks where she recorded which mat I thought I was using and my numerical spikiness rating. (The results were consistent with my previous observations.)
In total, I spent about six hours testing acupressure mats. To read more about how we found the best acupressure mats, read the test notes.
The Acupressure Mat Buying Guide
Who Should Buy an Acupressure Mat?
Acupressure mats may be a worthwhile purchase for anyone who is dealing with aches and pains including neck and shoulder pain, back pain, or stiff or sore muscles. They may also be helpful as a means of stress relief, or as a sleep aid.
For some, the mat can also be an alternative to anti-inflammatories like NHS “Side Effects of Ibuprofen” View Source and LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury “Acetaminophen” View Source , which can exacerbate stomach and liver issues with consistent long-term use. (Speak with your doctor before stopping any medication.)
However, acupressure mats aren’t for everyone. Some product labels note that pregnant people should avoid them. People who take blood thinners or have diabetes, poor circulation, bleeding disorders and/or thin skin should consult with their physician before using one. (If not avoid acupressure mats altogether.)
Which Features Matter Most When Buying Acupressure Mats?
- Effectiveness: What this looks like will vary from person to person, depending what you’re using it for, including pain relief, relaxation, sleep, and mood. It also shouldn’t cause more pain—if its spikes are too sharp, that may be the case.
- Ease of use: During the testing process, I noted whether there was anything that made each mat easier or harder to set up or use.
- Ease of storage: Questions I asked to determine the ease of storage included: Does the product come with a carrying case? If so, is it user-friendly? If not, does it have a hook for easy hanging?
- Aesthetics: While this category certainly isn’t of primary importance, it might be a factor in your decision, particularly given the fact that there aren’t any significant differences in the way the mats feel or perform.
- Eco-friendliness: While some mats claim to be eco-friendly, boasting toxin-free, sustainable materials and construction, others make no such claims. If green materials are important to you, check for certification from organizations like CertiPUR-US “Foams that feel good and you can feel good about” View Source and Global Organic Textile Standard “The Standard” View Source . It’s important to note that for all but one of the mats we tested, the “eco-friendly-factor” could not be verified. (Spoonk was the only brand with these third-party green certifications.)
Other Acupressure Mats Worth Considering
Nayoya Acupressure Mat
- Available in one color
- Cotton cover
- 15 x 9 x 7 inches
- Comes with a comfortable pillow
- Arrives in a box with a handle that’s perfect for storage or transport
- Features the sharpest teeth of all the mats tested
The Nayoya experience was nearly identical to the ProsourceFit experience. Aside from its color scheme, the mat and pillow sizes and proportions were visually indistinguishable from the ProsourceFit. Lying on the mat was a different story, though. The Nayoya’s spikes were noticeably sharper than the ProsourceFit’s. In fact, its spikes are the sharpest of all the mats I tried, rating a three on the sharpness scale. (One being the most mild, three being most intense.) I personally wouldn’t pay twice the price of the ProsourceFit for this mat. I would, however, recommend it for anyone craving a sharper sensation.
If aesthetics are a priority, know the Nayoya won’t win points for chicness. In dark green with yellow writing and white spikes, it had a very “Girl Scouts” vibe. It doesn’t come with its own bag, but it does come in a box that’s perfect for storage or transport. Depending on your space, a box might even be easier to store than a bag.
While other brands claim to be made of cotton, linen, bamboo, or otherwise eco-friendly materials, Nayoya boasts no such features. (The packaging says the cover is made of cotton, but doesn’t give any information about the foam core.) I hesitate to ding this product just for its eco-friendliness, though, considering we couldn’t verify most of the other mats’ sustainability claims.
Spoonk Acupressure Eco Mat
- Comes in two colors
- Cover is made of cotton, foam is plant-based, plastic points are made of hypoallergenic ABS plastic, carries two third-party green certifications
- 16 x 14 x 2 inches
- Comes with a carrying case
- Includes a “groove ball” (i.e. a massage ball)
- Green claims verified by third-party organizations
- The “pillow” it comes with is actually a smaller mat that can be rolled into a pillow shape
- Tough to store
In testing, the Spoonk functioned just as well as the ProsourceFit and the Nayoya. However, its sensation is slightly different, with a spikiness score of two out of three. The website says it comes with a pillow. But the “pillow” is a smaller mat that you can roll into an approximation of a pillow. While I wish the brand was more forthcoming about this, the mini-mat works as an extender for a longer mat. It could also work for anyone who wants to rest the their thighs or calves on a mat.
This mat comes with a matching, sturdy carrying bag with a handle. But it was a huge effort to stuff both the mat and the mini-mat inside. (I actually gave up before I successfully got both items in.) On the plus side, it comes in two stylish shades of blue and is one of the more attractive mats.
Of all the mats I tested, Spoonk is the clear winner in the eco-friendly category. The product description includes “non-toxic stim points made with hypoallergenic ABS plastic; Mats are filled with plant-based, CertiPur-US Eco-foam; 100% cotton fabric is Global Organic Textile Standard certified.” Both CertiPUR-US “Foams that feel good and you can feel good about” View Source and Global Organic Textile Standard “The Standard” View Source are third-party certifications with a rigorous set of standards.
Acupressure Mats You Can Skip
Wthn Acupressure Mat Set
- Comes in one color
- Made of coconut fiber, linen, and memory foam
- 16 x 9 x 9 inches
- Includes a comfortable pillow
- Comes with a bag for storage and transport
- Looks and feels exactly the same as less expensive mats
Wthn’s price tag is more than triple that of the ProsourceFit and lacks any distinguishing features. With that in mind, I just can’t recommend this product. In a blind test, I couldn’t tell it apart from its competitor. And while the black polyester carrying bag it comes with is a nice-to-have, it’s not anything to write home about. It reminds me of the cheap polyester backpacks you get with a 5K entry or conference expo.
DoSense Pro Acupressure Mat Set
- Comes in three colors
- Cover is made of 100% cotton (foam core is described only as “quality foam.”)
- 17.2 x 8.5 x 6.5 inches
- Includes a pillow, carrying case, and hot/cold pack
- Looks and feels exactly the same as less expensive mats
Like the Wthn mat, I couldn’t tell the difference between the DoSensePro and my favorite, the ProsourceFit. I appreciated the matching bag and the hot/cold pack it came with and preferred the color selections for the DoSensePro over the ProsourceFit. But these perks just don’t justify the relatively steep price.
- Acupuncture may create physiological changes through point specificity: “Point specificity in acupuncture” Chinese Medicine (February 2012)
- Acupressure mats can promote circulation: Interview with Tom Ingegno, licensed acupuncturist at Charm City Integrative Health in Baltimore, Maryland, via email, May 4th, 2022
- Research shows a self-administered needle stimulation pad relieved subjects’ neck and back pain:” The Benefit of a Mechanical Needle Stimulation Pad in Patients with Chronic Neck and Lower Back Pain: Two Randomized Controlled Pilot Studies” Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (September 2012)
- Subjects with dental pain responded well to acupressure: “A Self-Administered Method of Acute Pressure Block of Sciatic Nerves for Short-Term Relief of Dental Pain: A Randomized Study” Pain Medicine (August 2014)
- Acupressure may relieve menstrual cramps: “Acupressure for primary dysmenorrhoea: A systematic review” Complementary Therapies in Medicine (February 2010)
- Increasing circulation to the fascia can help reduce muscle inflammation along with any associated pain: Interview with Tom Ingegno, licensed acupuncturist at Charm City Integrative Health in Baltimore, Maryland, via email, May 4th, 2022
- Increased circulation could trigger your autonomic nervous system to go into the parasympathetic, or relaxation mode: Interview with Tom Ingegno, licensed acupuncturist at Charm City Integrative Health in Baltimore, Maryland, via email, May 4th, 2022
- Acupressure mats should not be painful: Interview with Jamie Bacharach, licensed medical acupuncturist and head of practice at Acupuncture Jerusalem, via email, May 8th, 2022
- Certain populations should exercise caution or avoid acupressure mats: Interview with Tom Ingegno, licensed acupuncturist at Charm City Integrative Health in Baltimore, Maryland, via email, May 4th, 2022
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