I Tried It: The Acupressure Mat That Relieved My Tech-Neck Woes
It helps me focus while working from home, too.
This past year, working from home has provided me with many opportunities for self-exploration. I've found a morning routine that I can actually stick to, plunged into a meditation technique that helps me find a sense of calm, and finally was able to give myself the time to heal from past traumas. Yet work from home has its downsides too—like, well, working from the same exact place where I eat, sleep, and relax. I often find myself hunched over my laptop for hours each day, and other than gravely affecting my posture, it has caused me significant back and neck pain, too.
I first learned about the acupressure mat last summer and was intrigued by its call to relieve back pain, neck pain, and improve mood and focus. As a person would after reading these seemingly miraculous benefits, I ordered one and laid on it upon delivery. Initially, I felt nothing other than the prick of what felt like tiny needles piercing my skin, and so I chucked it into the closet and chose to forget about it. Recently, however, I've been seeing acupressure mats popping up all over the internet, so I considered taking mine out again—this time, though, with professionals' guidance on the exact ways to interact with this wellness tool to reap its maximum benefits.
What Is an Acupressure Mat?
To understand what exactly it is that an acupressure mat does, one must first understand acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine technique that calls for the insertion of hair-thin needles into the body's energy points to restore a proper flow of qi, or life energy, within the body. Dr. Shari Auth, DACM, LAC, LMT, and co-founder/chief healing officer at WTHN, reveals to Coveteur, “Acupuncture is the insertion of acupuncture needles into specific points on the body, whereas acupressure is stimulation with pressure rather than insertion. Acupuncture needs to be performed by a licensed professional, whereas acupressure is an easy and safe DIY option. The acupressure mat is broader than targeting specific acupoints and is especially good for muscular tension and relaxation."
An acupressure mat is simply a mat with over 4,000 plastic teeth that target acupressure points along the body. Most acupressure mats come with an acupressure pillow, which can be used under the neck or the lower back.
How I Use an Acupressure Mat
Contrary to my past experience of lying on an acupressure mat while wearing thick clothes, I've finally found a proper routine for using this amazing device. I must note that when I do lie on this device, I'm typically wearing thin material, like a t-shirt and running pants, just so I am not causing any unnecessary bruising to my bare skin. Additionally, I like to lie on the mat daily for 20 minutes. It's recommended not to exceed 30 minutes, just to avoid any damaging or bruising in the skin. Here are the ways I lie, sit, and stand on an acupressure mat for maximum benefits.
Back Pain: Firstly, I place the mat on the floor. I find that placing it on a solid, flat surface (as opposed to a cushiony couch or bed) is the best way to allow the teeth to push into my skin without causing damage. Then, starting from my tailbone, I lie on the mat slowly, one vertebra at a time, until my entire torso is on the floor. Dr. Auth explains, “You will begin to feel warmth creep over your upper back and entire body as the small needles start working their magic. If there's unwanted pain or tension in your shoulders, you can place the pillow under the upper part of your back to pinpoint different areas." Usually, I like to place the pillow under my lower back for more support and a deeper sensation during this.
Neck Pain: Unfortunately, my neck has borne most of the pressure associated with years of staring down at my phone and laptop screen. Whenever I feel the tension in my neck, I use Dr. Auth's advice: “Place the pillow at the far end of the mat and slowly round your back down onto the mat and place the pillow at the base of the head. Take a handful of deep breaths and allow your body to relax and get heavier onto the mat and pillow. Slowly turn your head to the right and then the left, taking long, slow, deep breaths. This movement helps to release tension in the neck."
Leg Pain: With running being one of the only outdoor exercises I've been able to do this year, I often find myself looking for anything that will release tension in my tight quads and calves. Gianna De La Torre of Acuintuit and co-founder of Wildling explains, “For leg pain, you could still just lay with the back on the mat, [since] the meridians that run up the back also run down the legs. But if it's an area that can lay rested on the mat, then you can try it directly on your leg." For this, I enjoy sitting on the mat with my legs spread out in front of me while I complete some deep breathing exercises. After that, I flip over and allow my hips and quads to sink into the mat while I rock from side to side. It may feel a bit silly, but I find it immediately releases tension in my sore muscles.
Mood & Focus: Gianna De La Torre of Acuintuit and co-founder of Wildling explains, “You can treat the entire body by treating the face, hand, foot, or ear. When you stand on an acupressure mat, you stimulate the entire body via the foot. It will feel energizing and balancing." For this, I enjoy standing on the acupressure mat with bare feet in the morning to help energize me for a busy day ahead. Dr. Auth adds, “The pillow can be used to massage the feet while working to help stimulate the mind. Simply place the acupressure pillow on the floor in front of your work chair and place your feet (no socks or thin socks) onto the acupressure pillow. Make a prancing movement with your feet to gently massage your feet on the acupressure pillow."
So I tried it, and do I think it's worth it? Certainly, because although this is not a full-on replacement to acupuncture, it still helps me release physical and emotional tension within my body daily. While I'm cooped up at home, working in the same space day in and day out, I can firmly say that I endorse anything that will ease the pain and invigorate me throughout my nine-to-five.
Top photo: Courtesy of Instagram/@wthn
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