Natural pain relief with acupressure mats: a personal experience

My affliction with neck, back, and shoulder pain began nearly seven years ago and stemmed from an unlikely cause: Ashtanga yoga. I spent the better part of two years pursuing my dream of successfully completing the first set of Ashtanga, and I would practice about four or five times a week for about 90 minutes per practice. Unfortunately, due to some physiological peculiarities of my skeleton, my right shoulder and elbow are not completely straight. Two years of intensive vinyasas led to supraspinatus tendonitis, to the point where, unless I was in my practice, I couldn’t raise my right arm above waist level. Needless to say, a competitive spirit and an unhealthy dose of perfectionism had led me to self-harm. My father, who hadn’t seen me in a year, saw me trying to open his car door while he was visiting, asked me what was wrong, and told me to see a physical therapist right away before the condition became chronic.

What followed next was a five-year odyssey of physical therapy, ultrasound, kinesiology tape, pain relievers and anti-inflammatories (used briefly and then discarded), and exercise to try to reverse the chronic inflammation and heal the condition. I gave up yoga completely and was regularly doing physical therapy exercises with weights in the gym to build specific muscles. I was able to control the condition and lead a normal life, but every time I traveled a lot and used a computer (laptop and desktop) the condition would come back, to the point where my right arm was full of pins and needles and my neck and neck back would create intense nerve pain. The pain and its location led to severe sleep deprivation, which in turn led to low energy, depression, and some degree of despair and anxiety. Not to mention the many thousands of euros spent on painful physiotherapy, and the assertion by my physiotherapists that the next step would have to be surgery. A dark landscape.

Unwilling to go under the knife to fix what, to me, was a lousy sports injury, luckily a friend directed me to a brilliant physical therapist who was able to reverse the condition enough to rebuild and strengthen the muscles needed to stabilize the tendons I had been to this point in recovery before, only to regress once the rigors of my job (travel, computers) took hold.

It was then that a close friend provided me with an “acupressure mat” or what is also known as a “bed of nails”. It’s a massage mat with plastic discs containing inserted spikes, and one lies on it for an intensive acupressure treatment (for details on how and why it works, see the link below). Totally skeptical of the concept at first, and frankly finding it strange, I tried a standard Swedish nail mat and another similar clone made in India, named after an Indian goddess. The mats helped and more importantly they were an immediate cure for my insomnia. After the first 10 minutes, I would usually fall asleep on the mat, wake up an hour later, and go to bed for a good night’s sleep.

There is substantial empirical evidence available of its efficacy for insomnia and pain relief, as well as many other ailments. The best evidence I have seen is a study presented at the Omega Center in New York in 1999 that found that “of 126 subjects, 98% reported pain relief, 96% reported relaxation, 94% improved sleep quality, and 81% reported an increase in energy level Approximately half of the subjects with allergy problems reported relief from their symptoms Among those who tried the method without having any particular health problems, more than half nevertheless reported one or more more positive effects…” .

Over time, however, the shortcomings of these standard nail mats became apparent. First and foremost, the acupressure started to seem pretty weak as the body quickly adjusts. Second, these mats are colored cotton with a really cheap flaky foam padded core, and this gets dirty and stinky from perspiration, and washing them became a chore (remove pad from mattress, hang dry, re-insert pad etc.) Third, the quality was pretty third world so they didn’t last. Fourth, they are bulky and impossible to take on trips. The biggest thing for the insomnia problem is that I wouldn’t wear them on my bed unless they were freshly cleaned and therefore I had to get up off the floor to go back to my bed.

However, I loved the product and the benefits of acupressure and wanted to find a better way forward. I thought the mat would work much better if it was made of yoga mat material so I could roll it up and carry it in a barrel bag over the shoulder or a duffel bag for travel. I also thought the foam padding on the mattress was a bit of a joke, since the whole point of the mat was to get a serious acupressure session. Also, I wanted to wear it on my bed most nights and mold it to my neck, shoulders, back, and pillow. Ultimately, I wanted a material that wouldn’t absorb perspiration and could be easily cleaned and dried without damaging the tips and in a very short period of time.

My partner and I worked with several vendors and finally found what we consider to be a superior, next-generation redesign of the standard acupressure mat. The main difference is that it’s constructed of thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), an environmentally friendly substance similar to a yoga mat, and the spikes are embedded directly into the TPE without glue so they rest directly on the surface below the mat. mat, with no padding of any kind in between. That feature means that the acupressure is much more intense.

With this mat, one of the best ways I have found to release tension in your back and neck is to lie on the mat directly on a hard floor (stone or wood), with the mat over your sacrum and lower back. back, and legs bent at the knees with feet flat on the floor. It’s unbelievably intense, it still takes me over five minutes to fully relax on the nails using this mat on this type of floor, but the payoff for the brief discomfort is a release of tension that for me is equal to any deep tissue massage I’ve ever had. . have ever had. And much cheaper and always available too! Although I owe the return of the use of my shoulder to my brilliant physical therapist, I firmly believe that this mat has been responsible for keeping my supraspinatus tendonitis, shoulder and back problems from coming back for over a year now. Pain management aside, mat therapy also makes me feel lighter, looser, and generally more positive and happy, better able to deal with stressful situations without losing my cool or tensing up.

So finally a conclusion (I hope!) to my pain odyssey. Now I use the mat about five nights a week when I go to bed. I also use lavender essential oil on my pillow, which is also very relaxing. I’ve only had one night in about 50 where I didn’t automatically fall asleep in about 5-10 minutes. After about an hour, I wake up enough to gently pull the mat out from under me and continue sleeping. I went to my massage therapist last week as I still have a use or lose massage book from last year. She always used to say that my neck and shoulders were “too bad, too hard, too stressed.” She touched my neck and exclaimed “very soft! What are you doing here?” Let’s hope it stays that way.

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