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Do Acupressure Mats actually work
December 6, 2011 6:37 PM   Subscribe

Do Acupressure Mats actually work? On the assumption that it's probably a load of homeopathic bunk, what does work for a friend with persistently sore shoulders/neck?

I have a friend who has persistently sore shoulders/neck -- probably as a result of sleeping wrong. I'd like to get her a Christmas gift that might help with that. Lots of reviews says the Acupressure Mat works, but I'm highly skeptical. What would work? Bed wedges? Pillows? Something else? I imagine exercise is probably the real solution here, but that's pretty hard to giftwrap. Is there anything I could buy that might actually help her at all?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Get her a gift certificate for a reputable massage place if you think she'd be into it. The mat seems like the kind of thing that (regardless of its bunk/not-bunk status) would sit around and take up space if it ends up not working for her. (And the worst kind of space, too, the dreaded guiltily unused gift from friend space.)
posted by phunniemee at 6:44 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


To OP: What would give her a push to rectify her sleeping situation? What would she need, should that prove unproductive, to see an appropriately licensed physical therapist?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:02 PM on December 6, 2011


Yes. I am not sure about the one you put up, but you need one that's more like a stone shaped mat.

You don't lay on it but you walk on it regularly. When you have kids or dogs walk on it, they don't feel the pain because of their healthy circulation, but when your feet hurt as you walk on it, it means there are parts of your body that aren't functioning as well as it should be. When I first started, I thought someone was poking my feet with needles. Even though the stones are rounded, and not really pointy, you have these sensations that just doesn't seem right for your body...cause you'll feel a sharp pain in your spine if you step on it a certain way, and then other times on your head, etc.

I've been walking on it for a little over a month now, and I am less tired, when I have a certain pain, I walk on it for a length of a song (3-4minutes). I've also heard from people in my club that noticed a difference during that time of the month, the load gets larger and less menstral pain as it promotes better blood circulation.

Like the first review of the above product said, at first, it WILL hurt. I would wear 2 pairs of thick socks at first, and if it still hurts, put a layer of towel before you start walking on it.
The pain WILL get better. There are ladies that have been coming to my current health club asking to include the mat session cause they've been using it for 20+ years.

Don't lay on it! You're supposed to walk on it.
posted by icollectpurses at 7:21 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


When you have kids or dogs walk on it, they don't feel the pain because of their healthy circulation, but when your feet hurt as you walk on it, it means there are parts of your body that aren't functioning as well as it should be

Or it means the adults have greater body weight for the surface area of the bottom of their feet.

I think there are far better gifts. A gift certificate for a professional therapeutic massage would be my top choice: unlike the acupressure mat, which may totally miss, she is almost certain to feel better after a massage. And she may also get tips about posture, sleeping position, stretches and exercises to do to reduce her pain.

You could also get her a new pillow or bodypillow *if* you think you know in what way her sleeping position is causing the pain. Neck and shoulder pain is also often caused all or in part by long hours of computer use in a hunched-over position, so you could, for example, revamp her workstation to be more ergonomically correct, if you have access to it and do some research.

I'm a massage therapist, by the way, so I may be a leeeeetle bit biased about my recommendation :-)
posted by parrot_person at 7:30 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


OP, the post at 10:21 defies the known working of physics and biology in explaining what an uncomfortable mat does for your wellness. In particular,

When you have kids or dogs walk on it, they don't feel the pain because of their healthy circulation, but when your feet hurt as you walk on it, it means there are parts of your body that aren't functioning as well as it should be.

is well into "tiger-repelling rock" territory. Please don't blow your money on something that won't help your friend. The Amazon reviews of such devices are for the most part laden with similar pseudoscientific, divorced-from-reality nonsense posted by people who make up their qualifications to "help" others with medical issues.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:30 PM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


As someone with mega neck pain, I'd like to chime in to say that a massage GC is always appreciated!

That said, another less "fun" gift but super-duper helpful for me is an ice pack. I used to *hate* icing, and I couldn't understand why my mom looooveed her ice pack so much. Then after I hurt my neck, my physical therapist would have me ice for 20 minutes after every session. Once I got past the "ow cold" feeling, I started to really like it. Now I ice every night before bed. My neck hurts a lot more when I don't ice regularly. You need a real "professional" ice pack like a ColPac - the ones they sell at the drug store aren't hefty enough to hold cold for very long.
posted by radioamy at 7:40 PM on December 6, 2011


Nthing massage gift certificate. A nice firm foam roller works great too, but if she's never used one before she might not appreciate it.
posted by telegraph at 7:40 PM on December 6, 2011


When I have neck/upper back pain, it helps me to take magnesium citrate, especially if I have a knot. Calm is the brand I take, but never as much as suggested on the package, as it can cause FUS (fecal urgency syndrome*). I think that this doesn't help everyone who gets knots/muscle pains, so her mileage may vary.

*not a real medical term, just funny.
posted by annsunny at 8:32 PM on December 6, 2011


Get her a posture assessment from a trained PT or osteopath, and a trial membership at a nice gym. Anything else is a band-aid at best.

Chronic neck pain is not caused by "sleeping wrong". More likely she is sleeping wrong because her posture is misaligned and that needs to be addressed before it worsens.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 8:38 PM on December 6, 2011


The real version of this is a foam roller -- these are used to give yourself massage. Instructions on how to use them are here and here. You can also get a lacrosse ball and do the same thing with it -- great for hitting small, hard-to-reach tight spots.

That said, a lot of people just aren't into self-care, so she may not use anything you get. A massage gift certificate might be better, especially if you can find a therapist who specializes in soft-tissue injury work, not just spa-style massage. I also agree with Kandarp re: posture and exercise.
posted by vorfeed at 8:47 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I clicked through on your link. When something on Amazon has that many positive reviews, and absolutely no negative reviews, I buy it.

It looks like a great gift. Go with your gut, but I think your friend might get a lot out of it based on the user reviews.

FWIW, I make 99% of my purchases based on user reviews. I find what actual users of a product have to say very helpful. So far, no one in this thread has ever tried one of these things. In fact, I've never heard of these mats before. $35 isn't a fortune and it can always be returned. This would be my reasoning, were I you.
posted by jbenben at 9:07 PM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


$35 isn't a fortune and it can always be returned.

The most negative review for the product is that it actually can't be returned, at least not through Amazon. So keep that in mind.

At my summer job we sold these and judging from the people I know who tried them out, well, your mileage definitely varies. It definitely seemed like only the people who really bought into acupuncture/acupressure as a legitimate therapy got any value from their mats. Though I'm talking about a handful of people so obviously there is a huge caveat that I can be filtering this data through the bias of my expectations.
posted by selenized at 11:54 PM on December 6, 2011


You need a real "professional" ice pack like a ColPac - the ones they sell at the drug store aren't hefty enough to hold cold for very long.

A big bag of frozen vegetables works great. They retain the cold for 20 minutes (which is as long as you should be icing in one session) and they conform to the body part you're icing.

Chronic neck pain is not caused by "sleeping wrong".

Spending many hours in one position, as in sleeping, or as is sitting at a computer desk all day, especially if that position is over-stretching some muscles, can absolutely be the cause of chronic neck pain. When people change sleeping positions (stomach sleeping is especially bad) or pillows (many people use pillows that are too puffy and result in sleeping with their neck crooked) sometimes the pain goes away. Really. I've seen it. Many massage therapists will look for simple causes such as this when they consult with you.
posted by parrot_person at 12:56 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


A Body Back Buddy has turned out to be a damn fine investment for me. That along with a handball and a foam roller have been the triumvirate in working out all the knots and sore muscles that have plagued me for a looong time.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:12 AM on December 7, 2011


Many massage therapists will look for simple causes such as this when they consult with you.

Rightly so, but my view is that they're treating these problems symptomatically. Muscles with correct length-tension relationships will not tend to fall into such dysfunctional habits as slumping at a desk or lying awkwardly. Thus the ideal physical therapist would take you back in time and get you strength training and stretching so that your movement patterns and resting posture don't erode in the first place. Realistically, the best option for a lasting solution is to begin that strengthening and stretching now.

Of course postural habituation (when sitting, sleeping, etc.) is key, but that only arrests the dysfunction, it doesn't necessarily resolve it.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 9:39 AM on December 7, 2011


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