It’s certainly an unusual technique, but the Spoonk Acupressure Mat does help reduce muscle tension. And with regular use, I found it also helps with mental relaxation and stress relief.
Just bear in mind that it takes some getting used to at first, and you need to be careful when you use it as the spikes are quite sharp.
- Helps reduce muscle tension, especially in the back, shoulders and legs.
- The manufacturer claims it leads to a drop in cortisol (stress hormone) and increase in endorphins (happy hormone), which aids relaxation.
- Well-designed, using quality materials, such as hemp, cotton, recyclable non-toxic plastic, and eco foam.
- Can roll up into the carry bag for convenient transportation and storage.
- Long warranty.
- Can be uncomfortable when you first lie on it.
- You need to be a little careful when you get on and off the mat.
- Potentially not suitable if you have blood pressure problems or skin conditions.
Please note that I created the above video review several years after first writing this article. I recently bought two new versions of the mat, so decided to make a video to discuss those and to share my experience of using the Spoonk mat for five years. The written review below contains a mix of some of my original thoughts when I first used the mat, and updated information about it.
The Spoonk acupressure mat is one of the most unusual ways to reduce back pain and improve your sleep that I’ve tried.
When I first heard they were receiving praise throughout the health world, I have to admit I was a little skeptical.
But since I often have back problems from using a computer all day, and am always interested in ways to sleep better, I ordered one from Amazon to see what all the fuss was about.
As you’ll find out in this review, the mat was surprisingly good, and definitely made a difference to my back pain. Let’s take a closer look at how this colorful bed of nails can be much more than just a talking point.
What is an acupressure mat?
The acupressure mat is based on the art of acupressure, which originates in India, and later developed in Japan as Shiatsu massage.
The Spoonk mat is made up of small plastic nodes, containing a total of 6210 stimulation points. That’s enough to distribute your weight across them safely when you lie on it.
The mat stimulates pressure points in your body, blood flow increases, and according to the manufacturer, you’ll then reap numerous benefits.
As the instruction manual that came with my Spoonk mat says:
The pressure stimulates the release of blocked energy and increases the circulation in problematic areas. As a result, acupressure relieves muscle tenstion or pain while rejuvenating and rebalancing the body.
I have to admit that the mat doesn’t look particularly inviting when you first see it. All those pointy bits don’t exactly conjure up images of bliss and relaxation. Bear with me though, as first impressions don’t always tell the full story.
My first experience using the mat
I was pleased to see that the Spoonk mat is very well designed. The nodes and spikes are manufactured carefully with no rough edges. They are firmly attached to the base of the mat, which is itself made from quality fabric. It rolls up nicely inside the carry case, and so altogether is a neat piece of kit.
I inspected the pressure points to see how sharp they are exactly. It’s hard to describe exactly how sharp they are, as everyone will have a different opinion. But let’s just say it – they are a bit sharp!
That’s why you need to lie on it carefully to distribute your weight in a safe way, and not make sudden movements, as the company cautiously advises.
I first tried it with a top on, but you really can’t feel much at all. The instructions tell you that direct skin contact will give the best effect, and I think that’s definitely true. Even with a thin shirt, it doesn’t feel much different to lying on a stiff rug!
Some initial discomfort gives way to a warm feeling
The instructions tell you that it’s normal to feel a little uncomfortable at first. But after a short while, the increase in blood flow will give you a warm feeling and you’ll relax more.
The first time I lay on the mat with no top on, it was a completely different experience from using it with a shirt on. It was noticeably uncomfortable to start with, but I stuck with it in the hope that it would go away.
And that initial discomfort soon gave way to a warmer and more pleasant sensation, though it took a couple of minutes. After that, I was able to lie on the mat for 10 minutes before deciding to get up and inspect my back in the mirror!
I had visibly red markings on my back after that first use, but no holes, I’m happy to report. And the coloration disappeared pretty quickly. If nothing else, it’s evidence that there is indeed an increase in blood flow.
A week of testing it
Over the period of a week, I used the Spoonk mat every day. I found I was able to comfortably lie on it for 30 minutes, which seemed to work for me, even though the company says 35-40 minutes is best. Personally, I don’t imagine it makes that much difference whether you do 30 or 40 minutes.
I also discovered that I can stand on the spikes, which shows that they aren’t going to go straight through your skin. It gives quite a pleasant foot massage, which is one of the uses the manufacturer recommends.
The question is though, does it actually do what it’s supposed to do?
I do feel that it helped release tension in my back. I use a computer for many hours most days, which often results in a very stiff back and shoulders. I also go to the gym and climb regularly, which ravages my back sometimes. Using the mat noticeably reduced some of the stiffness and knots in my back and shoulders.
I also think it helped me relax mentally as well as physically. And since stress is one of the biggest factors that contribute to my sleep problems, anything that helps me relax can only be a good thing.
Five years later
I’ve now used the Spoonk mat off and on for the last five years since first publishing this article. So I feel fairly confident in talking about it!
I don’t use it every day, but it’s definitely a useful tool in my toolbox of relaxation techniques – both physical and mental.
For me, it’s mostly about the muscle relaxation though. When my back is tense from too much time hunched over the computer, combined with strenuous sport, the mat often delivers in a way that general stretching doesn’t.
Sometimes I’ve found it does the trick all on its own, which is great. And sometimes I need to do something else like yoga, but it helps to combine the two.
I also find it convenient to roll the mat out either in my living room or in bed (which the company advises), and just relax onto it.
And that’s one of the key points I’ve discovered about it: it forces you to take some time out, relax, breathe deeply and intentionally try to relax. So that’s where I think it can potentially help with sleep too. Stress is the enemy of sleep, so anything which helps promote relaxation can only be a good thing for sleep.
Acupressure mat benefits
Using an acupressure mat regularly is reported to have a wide range of health benefits, including:
- Relieves back and neck pain, muscular tension, aches, and pains.
- Promotes relaxation and reduces stress.
- Improves sleep.
- Increases blood circulation.
- Increases energy levels and helps with fatigue.
- Improves digestion.
Some of these effects arise because your body responds to the acupressure by releasing more of the endorphin and oxytocin hormones.
Sometimes called the happy hormones, these are also released when you engage in pleasurable activities. They then promote relaxation and form a part of your body’s natural pain relief mechanism.
In addition, the manufacturer claims it can reduce cortisol levels (a stress hormone) when you relax.
To be honest, I can’t confirm that it helps with all those points – I don’t have a home hormone testing kit! But for me, I can confirm that it has a positive relaxing effect.
Who shouldn’t use it
The following groups of people should avoid or consult a doctor before using the Spoonk mat:
- Children under 8.
- Children over 8 unless supervised by an adult.
- Pregnant women.
- People with high or low blood pressure should first consult their doctor.
- People with very sensitive skin.
There are now a few versions of the Spoonk mat. The standard mat is made from the following materials:
- The foam is CertiPur-US Eco foam, without PBDE flame retardants, made in the US.
- The stimulation points are made from recyclable, non-toxic ABS plastic. They are applied with heat pressure, not glue.
- The fabric cover is 55% certified organic hemp and 45% organic cotton. And is GOTS certified (Global Organic Textile Standard), with no AZO dyes.
- Regular size: 67.5 cm x 40cm
- Travel size: 35cm x 40cm
In the video you’ll see that I have two mats. I wanted to compare the standard mat with the new yoga mat: the Acu-Om.
The yoga mat is made from TPE – the same as standard yoga mats. To be honest, even though it looks like a yoga mat, I think you could use either version for relaxation or yoga. Perhaps it’s a little easier to clean though, so that’s worth considering.
Against all expectations, I really enjoy having my own little bed of nails. It took a bit of getting used to, but it’s something I still use a long time after I first tried one.
In my experience, the Spoonk mat helps alleviate muscular tension and back pain. It also helps me relax after a long day typing away on my keyboard. And with that extra relaxation, I feel that it helps me sleep better too.
I’m not sure it’s a product that people with very sensitive skin will enjoy quite as much. But if you’re willing to try it and push past the initial discomfort, it could be an effective self-help tool to have in the home.