The Spoonk acupressure mat is an interesting self-help tool that people who like acupressure might enjoy using. It’s not the same as a professional massage or acupressure session, but it does help reduce muscle tension in my experience. And conveniently, you can roll it out at home and lie on it for a few minutes when you feel the need.
It might look a little scary at first – you do have to lie on top of 6200 plastic points. However, once you get used to the unusual sensation, it’s enjoyable to use and seems to do the trick.
- Might help some people with muscle tension and stress.
- Convenient self-help acupressure tool.
- Well constructed and robust.
- looks good.
- Comes with clear instructions.
- Includes a carry bag for travel and storage.
- Reasonable price (I paid $50).
- Can leave a temporary red mark on the skin.
- Might be uncomfortable for people with sensitive skin or a low pain threshold.
- Not suitable if you have a problem with blood pressure or skin conditions.
- Lack of studies showing it works for all the ailments it’s claimed to help.
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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 from 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 to 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.
Many years later…
I’ve now used the Spoonk mat on and off in the years since first publishing this article. 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 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. There are also times when I need to do something else like yoga, but I’ve found it definitely 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 are supposedly felt because your body responds to the acupressure by releasing more of the endorphin and oxytocin hormones. Sometimes called the ‘happy hormones’, they 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 for one thing. And I haven’t found much in the way of scientific proof that an acupressure mat used in the home will work for these conditions/complaints. But I can confirm that it has a positive relaxing effect on me personally.
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 100% cotton and is Global Organic Textile Standard certified.
- Regular size: 67.5 cm x 40cm
- Travel size: 35cm x 40cm
In the video above 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.
Despite some initial apprehension, 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.
One last caveat is that I wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t have the physical strength to lift yourself gently on and off the mat. You don’t want to find yourself stuck on it and waiting for someone to help lift you off, and you also don’t want to make sudden movements that translate all your weight at once onto a tiny section of the mat.
You might like it if you:
- Suffer from tension in the back muscles or shoulders.
- Enjoy massage therapy or acupressure.
- Would like the convenience of home treatment.
- Are adventurous and like the idea of having your own bed of nails!
You might not like it if you:
- Would rather see a professional when you have back problems.
- Have serious back problems.
- Have sensitive skin of any kind.
- Don’t tolerate discomfort at all.
- Have mobility issues.
- Don’t have the physical strength to lift yourself on and off the mat.