Are Massage Mats Any Good? Acupressure, Shiatsu & Vibration Mats Worth It?

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I wanted something that would help me with my back pain and wondered if massage mats are any good and worth trying out.

While doing research online I came across a video from world-renowned author Tim Ferriss, author of the 4-Hour Workweek.

In the video, he shared three things he brings to help relieve his back pain while he’s traveling, and one of these was a massage mat called the Nayoya Acupressure Mat.

This was the start of my quest to find out the answer to the following question…

Are massage mats any good? Yes, massage mats can be good for you. It can help soothe tired back muscles with its heat function and loosen tightness and tension with the vibration massage. The heat helps to increase blood circulation while the vibrations work to ease the day’s stresses away. Aside from relaxation and increased blood flow, massage mats can also help restore muscle flexibility with stretching and correct poor posture.


What Are Massage Mats Anyways?

Massage mats are mats or pads made out of foam (or similar material) that provides a massage or acupressure relief as you lay on it.

They help with back pain and relaxation.

Some are electric and have heating options while others do not.

Some manufacturers call their product a massage mattress, but whether they call it a mat, a pad or mattress, we will call it a mat for the purposes of this article.

Massage mats can be placed on beds, sofas, or the floor.

The floor is usually the best option though, but as long as the surface is level and you can comfortably lay down, a massage mat can be used on it.

Some massage therapists use a massage mat on their tables for its heating option as they find it makes their client-patients relax more easily.


What Are The Benefits Of Using A Massage Mat?

Massage brings a multitude of benefits like relaxation, stress relief, and pain relief.

Massage mats specifically provide the following benefits:

1. Helps to decompress after a long day. A half-hour session at the end of the day or before bedtime helps the body relax and sleep better. A more relaxed body lowers stress levels and hormones in your body. Lower stress levels help your body recover quickly and repair itself during sleep.

2. The heat increases blood flow. Increased circulation helps to loosen your muscles. Increased circulation also makes your muscles less sore and help heal any microtears.

3. The right pressure on the body’s acupoints helps to restore not just blood flow but also lymph flow. Lymph drainage flushes the body’s lymph fluid and other impurities out of the body. This not only keeps you healthier but also energized when you wake up the next morning.

4. The vibration paired with the heat will bring relief to muscle soreness as well as break muscle adhesions and tightness in your back, shoulders, hips, and thighs. Treatments at the end of the day prevent the stress and injuries from building up.


Something To Be Aware Of

Massage mats are only for your backside.

It can’t massage the side or front of your body.

So keep this in mind.


Typical Features


Not all massage mats are the same and have the same features.

With that in mind here are some of the more common features…

  • Foam cushion. Electric massage mats are cushioned making it look similar to a quilted duvet. The foam used varies, but some of the higher-priced mats are made out of orthopedic cushions or memory foam. When you factor all the materials that make up a massage pad you’ll find that most weigh between 4-10 pounds.
  • Fabric covers. A very common cover is a polyester fabric that is completely washable. Some are plush, which makes it really comfortable to lay on. Another fabric commonly used is a sturdier fabric similar to canvas. Some covers aren’t removable or washable but can be cleaned with a damp cloth or a disinfecting wipe (similar to what you use on a yoga mat).

Pro tip: If you want you could place a sheet or a towel over the mat during use to keep the fabric cleaner.

  • Built-in pillow and neck support. Massage mats are quilted like a duvet with some having a fuller headrest to cradle the head and neck. The pillows don’t always have mechanisms or vibrating parts. Its primary function is to offer support for the head and neck and keep it aligned with the spine. There are some models that have a vibrating function or massaging nodes where the neck meets the shoulder to knead away stress.
  • Massage nodes. Some models are covered in plastic nodes with multiple pressure points that correspond to the acupoints in the body. Others may have nodes that move to massage away the tension and knots in your back and neck.
  • Heat. Some massage pads have a heat function to help relax the muscles. Most models just have an option to turn them on or off but no option to target certain areas of the body. The mechanism and technology for massage mats aren’t as advanced as those found in massage chairs. The limited heat function keeps the costs down and the units more affordable.
  • Vibration. Due to the thin width of massage mattresses, adding shiatsu massage nodes cannot be done throughout the entire length of the mat. Vibration massage mechanisms are added instead. Different vibration intensities are usually an option. Some mats have shiatsu nodes in the pillow for the neck and shoulders.
  • Remote Control. In the remote control, you will usually have the following options: power, vibration, intensity levels, and heat. Some may include pre-programmed modes and settings and a selector to choose the areas where you want the massage (upper or lower back, thighs, or legs).
  • Carrying straps. Most mats are designed to fold for easy storage. Straps help to secure and carry it around like a duffel bag.


Are Massage Mats Safe?

Yes, they’re quite safe to use.

Most models have an auto-shutoff function or preset timers so even if you fall asleep in the middle of the massage, you don’t have to worry that you’ll hurt yourself with an extended massage session or burn the house down.


Safe For Pregnant Women?

General massage is safe for pregnant women in their 2nd and 3rd trimesters but a massage in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy increases the risks of miscarriage.

However, we do not recommend you use a massage mat while pregnant.

The safest massage position for a pregnant woman is on her side.

This isn’t possible with a massage mat and the vibrations may not be good for the baby and may trigger contractions.

Discuss your massage alternatives with your doctor if you feel that prenatal massage would be helpful in easing your pregnancy discomfort.


Good For Children?

Massage mats should not be used on children because it’s not built for their bodies nor safe.

If you want to give your child a massage (kids can have stress too), stick with traditional touch therapy where your hands will be able to manipulate little limbs and adjust pressure as their body needs.


Thickness Of Massage Pads

The electric mats have a thickness between 1 to 5 inches depending on the brand.

There is foam padding to cover the massage mechanism inside the mat.

The massaging feel like flat pieces of plastic saucers when you lay on it.

It’s barely noticeable, but may be uncomfortable for some when you’re lying on it for long periods.


Do Acupressure Mats Hurt?

The acupressure-style massage mats are not electric powered, but rather has spiked plastic nodes that stick out from the mat.

The spiked acupressure mats are extremely effective for providing pain and a stress reliever, much more so than the electrical mats.

It’s also helpful in correcting bad posture, which is often the cause for back pain.

The spikes can be uncomfortable, and even hurt when you first try it, but once you get used to it, the pain relief is quite remarkable.


Frequency Of Use

Massage mats are safe to use daily.

With that said, make sure you read the safety instructions that come with the product.

Depending on the model, 15 to 30 minutes of treatment should do the trick and help you deal with the everyday aches and pains.


How Much Does A Massage Mat Cost?

Massage mats cost around $40-$140, depending on the features and materials used.


Where Can You Buy A Massage Mat?

Massage mats are available from stores like Target, Sears, even BestBuy.

For a wider selection, Amazon is your best bet.


Best Massage Mats (Vibration Mat & Acupressure Mat)

If you’re looking to buy a massage mat, we recommend the Snailax Massage Mat.

It targets the whole body and has three intensities levels, which are good.

I like aggressive massages and the highest intensity vibrates enough to get the job done.

The heat function is soothing and feels great.

You can lay this mat pretty much anywhere (chair, bed, sofa, floor) and it’s not awkward like some other mats are.

This mat is a vibration mat and does not have shiatsu massage nodes.

To be honest, I have yet to find a good massage mat with shiatsu massage nodes, but I will update this page if I do find one.

If you’re looking to purchase an acupressure mat look no further than the Nayoya Acupressure Mat.

I’d be very careful when selecting an acupressure mat because I tried some knockoff acupressure mats and they weren’t good, they really hurt.

The Nayoya acupressure mat is great.

It’s been receiving rave reviews.

It comes with the mat and acupressure pillow.

Weighing only 1.68 pounds, it’s super light and portable.

The back portion of the mat has 6,210 pressure points, and with so many points, it literally melts tension away.

Imagine how much it would cost to have 6,210 acupuncture needles on your back.

You probably now see why this is a good investment.

The pillow has 1,782 more acupressure points.


Conclusion

Massage mats are relaxing and effective for helping relieve tension throughout the body.

The mats with vibration and heat are really soothing.

The acupressure mats are really effective for reducing tension, and would likely benefit those with sciatica and neck pain.

Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find a good massage mat that has shiatsu nodes. They tend to break down easily and be quite expensive.

If you want something that has massage nodes that rotate, then we recommend trying a neck and shoulder massager or massage chair/pad.

Massage mats are quick fixes for some nagging pain and soreness you want to spot treat before it gets any worse. It works as a relaxation tool when you want to take the stress and tension away at the end of the day.

Editorial Staff
 

Editorial Staff at MindBodyPal is a team of experts led by Tyson Chiu. We love tacos, lattes and Funky Fridays.

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