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Published March 07, 2012, 11:30 PM

Thursday review: Acupressure mat provides body ache relief

FARGO – I tend to store my tension in my back. Combine that with the constant bending and lifting that comes with toting around a 25-plus pound toddler all day, and my back muscles can be cramped and sore by the time evening rolls around.

By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM

FARGO – I tend to store my tension in my back. Combine that with the constant bending and lifting that comes with toting around a 25-plus pound toddler all day, and my back muscles can be cramped and sore by the time evening rolls around.

So when I received an email about a mat that would “stimulate your body to release endorphins and oxytocin while increasing circulation, leaving you refreshed, relaxed and detoxified,” I decided that yes, I was interested in learning more.

The Swedish Hälsa Mat is a padded acupressure mat covered in 8,820 small, plastic spikes.

When my 8-year-old daughter first spotted it, she told me the mat looked like a weapon.

Upon further inspection, she declared, “It’s like a torture device of pokiness.”

I have to agree with her initial observations. But, despite its tortuous appearance, the Hälsa Mat does actually provide relief from back pain.

The first time I used the mat was after spending about eight hours in the car. My back muscles were tight and achy so I decided to give the mat a try.

It was not comfortable, but not quite torturous, either. At first, my back started to itch, but then I noticed my back muscles did start to relax. I got up after about 10 minutes and while I wouldn’t say I was refreshed, my back did feel better.

I also stepped on the mat to see if it would help relax my aching feet, and it did seem to help with sore foot muscles as well. I only stood on the mat for a few minutes.

A news release calls the Hälsa Mat a “modern bed of nails” that’s supposed to stimulate your body’s acupressure points to improve health, energy and well being.

“Much like massage and acupressure, the mat is used to naturally stimulate the release of endorphins and oxytocin, the body’s own pain relief hormones,” the release states. “These hormones also promote mental and physical wellbeing.”

The news release claims that simply by lying on the mat, I can “reap the benefits of increased blood circulation, lower blood pressure and increased nutrient delivery throughout the body.”

I don’t know about lowering blood pressure or increasing nutrient delivery, but my back was red after using the mat, so it clearly stimulates blood flow to the area.

Apparently some users have even found that using the mat helped reduce the appearance of cellulite. I didn’t sit on the modern bed of nails and I don’t think I’d want to, so I can’t say whether that claim is true.

The news release also states, “If you are stressed or are experiencing fatigue, low energy, muscle tension, headaches, back pain, or if you are simply looking for more complete rest, the Hälsa Mat is an all-natural solution that can help restore your body and mind.”

While I cannot corroborate all of the claims, I will say it helps relieve muscle tension and back pain.

After a few more uses, my back no longer itched when I reclined on the mat. It still hurts a bit, and it’s best not to try moving around once you’ve positioned yourself. But I’ve found that the slight discomfort is worth enduring for the muscle relief the mat provides.

It’s not nearly as relaxing as a massage, but it’s a good quick fix for sore muscles at the end of the day.

The mat should be used on bare skin, but it takes some getting used to, so the instructions recommend placing a thin sheet or T-shirt over the mat the first few uses. It is recommended to begin by using it for 10 minutes a day, increasing to 20 to 30 minutes after one week.

The mat is available in black, green and purple and sells for $39.95 at www.halsamat.com.

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