In this article:
Acupressure mats are pretty popular right now. Known as a good recovery tool after sports-related training and injuries, these mats aim to mimic the effects of acupuncture. People with chronic illnesses like hypothyroidism or Hashimoto's disease are now looking toward these mats to improve their symptoms.
Acupressure is an alternative or complementary medical practice embedded in traditional Chinese medicine. Like traditional acupuncture, acupressure targets specific pressure points on the body to allow energy to flow without restraint.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, thousands of acupressure points (or acupoints) lie along meridians or channels. Energy (called qi or ch'i) flows through these channels, which create a connection between the organ systems. It's believed that illness occurs when something interferes with energy flow along these meridians.
Acupressure massage is the most common method practitioners use to tap into the body's energy and prevent energy blockages. An acupressure practitioner may use their fingers, nails, palms, elbows, and even feet to apply pressure to acupoints along the body's meridians. The same points targeted in acupressure are also those used in acupuncture, where needles relieve blocked meridians.
There are several devices you can use to mimic the effects of acupressure massage if you are unable to see a practitioner or want to access this treatment on a more regular basis. The most common acupressure device is a mat, which allows people to stand, sit or lay down. Some mats also come with a pillow so that you can target the back of the neck more effectively.
Acupressure mats are well-known among athletes, who often need the benefits of this practice daily. However, acupressure mats are becoming more commonplace in households everywhere. They are a low-cost alternative therapy that may offer other benefits.
Most notably, acupressure mats may help with pain relief. People who suffer from headaches, neck pain, back pain, and stiff or sore muscles may benefit from using these mats regularly. They may also help relieve both physical and mental stress and tension.
Aside from pain relief, acupressure mats may also help improve sleep patterns. For example, people who struggle with insomnia sometimes turn to acupressure mats to help better their sleep quality and duration.
People with other types of pain may also find relief from using these mats. For example, some studies suggest that acupressure mats may relieve cancer pain, labor pain, and even pain related to menstruation.
Hashimoto's is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks cells in the thyroid gland. Eventually, this chronic inflammation causes thyroid cells to become damaged and ultimately fail, leading to hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland).
Common symptoms of Hashimoto's disease include:
- Muscle aches, pains, and weakness
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Hair loss
- Dry skin and brittle nails
- Cold intolerance
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Swelling of the face
- Tongue enlargement
As you can see, Hashimoto's can cause symptoms in every organ system. By tapping into the theory of acupressure, some people may benefit from the notion that energy flow between organs may improve Hashimoto's symptoms. In one study in the Journal of Integrative Medicine from 2018, acupuncture decreased symptoms of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
Furthermore, people with Hashimoto's have prolonged healing times after injury. Acupressure mats may speed up recovery time, along with other restorative practices.
While the study calls for further research, it does suggest that acupressure practices may have a role in managing thyroid conditions like Hashimoto's. Many providers advocate for a balance between medical treatment and alternative therapies to manage complex conditions like Hashimoto's.
Few clinical studies look at how acupressure mats can support chronic conditions like Hashimoto's. Indeed, much of what we know about how these mats may help Hashimoto's is anecdotal accounts. In general, there is little research backing acupressure mats for anything beyond muscle recovery after athletic overuse and injuries.
Yet, there is quite a substantial body of research surrounding acupuncture and acupressure massage in general. Much of the available information is favorable for using these practices to help treat chronic illnesses.
When it comes to managing Hashimoto's, it can certainly help to use both medical and alternative treatment options. For example, many people with hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto's do not always have symptoms under control just by taking their thyroid medication regularly. Instead, they have to use a combination of lifestyle modifications and complementary therapies to help them feel their best.
Likewise, acupuncture alone will likely not control Hashimoto's because most people require medication to boost their circulating thyroid hormone levels to support their metabolic needs.
As of now, there are few concerns over using acupressure treatments if you have Hashimoto's.
So, suppose you struggle with fatigue, muscle tension or joint discomfort, swelling, and even non-musculoskeletal symptoms. In that case, there is likely no harm in trying an acupressure mat along with your other thyroid care. However, if you have sensitive skin or have skin conditions, an acupressure mat may be irritating.
If you have Hashimoto's or suspect something is amiss with your thyroid, make sure to connect with a doctor who specializes in thyroid diseases and offers an integrative treatment approach.