Acupuncture can help with a variety of conditions. Someone has advised me to try this therapy myself because of my restless legs. Personally, I can’t afford to do something like this on a regular basis.
This doesn’t stop me from delving into the topic. Maybe I change my mind along the way and still choose to try out a treatment. Or maybe a nail mat.
Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). There are also attributes that you can use at home that treat the so-called pressure points. In that case you do not need to see an acupuncturist.
In this blog I will address the following questions:
- What is acupuncture and what place does it have in Traditional Chinese Medicine?
- How does a acupressure mat work?
- Does acupuncture help with RLS?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the concept of life energy. Another word for this life energy is Ki or Chi. Ki or Chi manifests in two opposite energies: yin and yang. These life energies flow throughout the body through channels, also called meridians. TCM is a holistic approach. This means that body and mind are seen as one whole.
An important pillar of Traditional Chinese Medicine is the doctrine of the five elements. The elements are wood, fire, earth, metal, water. Physically, the elements correspond to the bodily organs. This goes through the twelve meridians. Each meridian is related to an organ.
A healthy lifestyle is essential in TCM. Rest and regularity are important, as are nutrition and the use of herbs. The choice of the right food and the right herbs depends on the season and climate. Yin and yang and the five element theory play a major role here.
In terms of exercising, Traditional Chinese Medicine sees Tai Chi and Chi Kung as supportive. The movements are performed calmly and with attention to the breathing and thus promote relaxation and recovery.
Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Illness is regarded within this teaching as a disturbance of the energy balance. This can be expressed mentally or physically. When the flow of life energy is out of balance, acupuncture helps to restore balance.
Acupuncture uses different techniques: needle techniques, moxa techniques and cupping or a combination of these. Needle techniques are best known to the general public. The treatment can be supported by Traditional Chinese Medicine. This can be done through massage, additional therapies (for example exercise therapy, herbal therapy and respiratory therapy) or advice in the field of nutrition and lifestyle.
Acupuncture is an additional treatment method. The therapy is not a substitute for regular medicine. Acupuncture is practiced by both doctors and non-doctors. Health insurance companies see the therapy as an alternative treatment, which is at most partially reimbursed with additional insurance.
Techniques from acupuncture
With needle techniques, the acupuncturist places thin needles at specific acupuncture points on the body, just below the skin. The acupuncture points are located on the meridians. With this puncture, the energy flow of that meridian is influenced. The energy will flow better.
With the moxa techniques, the acupuncturist works with moxa. This is dried mugwort herb. The acupuncture points are heated with moxa, usually without directly touching the skin. This can be done with a moxa stick (a kind of thick, smoldering cigar), with heated needles over which a thinner moxa cigar has been slid, with heated small balls of moxa and with a moxa lamp.
In cupping, glass balls are placed at specific points on the body. The acupuncturist heats the air in the bulbs and then quickly places it at the desired point. The bulb creates a vacuum on the skin. With cupping you can remove energy blockages.
An acupressure mat is a mat with protrusions. These are a kind of plastic nails. Another word for the mat is a nail mat or a shiatsu mat. By lying on it you activate the self-healing capacity of the body and you become more relaxed. The mat relieves pain and helps to sleep better. You can lie on it with bare skin, but you can also keep a T-shirt on or put a sheet over the mat.
Lying on an acupressure mat stimulates the production of neurotransmitters such as endorphins and oxytocin. These are also called the happiness and satisfaction hormones. You can consider the nail mat as a natural pain killer.
The mat also helps against stress. When stress is reduced, you feel better during the day. At night you feel calmer and fall asleep more easily. If you do lie awake at night, you can lie down on the nail mat for a while. In the case of RLS you can then place the mat under your legs.
You do not necessarily have to have complaints to use the acupressure mat. The mat can also be used as a way to relax for 15 minutes. Your body produces pleasant sensations and you recover from the activities of the day.
The question here is whether acupuncture helps if you suffer from troubled legs. And does an acupressure mat help? I recently read an interesting article that stated that treating the pressure points increases the production of dopamine. In one of my previous blogs I already wrote about the connection between the production of endorphins and that of dopamine. In short: the production of one neurotransmitter stimulates the production of the other.
Lying on a nail mat can be seen as a passive form of acupuncture treatment. If you naturally promote the production of dopamine through acupuncture or with an acupressure mat, that would be a very good thing. It sounds promising to me in terms of managing RLS symptoms. I can imagine that you will feel less discomfort in your legs. However, I don’t know how long it will benefit you.
Weighted blankets, yoga and nail mats
When I think of putting extra pressure on parts of the body, the weighted blanket comes to mind as well. I also wrote a blog about this. With a weighted blanket, the pressure is evenly distributed over the entire body and not specifically placed at certain points. However, I have found that its effect is relaxing and that lying underneath reduces the restless, uncomfortable feeling in the legs.
A funny detail for me personally is the link between the nail mat and yoga. In ancient times yogis and gurus used a nail mat for their meditation and spiritual practice. It was a way for them to heal themselves. The acupressure mat essentially stems from that idea.