Looking for alternative ways to boost your recovery post-workout? The traditional Chinese therapy of acupressure could provide the answer. Discover how acupressure could improve your post-workout recovery, plus how to experience the benefits yourself.
Not keen on needles being stuck in your body? We hear you! While the needles used for acupuncture are not much more than a hair’s width in size, acupressure techniques – where practitioners use their fingertips, palms, elbows or feet to achieve similar benefits – could help your recovery just as well.
Surprisingly useful for easing post-workout soreness or providing relief from injury, one study in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found just three minutes of acupressure decreased pain intensity in athletes who had sustained acute musculoskeletal sports injuries. The therapy has also been shown to improve sleep, boost relaxation and improve mood, all of which are good news for your health and fitness.
Originating in China around 3,000 years ago, acupressure stimulates energy points along your body’s energy channels, or meridians, to help clear blockages and redistribute ‘chi’ or energy to the areas it’s most needed. It also aims to balance the opposing energies of yin (rest) and yang (stimulation).
Benefits of acupressure for post-workout recovery
So, what are the mechanisms behind acupressure, and how can it boost your post-workout recovery? One possibility, known as the gate control theory, is that pressure slows down nerve impulses to the brain, thereby reducing sensations of pain. ‘Applying pressure stimulates nerves under the skin which trigger the body to produce pain-relieving endorphins,’ explains Carina Tannenberg, founder of acupressure mat company Bed of Nails.
In addition, research shows working on acupuncture points, activates nerve fibres which stimulate areas in the brain such as the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. This leads to the release of beta-endorphins (the same endorphins you experience on a runner’s high), which block the sensation of pain. People also report feeling deeply relaxed after acupressure. And the reasons go beyond simply escaping for a few minutes’ me-time.
From a biochemical point of view, the therapy boosts feelings of calm by stimulating your rest and digest response (it increases parasympathetic nerve activity) and has an influence on hormones such as serotonin. Add to this changing the concentration of lactic acid post-exercise, reducing the tissue adhesions that accompany injury, and boosting circulation to carry oxygen and essential nutrients to muscles for faster recovery, and you can see how helpful it can be.
What’s more, because acupuncture points are linked through a network of meridians, pressure applied on one part of your body has an impact on another.
Try an acupressure mat
If there’s no acupressure practitioner near you, you can still get pretty impressive results with an acupressure mat. ‘A mystical bed of nails (which stimulates thousands of acupressure points at once) originated more than 1,000 years ago in India,’ explains Tannenberg. ‘I’ve created a modern, ergonomically designed version of that ancient technology to model those same deep healing effects.’
We tried Bed of Nails’ acupressure mat once and now keep it out for everyday use. After an initial prickly sensation, lying on the mat and pillow really eased our lower back pain. The area quickly warmed up (afterwards, redness over the whole back was testament to the improved blood flow) and we felt calm, relaxed and ready for sleep. We recommend the strap also, which you can secure around your body for targeted relief while you carry on with your day. Genius!
The new Bed of Nails Bon Eco collection (pictured) starts from £38. Find out more at bedofnails.org
Words: Eve Boggenpoel | Images: Shutterstock