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As I get older I find myself increasingly focused on taking the “whack” out of my back. My problems surely began during my military years–fueled by the many physical challenges they entailed–but time seems to aggravate and compound them. To date, my focus has been on correcting my back-related issues with exercise and stretching and, along the way, I do my best to  alleviate my back-specific pain.

One of the things I use for pain is what I like to call a “prickle pad.” It’s most often known as an acupressure mat or a “bed of nails.” Sound scary?! Well, for some it may be, but for many it’s a prickly bit of heaven that increases blood flow, stimulates pressure points, and (ultimately) diminishes pain in the back.

Here’s a picture of what I’m talking about:

ImageAs well as a close up of the same…

Image

I use my mat ~1-2 hours a day. At first blush that may seem excessive if not impossible for most–particularly given schedule-based limitations–but it’s what works for me. Here’s how: I place the mat under my back ~30 minutes to 1 hour before rising in the A.M., and then again ~30 minutes to 1 hour before sleeping in the P.M. I find that the mat is the perfect snooze-alarm companion in the morning and the perfect reading companion at night. Even if it’s not really either of these things, it gives me a good excuse to do both (snooze and read!).

After my A.M. session, my back is much less tight/sore (from nighttime inactivity) and I’m ready to get up and get going. After my P.M. session, my back is less tight/sore (from daytime activity) and I’m much more relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep. It’s important to repeat that this is what works for me. Even a little time on the mat can go a long way to alleviate pain. It’s really an individual, trial-and-error process.

If you’re considering buying one of these mats, do a bit of your own due diligence and read some reviews (there are many on Amazon). Further, if you do decide to purchase a mat, I recommend that you start out slowly. I started using mine ~10-20 minutes a day and worked my way up from there. Just like back pain, timing and tolerance will be as individual as the back pain and the sufferer. Here’s hoping that this mat, or something similar (foam roller, bolster, etc.), helps take the “whack” out of your back!

It bears mentioning that this mat is not only for those of us with chronic back pain–it surely would be a great tool for the acute sufferer as well. Also, it’s uses are not limited to the back–you can use it on your neck, legs, feet, etc. As with the back, timing and tolerance will be your guide.

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