Acupressure: An Easy Way to Reduce Pain, Anxiety, and Stress

Have you ever seen one of those videos of somebody in India lying on a bed of nails, with an expression on their face like they’re lying on a Sleep Number bed?

I’ve never doubted that they seem comfortable, but I also haven’t been interested in trying it out for myself. At least not until Vanessa ordered us a Pranamat.

From a distance, the Pranamat looks like pillows you’d find in a yoga studio. But the first time you rest your bare skin upon them with some added pressure, you’ll be sure you’re experiencing a bed of nails.

In a way, you are. But it isn’t torture; it’s therapeutic.

I’ll explain the science behind Mechanical Needle Stimulation first, and then delve into the details on the actual Pranamat. 

We liked it so much that we signed up for their ambassador program. If you’d like to support the content on this site and the Nikkola Newsletter and also want to try the Pranamat out for yourself, use the links here to place your order.

As a thank-you, you’ll get 15% off any of the sets you choose.

Try the Pranamat for 30 Days, Risk Free

Ready to try out the Pranamat ECO? You won’t be disappointed! Order yours and take advantage of the 30-day money-back guarantee, plus 15% off any of the sets you choose.

What is Mechanical Needle Stimulation?

Mechanical needle stimulation is a form of acupressure. You might ask, what is acupressure? I’ll start there.

Acupressure is a way of applying pressure to specific points throughout the body called meridians. You might have heard that term, but it isn’t used often in Western medicine. Chinese medicine suggests that meridians form a network of energy pathways throughout your body. If a pathway is blocked, it can lead to various symptoms, including pain.

Acupuncture is the traditional and possibly most effective way of improving energy flow. It played a significant role in my spinal cord injury recovery. While acupuncture could be best, it isn’t always practical. You might not even have a Chinese medicine practitioner near you, even if you wanted to get acupuncture.

Acupressure triggers the meridians, albeit to a lesser extent than acupuncture, without inserting needles into the skin.1Lee, Eun Jin, and Susan K Frazier. “The efficacy of acupressure for symptom management: a systematic review.” Journal of pain and symptom management vol. 42,4 (2011): 589-603. doi:10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2011.01.007 The pressure is just applied to the skin. But to stimulate the meridians, you still need to apply pressure with a fine point of contact similar to a needle. Though lying on a bed of nails could do that, the risks for the average person wouldn’t be worth it.

This concept led a Russian by the name of Ivan Kuznetzov to develop a rudimentary acupressure device in the early 1980s. He created a rubber mat with 1500 stainless steel office pins sticking out of it, spaced about two inches apart. The Institute of Experimental Surgery tested it on patients with much success. Russian television eventually showed a documentary on the device, highlighting that people experienced pain relief from a variety of conditions as well as improved respiratory function. Sadly, the pain-relieving device wasn’t studied any further, and didn’t seem to gain attention outside of Russia.2Olsson, Erik M G, and Bo von Schéele. “Relaxing on a bed of nails: an exploratory study of the effects on the autonomic, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems, and saliva cortisol.” Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) vol. 17,1 (2011): 5-12. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0135

The Science

Western medicine has yet to be able to explain why acupressure, acupuncture, or Chinese medicine in general, works so well. So, if your usual healthcare practitioner dismisses the benefits, that could be why.

One paper proposed how it could work:3Zilberter, Tanya. Reflexo-Therapy With Mechanical Cutaneous Stimulation: Pilot Study. 1999.

skin stimulation, even not necessarily as accurate as in acupuncture, but intensive enough, does at least two things:

  1. Provides additional unspecific sensory input to the body’s self-diagnostic center in the central nervous system thus amplifying insufficient signals from diseased internal organs.
  2. Coordinates the body’s functions through the cascade of physiological regulators triggered by endorphins which in their turn are being released by reflexes from the skin.
Tanya Zilberter

Though there’s plenty of debate as to how it might work, there’s clear evidence that it does work to relieve pain related to:4Chen, Ya-Wen, and Hsiu-Hung Wang. “The effectiveness of acupressure on relieving pain: a systematic review.” Pain management nursing : official journal of the American Society of Pain Management Nurses vol. 15,2 (2014): 539-50. doi:10.1016/j.pmn.2012.12.005

  • dysmenorrhea
  • labor
  • headache
  • trauma
  • regular low back pain

Research also shows that it can reduce anxiety, likely because it reduces sympathetic nervous system activation.5Au, Doreen W H et al. “Effects of acupressure on anxiety: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Acupuncture in medicine : journal of the British Medical Acupuncture Society vol. 33,5 (2015): 353-9. doi:10.1136/acupmed-2014-010720

While there have been many studies done using different forms of acupressure, researchers from the Experimental Medicine Institute together with the University Hospital at the University of Latvia completed research specifically using the Pranamat. The research involved both laboratory measurements and patient feedback.

The study participants used the Pranamat for 20 minutes per day for 30 days. The researchers found that the participants:

  • Increased the intensity of local microcirculation
  • Increased local metabolic processes within treated tissues
  • Reduced inflammation in the joints and the muscles
  • Increased production of beta-endorphins (powerful natural painkillers)

They also experienced the following subjective changes:

  • 70% of participants reported reduced low back pain
  • 97% reported their back muscles felt more relaxed
  • 80% reported a reduction in or absence of headaches
  • 100% said they felt less tired and apathetic
  • 70% reported improved mood, energy, and alertness
  • 90% reported improved stress resilience
  • 95% reported an improvement in sleep quality

Whether you’re a skeptic or not, you have to admit those results are impressive, especially when you consider they carry no risk. That motivated Vanessa to order it for us. Also, since the study above was completed over 30 days, Pranamat decided to make their guarantee based on the same timeline. According to the research, if you use it each day, you should notice at least one of the benefits above.

Based on the scientific and their anecdotal evidence, Pranamat claims their product will help those dealing with:

  • Back pain
  • Migraines and other headaches
  • Cellulite (this is due to the increased circulation in the area treated)
  • Sleep debt
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Leg pain
  • Tension and stress
  • Pinched nerves
  • Symptoms of fibromyalgia

My Skepticism

Vanessa doesn’t buy into gimmicks. She’s not easily fooled and is cautious about how she spends our money. However, I still consider new health-related purchases with a fair amount of skepticism.

When I saw the Pranamat ECO, I had a similar reaction as when she received her first order of essential oils. You can read more about that story here: Essential Oils For Fitness: Research, Anecdotal Evidence, Experimentation.

I also saw that most of the people promoting it were in the yoga world. It’s not that I’m against yoga. I know it’s beneficial in addition to an intense strength training program and a high-protein, animal-containing diet. So, the fact that there weren’t many strength and conditioning people promoting it made me pause. But then, I figured, like me, most of them just hadn’t been exposed to it yet.

I’m always willing to try something new for the sake of improved health and fitness. And as you can see from what I’ve already written, there’s credible scientific evidence to support its use.

I’ve used it enough now to feel confident writing about it and recommending it to others. The first time I tried it on my feet, we were playing our morning card game. I took off my socks and placed my feet squarely on the pillow. I kept them in the same position for about 30 minutes. For about the next four hours, my feet felt hot. Not to the touch, but as I walked or sat, they felt like I’d applied a blend of hot essential oils such as Deep Relief to my feet. I love the relaxing and invigorating feeling on my feet. I’m using it right now as I write this article.

I also like the fact that I can use this acupressure tool while I’m doing something else. I don’t need to take extra time out of my day to use it.

The bottom line is this skeptic is impressed. I wouldn’t write about it or recommend it if I wasn’t. The only issue is that Vanessa bought just one. It won’t be long, and we’ll own a his and hers.

Try the Pranamat for 30 Days, Risk Free

Ready to try out the Pranamat ECO? You won’t be disappointed! Order yours and take advantage of the 30-day money-back guarantee, plus 15% off any of the sets you choose.

Photo by Romina Farías on Unsplash

Get stronger, leaner, fitter, faster, and healthier, no matter where you're starting from.

With a variety of programs to choose from, I guarantee you'll find one you love. If not, I'll give you your money back.

30-Day Money-Back Guarantee

If you don't love my training programs, I'll return your membership fees at any time during your first 30 days.*

*Does not apply to custom programs

I've created a wide variety of fitness programs. Each is unique based on your experience, fitness level, and goals. As a client, you can move from one program to another as your fitness level and goals change. Lumberjacked and Resilient are the two most popular programs.

Every Client Gets...

  • Periodized training program: Annual programming with 4-12 week training blocks based on specific fitness goals (i.e. strength, conditioning, lean mass, speed, power, etc.)
  • Exercise, set, rep prescriptions: Specified training variables to make ensure you get the results expected in each training session
  • Training history record: Sets and reps are saved after recording them for reference during future training sessions to help ensure you push yourself beyond past performances 
  • Video/written exercise demonstrations and instructions
  • Food tracking
  • Group messaging, training technique critiques, support, and encouragement
  • App syncing with Apple, Garmin, MyFitnessPal, and more
  • Ongoing 2-way messaging with me to answer personal fitness questions and provide support

Pick a program to start with. If you're still unsure after reading the descriptions, email me.


Start here if you've never followed a structured strength training program or if you feel like you need to rebuild a base of strength and mobility before following something more intense.

Gym Program

Intro to Resistance Training (IRT)

By using primarily machines, you'll build strength and improve body composition while gaining an understanding of how your muscles should feel while training them. Plus, you'll feel more confident about doing the movements correctly as the machines add an extra level of stability while guiding you through the proper range of motion.

Program Summary

  • Program length: 12 weeks
  • Skill level: Beginner
  • Goals: Improved strength, mobility, and body composition
  • Workout frequency: 3 days per week
  • Equipment: Resistance machines, bodyweight, and cardio machines.

Tap the button below and fill out the form to get started.

Gym Program

Genesis (Intro to Free Weights)

This program is what you need to get confident and comfortable performing the exercises most important for developing strength, mobility, and physical stamina.

You'll gain strength, increase lean muscle mass, and look and feel younger than most young adults! Most clients who complete Genesis transition to either Lumberjacked or Resilient.

Program Summary

  • Program length: 12 weeks
  • Skill level: Beginner
  • Goals: Improved strength, mobility, and body composition, while gaining proficiency in the major free weight exercises used in more advanced programs.
  • Workout frequency: 4 days per week

Tap the button below and fill out the form to get started.

At Home Program

Beginner Bodyweight

Not yet ready for the gym? Need to take things slowly? This 16-week program is just right for you.

Program Summary

  • Program length: 16 weeks
  • Skill level: Beginner
  • Goals: Improved strength, mobility, stamina, and strength
  • Workout frequency: 3-5 days per week
  • Equipment: Bodyweight for first 2 months, resistance bands for months 3 and 4.

Tap the button below and fill out the form to get started.

Intermediate / Experienced

When you're confident about doing most movements correctly (squats, lunges, presses, rows, etc.), you're ready for the following programs. You don't have to be in peak physical shape to start them, but they'll help you get to that point if you follow them and your nutrition recommendations.

Gym Program

Lumberjack Icon


Most popular program for middle-aged men

Build muscle you can see through a flannel shirt and strength and stamina to get the job done, no matter how hard it is or how long it takes. This is not for wimps.

  • 3-5 workouts per week, 50-70 minutes per session
  • Gym membership or full home gym required
  • Focus is on building muscle and strength first, with the secondary benefit of fat loss and improved stamina
  • Programming is ongoing, based on an annual calendar so you don't need to change programs, the program changes over time for you.

Gym Program


Most popular program for middle-aged women

Build conditioning and stamina that not only gets you leaner and fitter, it also helps you handle the stress and pressure of everyday life.

  • 4-5 workouts per week, 50-60 minutes per session
  • Gym membership or full home gym required
  • Focus is on building physical endurance and a lean physique first, and strength second, using mostly resistance training with some cardio
  • Programming is ongoing, based on an annual calendar so you don't need to change programs, the program changes over time for you.

At Home Program

Hit It At Home

This intense, intermediate program is intended for those who've exercised in the past and need to do resistance training at home for a while. It's also a great complement to an endurance athlete's program.

During your first two months, you'll do primarily bodyweight exercises three days per week, and Month 3 will require a small amount of equipment: TRX bands or rings, kettlebells or dumbbells, and resistance bands. Month 3 requires four days of resistance training workouts per week.

As with other programs, you can message me directly with questions as you work through your program. Nutrition targets and tracking are also included.

Look at what clients are saying!

Google Reviews
Based on 20 reviews
I committed to Tom's program because I needed a plan and 50 workouts in I am stronger, more fit, and growing in motivation. Success breads success and the program is challenging, dynamic, and keeps me engaged in my plan. Super appreciate the app and ease of following and tracking the workouts inside the community of other people following the same program.
Hands down best training, your search is over, stop and commit here. Here you will find workouts that give you strength, mental clarity, metabolic efficiency, are balanced for performance in your daily life. An added bonus, Tom shares wisdom behind just workouts sharing ways to master nutrition and lifestyle. Join here. You won’t be disappointed.
Great program that will improve not just your ACFT score but you're overall fitness as well.
I started with Tom's free ACFT program and transitioned to his subscription-based programming. I enjoy the variety and sense of community through his virtual format. I benefit from his military pricing, and it's a great value. Through his program, I have exceeded my fitness goals.
Over the years following Tom's strength and conditioning program, I have never been stronger and healthier than I am now. The workouts are straightforward and easy to follow. And he's always available to give advice and suggestions for form. I highly recommend Tom's program to everyone wanting to improve their strength and life overall.
Tom is a wealth of knowledge and one of a kind! I’ve been following his advice and been a part of his fitness programs for a number of years. He loves what he does and is very passionate about helping others reach their fitness goals.
Recommend without hesitation. Started training with Tom to improve my fitness for the Army Combat Fitness Test. It worked! Now I'm on a women's specific program to augment my triathlon training. The app interface is easy to use and track your progress plus meals if you are so inclined. I like the one-stop ship approach to fitness and health. What I appreciate the most is not having to think about planning my next workout.
The best training program I have ever used. Excellent instruction, a great community and an easy to follow health and fitness routine which has literally changed my body as well as adding vitality and longevity to my life.
Coach Nikkola is responsive and very involved in my training program. He has helped me work through multiple injuries while maintaining progress and physical readiness.The workouts are fantastic and the app is easy to use!
Tom’s training is amazing!! I’ve consistently used his program for 3 years now and absolutely love it.
Training with Tom has been the single best thing I have ever done for my fitness!I have thought about moving on, trying other scenarios, but I haven't because of what Tom has to offer with the training, programming, the connections I've made and have with other people who train with Tom.I am not the leanest I've ever been, but, I am most certainly the strongest I've ever been. And that's a credit to Tom's programming! Absolutely love it!
Tom's program is simple and transforming! He is responsive and always seeks your success.
Hands down the best program I have been exposed to in my life. Tom provides straight forward, highly effective approaches to your health on a personal level. Personally, I am stronger, more mobile, and feel better than I did 20 years ago. Highly recommend Tom’s services!
Great program, especially for AD Army
Love the workouts and love the app. Tom is a great dude and wouldn’t recommend anyone else!
Best program that keeps me consistent and always having a plan at the gym that I don’t have to think about.
Strength training is a non-negotiable for me. Not having to figure out my own strength training program has been huge for simplifying my life and helped me be successful in my fitness goals. Tom is an expert in his field and I have seen gains after gains by following his program for the last 2+ years. Whether you are beginner or expert you will see growth following Tom's programs. I can't recommend Vigor strength+conditioning enough!
I’m a 72 year old semi retired contractor. In my 16th week of training with Tom Nikola . It’s changed my life.I feel 20 years younger, I’m stronger more flexible no more sore joints. It’s not easy or simple but if you do the work It will work for you. Skip
I’ve been working with Tom since 2019. I started with his ACFT prep program and it got me prepared for the ACFT. Shortly after I became a full member and Tom has been my trainer ever since. He is knowledgeable and is a no BS kind of guy. He uses research and years of experience to back his training programs and diet recommendations. He is responsive and truly cares about his clients. 10/10 recommend. It doesn’t matter if your a beginner or a life long lifter, Tom is your man.
Next Reviewsjs_loader
Share to...