The recent rise in the popularity of weighted blankets signals the rise of alternative therapy, known as deep pressure or compression therapy.
The principle is simple, and it's based on deep touch pressure where it utilizes one of your sensory systems, the tactile sensory system, to alleviate symptoms of real distress.
When the nervous system is under stress and unable to process any information received from any sensory systems, you will have an atypical bodily response that comes out through motor, language, or social-emotional difficulties.
At Home Rehab, we provide relaxation and rehabilitation solutions that you can use at your home. One of our most popular categories is air compression and ice compression therapy which are part of deep or pressure therapy.
Due to our line of work, we have many questions about deep pressure therapy, so we decided to address all that you need to know about it. So let's check out all that you need to know about it!
What Is Deep Touch Pressure Therapy?
Deep pressure or compression therapy is a form of firm tactile sensory input known to provide proprioceptive input for the whole body. This therapy can include everything from firm hugs, firm strokings, cuddling, hugging, squeezing, and compression to swaddling.
It is known to provide a calming and organizing effect on everyone. The recent popularity of this therapy is generally attributed to Dr. Temple Grandin, a prominent researcher and author about Autism.
The story goes that she went to a relative's farm and saw how cattle calmed down immediately when they entered the squeeze chute. That inspired her to create her "hug machine" that can calm down her anxiety.
How Does Deep Touch Pressure Therapy Work?
Deep pressure touch therapy involves the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The autonomic nervous system consists of two parts, the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.
The Sympathetic system involves a person's "fight or flight" response and is most sensitive to light touch pressure. This system lets you feel the wind on your skin and the feeling of someone moving by you.
The sympathetic system was developed to help us detect danger and provide a fast response to get to safety. At the same time, the parasympathetic system is responsible for controlling our "rest and digest" functions.
When this system is activated, it creates a calming effect on the body by letting the blood pressure drops, the breathing slows down, and mood-boosting hormone levels keep rising.
At the same time, deep pressure therapy fits into all of this because it can activate the parasympathetic nervous system and put it into "rest mode," resulting in a feeling of calm and contentment, making it easier to deal with anxiety.
Endorphins & Deep Touch Pressure Therapy
Deep pressure therapy is attributed to increased endorphins like serotonin and dopamine levels. These are known as happy hormones.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates some brain functions and aids in mood regulation. It's also attributed to impacting parts of the brain responsible for sleep and melatonin production.
Dopamine is widely known as the "happy hormone" because it regulates the reward or pleasure center of the brain. Dopamine is known to regulate emotional responses and is active when some sets or achieves goals.
Studies suggest that an excess of dopamine is linked to risk-taking and addiction. Psychologically, deep pressure therapy manages and balances out both the systems in the autonomic nervous system to regulate emotional responses.
The production of serotonin and dopamine counteracts the effect of stress hormones like cortisol so that the emotional response is controlled so that you don't get overwhelmed by sensory information.
What Is Deep Pressure Therapy Used For?
Modern-day life can be stressful and can easily overwhelm people. Whether it's pressure from work or relentless anxiety, deep pressure or compression therapy can be a lifesaver.
It can quickly calm you down and reduce your stress. However, that's not the only application for deep pressure therapy. Here are some other conditions that it can help regulate:
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
- Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
- Sleep disorders.
- Chronic pain.
- Restless Leg Syndrome.
- Psychiatric disorders (mood disorder, depression, anxiety, dementia).
Amongst other results, some functional outcomes can improve your life a lot. Here are some of the best outcomes that can come from deep pressure therapy:
- Improved proprioceptive processing for increased balance.
- Improved body/spatial awareness.
- Improved coordination.
- Improved sleep.
- Increased focus/attention.
- Decreased anxiety/stress.
The Science Behind Deep Pressure Touch Therapy
If you look at all the studies and research behind deep pressure therapy, you can trace it back to the original work of Dr. Anna Jean Ayres.
She is a trailblazer in Sensory Integration theory and framework. Nowadays, you will find plenty of studies with different products and procedures and sensory inputs. Still, they all are investigating deep touch pressure sensory inputs.
For example, one 2011 study from the Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering found that the physiological effects of deep pressure therapy correlate with lower anxiety levels with weighted blankets. The study showcased a change in nervous system activity after the introduction of deep touch pressure therapy.
It is established in the medical community that people who experience sensory overstimulation are more prone to suffering from real physiological symptoms, and this study shows that DPT can regulate those changes.
Another study published in 2008 on the Occupational Therapy in Mental Health suggested that using a 30-lb weighted blanket reduces anxiety by as much as 63%. It also lowers physiological conditions like blood pressure, pulse rate, and pulse oximetry while calming the person.
Weighted blankets are a big deal in the mental health space as they provide a calming effect and a great coping mechanism that reduces anxiety under stressful situations.
Deep pressure therapy using weighted blankets has been used for several mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The patients reported feeling safe, calm and grounded after use.
Deep Pressure Therapy Exercises & Proprioceptive Activities
Occupational therapists usually recommend deep pressure therapy exercises and proprioceptive activities to calm the patients down. Here are some of the most common deep pressure therapy exercises experts recommend:
- Rolling/wrapping a child firmly in a blanket to make a "burrito."
- Squishing a child between two soft pillows "sandwich."
- Firmly roll on a therapy ball or RollEase Foam Rolling Pin over a student's trunk, legs, and arms.
- Deep vibration to the whole body.
- Wearing of weighted vests or compression garments.
- Weighted blanket use.
- Bear Hugs.
- Deep massage.
- Joint Compressions.
- Climbing under sofa cushions.
- Deep Pressure seating options like this Sensory Pea Pod.
Now, you don't have to do them all. Exercises and treatments vary from person to person based on the type of problem and several other factors.
So before trying out anything, consult with your doctor on which solution would be the best for you, and that's where Home Rehab will step in to help you.
Our curated list of compression therapy devices provides the relaxation and rehabilitation you deserve from the comfort of your home. So get in touch, and we will hook you up with what you need.
Also, if you have any other questions about deep touch pressure therapy or want to know more about our products, feel free to drop the questions in the comments below or hit us up on our socials. We will answer them all for you.
And with that being said, that's about all we have for you today. We will come back with something new for you soon. Until then, see ya!