There’s no question that life with fibromyalgia can be challenging. Pain and aches all over your whole body are a constant for most people with fibro, though most people have occasional periods of relative comfort. Looking for the right thing that will relieve pain is usually a long and difficult process. Medication can help some people but it’s usually not sufficient in itself. Relief from pain and discomfort often requires a combination of multiple different therapies.
THE ORIGINS OF WEIGHTED BLANKETS
You may have just started seeing weighted blankets in bed and bath stores in the past couple of years. But the truth is that weighted blankets have actually been around for nearly twenty years already. They began as a tool prescribed by occupational therapists to help children with sensory processing issues, anxiety, and autism spectrum disorders. The weight of the blankets would help kids feel calmer. Back then, it was difficult to find a ready-made weighted blanket, so many therapists and parents would make their own. The first mass-produced blankets were introduced to the market in the late 1990s but were originally only marketed to children.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND WEIGHTED BLANKETS
Believe it or not, weighted blankets aren’t just a trendy meme. There’s actually some science between what makes weighted blankets so calming and comforting. The weight of the blanket provides deep pressure, which can have a relaxing effect on some people. A 2008 study in the journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health evaluated 33 adults who each rested under 30-pound blankets for five minutes.
At the end of those five minutes, 33 percent of the study participants who used the blankets showed a greater drop in sweat on the skin, which is a measure of stress. Nineteen of the participants said they felt calmer with the blanket than without, and eight said they were comfortable either way. Only three of the study participants felt more anxious with the blanket than without.
Although it’s only a small study, it shows some promising initial results that the weight of a blanket can be soothing, especially when combined with rest.
CAN WEIGHTED BLANKETS HELP FIBROMYALGIA PATIENTS?
Weighted blankets may help you if you have fibromyalgia, especially if you are also prone to anxiety or insomnia. Some people find using a weighted blanket to be very comforting and relaxing, like being wrapped in a snug embrace. Many fibro sufferers also have problems with poor sleep, which can aggravate your pain and make it worse. Having a tool on hand that can help you sleep more deeply can allow you to get the rest that you need.
Many fibro patients also deal with anxiety, which is another condition that weighted blankets can really help. Although considering how difficult it can be to get medical providers to take you seriously, it’s hard to know how much of that anxiety is organic to the illness and how much is caused by insensitive medical staff.
What about pressure points? Pain at the pressure points is a common problem in fibromyalgia, and sometimes it feels like the air hurts your skin. Wouldn’t something that puts more pressure on your body make that sensitivity worse? Not necessarily. A weighted blanket may not take away the sensitivity at the pressure points, but can still be soothing overall, anyway.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT WEIGHTED BLANKETS FOR FIBROMYALGIA
Not everyone finds weighted blankets to be helpful or comfortable. If you’re prone to sweating while you sleep, you may find the blankets to be too hot. In general, if you cover up with a weighted blanket and don’t feel better, it’s not necessary to force the issue. It will either provide symptom relief or it won’t; it’s not the type of issue where you have to build up a tolerance.
It’s also important to note that weighted blankets come in a variety of weights, filled with a variety of materials. Some people advise that the blanket should be proportionately heavier when compared to your body weight. But you may find that a lighter-weight blanket will be more comfortable for you than the one that corresponds to your weight. Or you may prefer a blanket that’s filled with plastic beads instead of metal. When it comes to fibromyalgia relief, it’s important to choose what feels most comfortable for you.