Can Weighted Blankets Cause Back Pain?

can weighted blankets cause back pain

The popularity of weighted blankets has resulted in numerous complaints about back pain. The blankets, which initially catered to sensory sufferers, had their use extended to people who faced anxiety while sleeping. In addition to relieving anxious feelings, the heavy blankets also created pain in some people. The purpose of this article is to dispel these misconceptions.

Let’s know whether weighted blankets can cause back pain or if you are using it in the wrong way? But before we discuss our primary concern, let’s take a moment to learn about its composition, benefits, and history.

So let’s begin!

Can Weighted Blankets Cause Back Pain? - Summary

Weighted Blankets: An Overview

sleeping better with weighted blanket on

Weighted blankets are heavy quills formerly common to treat sensory issues. But now, these are part of every other household as most Americans suffer anxiety and cannot get a good night’s sleep. Hence to tackle this situation, they tend to use these blankets that help alleviate anxiety through deep pressure therapy. 

These blankets are heavy, and this composition works like a tight hug that releases hormones responsible for happiness and sleep.

Composition of Weighted Blankets

Weighted blankets generally comprise two layers, internal and external. The inside of this blanket has an interesting composition of tiny sewed patches. These patches contain material that has considerable weight. It is this composition from where the name weighted blanket originated. The filled-in material may include a rounded mass of plastic or glass beads. 

An outer layer of the blanket may be made from any fabric. Most brands prefer cotton, finesse fabric, or wool as they are soft yet robust. The ideal weight of a weighted blanket ranges from 10 to 25 pounds, while you can finalize the exact numbers based on your body weight.

Working Principle of Weighted Blankets

After knowing about the entire framework of a weighted blanket, it is also essential to shed some light on how it works to benefit humans. Pressure points have a key role in pain-relieving strategies, and weighted blankets also abide by one such therapy to relieve pain. It is known as deep pressure touch or DPT. Don’t get confused if you have never heard of this terminology before, as we will be discussing it here in detail. 

Deep Pressure Touch

Do you remember that irritating feeling followed by any of your friends’ light tickle on your neck or skin? In contrast, a deep hug from a similar person does wonders to calm the storm inside you in a stressful situation. The above three lines outline the working mechanism of a weighted blanket. Let me explain it further! Blankets are used for sleep and must be able to provide a peaceful sleeping experience. 

Following a similar root, the pressure from weighted blankets results in deep pressure, which triggers the release of happy hormones known as serotonin. These feel-good neurotransmitters go on to release sleep-inducing melatonin. Hence, you can sleep peacefully.

Why are Weighted Blankets Popular in Healthcare World?

A question that usually arises amongst the masses is why this sleeping accessory holds so much value in the medicinal world. There are several reasons for this. According to the study, occupational therapists recommend patients with sensory disorders use weighted blankets for symptomatic control

It was bothersome for patients to visit clinics every other day to receive therapy, and a weighted blanket came as a day saver. The approach is not new, but therapists have been applying this strategy for decades. The appreciable part is that many patients did get optimistic results using weighted blankets.

Benefits of Using a Weighted Blanket

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Benefits of Using a Weighted Blanket

Besides being used by sensory patients, many ordinary people also use these blankets. These blankets claim to provide extensive benefits through deep pressure theory. A few of these perks include;

  • Reduced pain perception
  • Reducted anxiety while sleeping
  • Enhanced sleep quality
  • Symptomatic relief of depression

Autism

A developmental disorder such as autism affects children’s ability to develop social relationships and communicate. Troubled sleep is a major nuisance for autistic children, and reports suggest that caressing, massaging, or hugging them while they sleep has a significant sleep-inducing effect. 

Hence, doctors considered these blankets to provide similar effects, and their use displayed positive results. It provided a comfortable sleeping experience for such special children throughout the night. 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a condition characterized by abnormal chemical activity in the brain. Its major symptoms include the inability to sit still, decreased focus, and hyperactivity. 

Weighted blankets had significant value in alleviating these symptoms to a greater extent. But here, it was more beneficial when awake than for the sleeping process. People who could not focus on a single task and got distracted every second felt a huge difference when working with these blankets. They were also able to control their fidgeting behavior through weighted blankets.

Insomnia and Similar Sleep Issues

Insomnia and other sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome harm your life. Not getting a comfortable sleep at night is believed to cause poor performance of the sufferer in the daytime. There are several conditions behind sleeping issues, out of which the major ones are stress and anxiety. Weighted blankets will calm your heart rate and breathing, ultimately leading to sleep induction comfortably.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a medical condition where bones are affected, and the patient feels deep pain in areas like the knee, back, hip, etc. In such conditions, physiotherapists give massage therapy for symptomatic control of the condition. 

Weighted blankets serve similarly where deep pressure therapy provides similar effects as manual massage therapy. The patients observed a significant improvement in their pain intensity. However, many users claimed the opposite reaction and said their pain doubled after using weighted blankets. 

We will soon address this concern in this article, so keep reading!

Chronic Pain

Many people suffer from body aches due to multiple reasons, and it is annoying to lead an everyday life with intense pains. Hence, weighted blankets were put forward for such patients as one of its benefits involves reduced pain perception due to deep pressure touch. 

Medical Procedures

Besides all the sleep-inducing and anxiety-curbing effects of weighted blankets, it also has a unique advantage. This usage strategy originated when patients undergoing tooth extraction faced extraordinary anxiety symptoms. It is human nature to have these feelings, but weighted blankets did lower anxiety symptoms by calming the increased heart rate of the person under the knife.

Contraindication of Weighted Blankets

It is important to know about the risks posed by weighted blankets. Though they have a vast list of benefits, some situations will result more adversely than beneficially. Hence, avoid using weighted blankets if you fit any criteria below.

  • Occupy the night and experience breathing difficulties as a result of obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Asthma patient should not use the weighted blanket. Asthmatic patient since the risk of attacks at night is double-fold, and weighted blankets can further aggravate them. 
  • Suffer from claustrophobia as a weighted blanket can trigger relevant feelings, and you might spend your night anxiously.

 

Parents who have infants of 0 to 2 years must avoid using these blankets as their heaviness can have detrimental consequences. If you are still adamant about doing so, consult your pediatrician before taking any step.

History of Weighted Blankets

Here we will discuss how and why weighted blankets became popular and what controversy surrounded their claim to fame.

Uprising Popularity of Weighted Blankets

Weighted Blankets are not some recent innovation but date a decade back. It was when one occupational therapist started recommending these to her patients who faced sleeping issues. Besides its long-term presence in the market, it is essential to know the reason behind its recent popularity. 

Every other person purchases this blanket for themselves and their family members irrespective of any sensory problem. It was even named one of the best inventions of 2018 by Time Magazine. The only reason for this sudden popularity surge is that these blankets were earlier reserved for use for particular purposes. 

These specific objectives included autistic children, Asperger’s sufferers, patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, and people who suffered other sensory issues. A hyperactive nervous system characterizes all these conditions; in such cases, deep pressure theory did wonder in calming down the nervous system and removing anxious feelings from the body, specifically while sleeping. 

Until 2017, weighted blankets were only available to healthcare. A reputable blanket company then initiated a campaign to make weighted blankets open for all. They emphasized more them being the source of comfortable sleep than as a product of the medical world. 

A year into the campaign and the weighted blankets were the talks of the town, and many other brands started selling them under different names with innovatory designs. Many influencers also praised this blanket for letting them have a tranquilized night’s sleep.  

The weighted blanket controversy

The generalized use of weighted blankets triggered the special needs community, who were unhappy with the campaign. People with anxieties, traumas, and sleeping disorders were bothered by the depiction of abled bodies advertising the product. Many people rightfully expressed their disappointment over the propaganda. The most damaging aspect of this situation was the overpriced tags of these blankets that posed a major nuisance for trauma patients.  

Weighted Blanket and Anxiety

Besides the controversy surrounding these blankets, we wanted to dig deeper into the fact that whether these blankets are helpful for ordinary people to achieve anxiety-free sleep as claimed. Our research ended up as an answer in positive to this concern. Studies suggest that the use of weighted blankets did help relieve anxiousness from the body and the person was able to achieve comfortable sleep. 

However, the mechanism is nothing new, resulting from deep pressure therapy, which released serotonin, which curbed anxiousness. Though the campaign started as some fashion trend, we can not deny its value on the road of undisrupted night’s sleep.

Weighted Blankets: Are they safe to use?

Yes, besides the contraindications mentioned above, these blankets are considered safe. However, it is vital to ensure that the person sleeping with a weighted blanket has enough strength to pull it off in an unfavorable scenario of suffocation. 

Likewise, people with circulatory problems or respiratory issues must consult their doctors before adding these quills to their night sleep regime. While using these blankets stands no chance in OSA sufferers who already deal with blocked airways during sleep. 

Furthermore, weighted blankets designed for adults are inappropriate for children, toddlers, and infants. The risk of them getting trapped under the heavy quill is high, resulting in unfavorable situations. For this reason, many companies sell infant-specified blankets in the weighted category, which have lesser weight and size. 

So in case you want your child to sleep under a weighted blanket, always go for these special ones. They are safe to use and provide optimistic sleep outcomes in your otherwise noisy child. 

If you abide by all the precautionary measures accompanied by weighted blankets, there is no risk surrounding them. We have mentioned a few more tips in this article to help you decide on a perfectly sized weighted blanket. 

Weighted Blanket - a Pain Reliever or Causer?

Although the blanket manufacturers claim it as a magical accessory to sleep better and relieve pain, many customers gave exactly opposite reviews. We do not deny the worth of weighted blankets in occupational therapy by this statement. But here, we will address a few problems that might be the reason behind alleged back pain. 

Since many reviews suggested weighted blankets as the cause of back pain, we will majorly target this issue.

Weighted Blanket and Back Pain

do weighted blankets cause back pain

The primary reason behind back pain complaints after using weighted blankets is that customers do not compare their body weight to the weight of the blanket. They buy heavier blankets most of the time, resulting in a bothersome experience. Many reliable companies inform their customers beforehand about this scenario, but it is your responsibility to research, buy, and use it most of the time. 

For the figures, we recommend that a load of a weighted blanket must not be more than 10 to 20 percent of one’s body weight to gain maximum benefits, as affirmed. If your weight is not intact and keeps changing, we recommend purchasing a blanket with a maximum of 10 percent body weight, as blankets on a slightly lighter side would not hurt as much as the heavier ones. If you don’t follow this rule, you’ll experience back, hip, and core muscle pain. 

Sleep has to be comfortable, and you would never be able to achieve it with heavyweight upon your body. Additionally, if you have weak muscles or an older adult is using the blanket, it might adversely affect their body, including bones, joints, etc. 

Tips for Picking the Right Size of Weighted Blanket

As mentioned before, the strategy to purchase a perfectly sized weighted blanket is to go for 10 to 20 percent of your body weight. However, some companies suggest keeping these figures around 5 to 10 percent as it is better to be safe than sorry. 

Here we will state a few tips that you can follow to gain maximum gains from this blanket and suffer no unwanted consequences like body aches. 

These tips include;

  • The area of the blanket should align with your bed size
  • If you are an adult, you can ideally go for a blanket that is somewhere between medium and large size, weighing from 12 to 30 pounds
  • For a child whose weight is between 12 to 30 pounds, a weighted blanket of 3 to 8 pounds would be perfect
  • While a weighted blanket of 5 to 15 pounds will suit ideally children who weigh 30 to 130 pounds 
  • Similarly, aged adults should also opt for a 5 to 8 pounds blanket as heavier ones will affect their muscles adversely

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are weighted blankets beneficial?

Weighted blankets have extensive beneficial attributes contributing to their popular stance today. 

A few of these gains are:

  • Comfortable sleeping experience
  • Alleviation of anxiety from the body
  • Improves overall sleep quality 
  • Calms the nervous system 
  • Reduces pain perception

Overall, weighted blankets are a good option for the special needs community to achieve better sleep.

Are there any downsides with weighted blankets?

Although weighted blankets have a vital role in inducing peaceful sleep by calming down one’s anxiety, there is a negative side to it as well. For example, a person with asthma or obstructive sleep apnea will feel suffocated under this heavy blanket. Similar is the case with infants and aged adults as they might not have the strength to remove the quill in such events. 

Moreover, weighted blankets also resulted in many people suffering from back pain. But it is majorly due to using a blanket that is too heavy for one’s weight. 

Is it possible to keep warm with weighted blankets?

Of course, weighted blankets can be your go-to quill choice in winters which is better to keeps you warm and provides therapeutic benefits simultaneously. However, this attribute depends upon the filled-in material and fabric of the respective blanket.

What is the effect of weighted blankets on blood pressure?

According to a study, people who regularly used weighted blankets saw significant improvements in their blood pressure and pulse rates, attributed to reduced anxiety.  

Final Verdict

Weighted blankets are an efficient sleeping accessory that benefits people in the special needs community relax and sleep peacefully. It has provided optimal results in people living with autism and ADHD, sleeping, and sensory disorders. 

The blanket mimics deep pressure touch to relieve anxiety from the body, eventually serving the purpose of comfortable sleep. While many users gave a verdict in favor of these blankets, many suffered from back pain after using them. 

The primary reason behind this nuisance was using a blanket that weighed more than 10 to 20 percent of body weight. If you follow this tip, back pain will no longer be a cause of concern, and you can enjoy sleeping cozily on a weighted blanket.

Mike Horton (head of Weighted Living)

by Mike Horton

Mike is one of the lead editors at Weighted Living and the author of this article. He's become fascinated with weighted products (a bit too much we think) and loves to see all the different ways they can improve our loves. He's written quite a few weighted product guides as well.

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