Deep Pressure Therapy: What is it and how does it help?

Deep pressure therapy is a form of therapy where pressure is exerted in most types of firm touching, holding, or swaddling. This gives the receiver the ability to feel safe, comforted, and grounded to the world. Many people benefit from this type of therapy.


Everyone has nerve endings in their body and each processes different inputs. Nerve endings, located in the fingers and lips, are called Meissner's Corpuscles. They sense light touches and movements, such as: tickling, moving the hairs on the skin, or the touch of clothing. The less sensitive nerve endings are the Pacinian Corpuscles. They are located throughout the skin and sense deeper more calming touches, such as a firm hug. Let's put this in real life terms: a spider is crawling on your shoulder and the feeling alerts you; you then brush it off and now your heart rate and anxiety level have to slowly return to normal (Meissner's Corpuscle example). You get a big tight hug from mom, you feel safe, loved, heart rate is normal or a little slower, and no anxious feeling (Pacinian Corpuscle example).


A nerotypical brain will ignore certain Meissner's sensations, like clothing on the skin. However, in a non-neruotypical person, the brain does not ignore these sensations which can cause distractions, restlessness, sensory overload, and anxiety. These effects can then result in meltdowns, poor attention spans, and irregular sleeping patterns.


Essentially what deep pressure therapy does is it acts as a focusing or calming agent to increase the activity in the parasympathetic division of the nervous system. It also decreases activity in the sympathetic division. These two divisions work together to increase endorphin (happy hormone) levels and decrease heart rate and blood pressure (anxiety/stress).


Weighted blankets are heavy and activate the Pacinian Corpuscle nerve endings. This releases serotonin, which converts into melatonin: the sleep horomone. This is why blankets are often used to aid in helping ASD an SPD children sleep.


Will everyone like a weighted blanket? No. The blanket to some makes them feel suffocated while others enjoy the feeling. Some people prefer a smaller weighted object (example: vest or lap pad) to place on different areas of the body. 


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