You’ve heard of weighted blankets (sometimes called gravity blankets), which are often used for the purpose of helping people with autism or severe anxiety cope with the world around them. And, of course, you know about the fantastic power of a warm hug, a soothing massage, or a hot shower with good water pressure. Now let’s put two and two together and talk about what the power of pressure could do to help you with cancer-related anxiety and the fear of recurrence.
Weighted blankets, of course, are not a replacement for whatever medical therapies your doctor recommends. And whether or not they’re actually able to influence the outcome of your treatment has been debated (some believe that they improve your emotional health, which helps improve your physical health; others believe these are separate issues). However, there’s something to be said for the fact that a weighted blanket, or some other form of pressure therapy, could change the tone of your experience with cancer and cancer treatment.
Weighted blankets have been shown to increase serotonin and melatonin, which help improve mood and sleep, respectively. These are both issues that many breast cancer patients struggle with.
The blankets are also associated with reduced anxiety, and anxiety is another thing breast cancer patients may struggle with during treatment and even afterward, when the fear of recurrence arises. It also appears to decrease the body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol.
Touch and pressure also appear to be associated with an immune system boost, another major benefit for breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Some experts even think that deep-touch pressure causes an increased production and potency of the body’s natural “killer cells” that fight off bacteria, viruses, and—you guessed it—cancer cells.
Is a weighted blanket guaranteed to help you have a better cancer treatment experience? No, not really. But it’s a fairly low-risk and low-cost option (not to mention chemical- and hormone-free!) with some potentially awesome results. There can be some physical risks to some patients at certain stages of cancer or certain treatment regimens, so talk to your doctor about whether a weighted blanket may be right for you.
Have you tried one of these blankets? Tell us in the comments what you thought.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?