A Weighted Blanket is an RA Must-Have

I have a dear friend whose love language translates to mysterious Amazon packages showing up at my doorstep. Sometimes the items are funny, such as a bizarre pair of lobster slippers that made me smile during a difficult time. Other times the items sent are more practical gifts such as toothbrushes, essential oils, and microwavable mittens for sore joints.

Certainly, my absolute favorite gift from the collection of mysterious packages has been my weighted blanket lovingly sent after a week of relentless joint pain.

My guide to using a weighted blanket for RA relief

After years of people recommending weighted blankets, I finally had one in my care thanks to a sweet friend! And much to my surprise, I don’t know how I survived before without it.

This is my exclusive RA newbie guide to owning a weighted blanket, how it’s benefited my joint pain, and why you should get your hands on one now.

What is a weighted blanket?

A weighted blanket, sometimes called a gravity blanket, is a blanket designed to be heavier than traditional blankets. The addition of weight results from a dense filler of plastic pellets or glass beads. Weighted blankets come in many different weights and sizes ranging from 5 to 30 lbs.1

The pressure of the extra weight on the body mimics deep pressure stimulation or pressure therapy. Deep pressure stimulation is beneficial because it calms the nervous system much like a bear hug or being swaddled. It has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, reduce insomnia and help with sleep, and reduce stress and discomfort in people with autism, ADHD, and other conditions. More research must be done in order to have more conclusive evidence about the benefits of weighted blankets for certain health conditions.1-3

If you are thinking like I am thinking, weighted blankets sound exactly like something we might benefit from.

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How do you pick a weighted blanket?

Coincidentally, before being gifted a weighted blanket, I had done some research of my own and picked the brain of my sister who is also an occupational therapist. At the time, she had experience in her practice using weighted blankets during therapy with children on the autism spectrum. She recommended I try a weighted blanket to help with joint pain and quality of sleep, but warned me not to choose a blanket weight exceeding 10-20 percent of my body weight.

Thankfully, the one I received fell exactly within those guidelines. For a person weighing 105 lbs like myself, a 15-lb blanket was ideal. Score!

My experience using my weighted blanket

Like many people living with RA, there are many nights when I struggle to sleep due to pain. It feels as if my joint pain is exacerbated in the evenings when I am trying to fall asleep, and there’s not much to distract me from pain. When I first received my blanket in the mail, I lay on the floor for 10 minutes to simply try it out. Almost immediately, I felt my muscles relax and the pressure of the weight on my joints dull the pain I felt. I was completely relaxed within minutes.

Upon standing up, I felt a bit intoxicated. It was a strange and unexpected experience. However, it makes sense that following total relaxation I would feel a bit off.

Following that initial experience, I used my weighted blanket every night since and have noticed an improvement in my ability to fall asleep and my overall pain level while resting.  For me, it's been a positive experience and a recommended option for pain relief with RA.

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