The trend goes beyond vests and blankets. Another Kickstarter campaign has raised over $35,000 for a weighted backpack for students with autism. The creators say they were inspired by other weighted sensory tools to design the backpacks, which feature pouches for weights and “hugging straps” for children between the ages of six to 12 years old. In Canada, a group of volunteers also sewed “heavy helpers,” which are weighted stuffed animals, to help children in need deal with sensory processing issues or trauma.

How you can reap the health benefits of pressure

You don’t need to install a hug machine in your office to reap the calming benefits of pressure. There are plenty of DIY solutions that can be done at little or no cost, and in no time at all. According to Field, as little as 15 minutes of touch a day can boost your health. If you don’t have a partner or pet to cuddle with, Field says that self-touch can be just as effective especially when you use an object such as a tennis ball. Engaging in physical activities that stimulate pressure receptors, such as yoga or fast walking, may also do the trick.

Pressure researchers are hoping to build on pilot studies investigating how devices such as the weighted blankets can be safely and effectively adopted by patients. Although such devices seem innocuous, every intervention comes with risks. For example, putting a heavy blanket over an injured, frail, or elderly person presents dangers. In a couple of tragic cases, children have passed away after suffocating under heavy blankets they didn’t have the strength to lift. Research is lagging behind popular interest in these products, and scientists don’t have a full picture of what makes these strategies safe and effective for some and not for others yet. So if you’re thinking of tinkering with weighted devices yourself or using them with your family, consult an occupational therapist and refer to best-practice guidelines issued by scientific bodies first.

Science has shown that enjoying high-pressure showers and deep-tissue massages is not all in your head. The sensory input leads to a range of biochemical responses that impact your entire body, promoting feelings of well-being. Though the market for such devices are currently aimed at the medical community, recreational pressure-based solutions are likely to grow as people seek out innovative ways to find relief from stress and anxiety. Here’s hoping that research funding catches up with consumers’ interest in cost-effective innovations to common mental-health challenges.

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