The Definitive Guide to Deep Touch Pressure Therapy

What Is Deep Touch Pressure Therapy

The easiest way to understand deep touch pressure is to think of a hug. Not one of those crap one arm awkward hugs, but a big cuddly bear hug. 

What do you feel?

  • Calmness?
  • Happiness?
  • Relaxation?

All of the above? 

That’s because your body is experiencing deep pressure therapy and in turn is surging with serotonin and dopamine; the happy hormones that calm you down and regulate your mood.

So, What is Deep Touch Pressure Therapy? (DTP)

Deep Touch Pressure Therapy is the science of applying a firm but gentle weight to the body to promote a general sense of calm and peace.

DTP can be applied through several methods including:

  • Hugs
  • Weighted Blankets & Vests
  • Deep Tissue Massages.

If you want to get a bit more technical, keep reading.

What is Sensory Integration?

Before we start, you need some quick background knowledge on sensory integration.

Imagine that your body didn’t react to the smell of your favourite perfume, the touch of your favourite pet or the fear of a big spider.

Life would be pretty boring right?

Sensory integration is the process that allows your body to react to the world around you, and feel those sensations that make you happy, afraid or upset.

Your brain receives sensory information from your body, and communicates with your central nervous system so that your body can make a meaningful response.

You were probably told in school that humans have five senses, but there are actually 8 different kinds of sensory input.

  • Visual (Sight)
  • Auditory (Sound)
  • Gustatory (Taste)
  • Tactile (Touch)
  • Olfactory (Smell)
  • Vestibular (Movement)
  • Proprioceptive (Joints & Muscles)
  • Interoception (Physiological Conditions)

These 8 senses are responsible for our behaviour, communication, function and participation in day-to-day life.

Some of us struggle with processing sensory input and can be diagnosed with sensory processing disorder (SPD). Life with SPD can be difficult. On one hand you could be overly sensitive and overwhelmed by certain stimuli. On the other, you could be completely non-reactive to stimuli, appearing shut down and disconnected from others.

Oops sorry, I'm getting off track! Back to deep touch pressure therapy...

Deep touch pressure therapy (DTP) is a type of tactile sensory input that is used widely by occupational therapists to manage individuals who are overwhelmed by their senses.

This is the science of applying a firm but comfortable pressure to the body through a form of touch. This can include hugging, massage, squeezing, holding, cuddling or stroking.

Whilst these forms of DTP come free, you can also invest in items that can apply deep touch pressure too!

Weighted blankets, weighted vests, weighted sleep masks, weighted pads, heavy quilts, heavy clothes or other compression products can apply pressure to your body. without the interaction of another human.

Perfect for those who prefer their own company!

How Does Deep Touch Pressure Therapy Work?

When deep touch pressure is applied to the body, it triggers a switch that deactivates your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and activates your parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS).

You should aim to spend as much time in the PSNS as possible, but those with anxiety struggle to do so.

Your sympathetic nervous system is your own personal security alarm. It kicks in when you're feeling stressed, anxious or scared and activates your “fight or flight” response.

Imagine a flashing red siren in your head which is shouting DANGER AHEAD!

That’s your sympathetic nervous system.

The parasympathetic nervous system is completely the opposite. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, get ready to feel zen!

It slows down your heart rate, relaxes your muscles, improves your circulation AND creates endorphins (the happy hormones).

But wait, it doesn’t stop there!

Once the parasympathetic nervous system is online, a rush of neurotransmitters called dopamine and serotonin are released into the brain.

Dopamine is responsible for feelings of:

  • Pleasure
  • Satisfaction
  • Motivation
  • Sense of Achievement

Serotonin is responsible for:

  • Stabilising your Mood
  • Well-being
  • Happiness
  • Better Sleep
  • Improved Appetite & Digestion

Will I Benefit from Deep Touch Pressure Therapy?

Although deep touch pressure comes with many benefits, it is likely that each person will respond differently to this therapy and unfortunately, not everyone enjoys the feeling of pressure on their body.

Before investing in a product which provides deep touch pressure, it's important to understand your sensory processing needs. If you seek or enjoy heavy sensory input such as cuddles, being touched or wearing heavy clothes or layers, then deep touch pressure could be perfect for you!

However, if you are overwhelmed or irritated by heavy touch then we wouldn’t advise deep touch pressure therapy. It may make you feel claustrophobic or stressed.

Conditions that effect the sensory integration system like Autism are complicated and a deeper understanding of your sensory needs is required before trying DTP. Our article about using weighted blankets for autism explains this further.

If you do decide to experiment with deep pressure therapy, here are some of the potential positive side effects:

  • A sense of calm that can last up to a few hours.
  • Decrease in Anxiety & Stress
  • Increased Happiness
  • Improved Social Interactions
  • Better Sleep
  • Improved Focus, Motivation & Productivity
  • Relaxation

Sounds like the kind of side effects I could get behind!

Let’s Wrap It Up

To summarise, deep touch pressure therapy is the science of applying pressure to the body in order to trigger a calming, relaxed sensation throughout the body. This kind of therapy is often used to calm anxiety and reduce arousal levels.

But not everybody can benefit from deep touch pressure therapy. The benefits and methods should be well thought out and adjusted to the individual's needs.

Weighted blankets are the eaisest, and most effective method of applying deep touch pressure therapy. They can be used to help individuals with Anxiety, Sensory Processing Disorders, Insomnia and more.

So that’s DTP.

It’s interesting, isn’t it?

Ever felt the benefits of deep touch pressure and not realised it? I bet it all makes sense now!

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