Weighted blankets are the latest health and wellbeing trend that claim to treat insomnia, anxiety, depression and a whole slew of other physical and mental health conditions. There are even claims that it can reduce the symptoms of aggression and agitation in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients as well as people on the autism spectrum.
Fortunately, there is scientific evidence to support these claims and for most people, weighted blankets that are used to provide deep pressure stimulation are beneficial. But clinical trials are still ongoing and there is much that still needs to be established about the side-effects and negative consequences of weighted blankets.
In fact, information about chronic leg and knee pain being experienced by some users of blankets that have been weighted are only starting to see the light of day now.
But can weighted blankets really cause leg and knee pain and can this be avoided?
Can Weighted Blankets Cause Leg And Knee Pain?
The simple answer is yes, weighted blankets can cause leg and knee pain and there have also been reports of hip and back pain.
There may be a couple of reasons why this may be happening in some people but not in others.
1. The Weight Of The Blanket
A blanket that is too heavy may be placing too much pressure on the joints and muscles in the legs. It is generally recommended that a blanket should weigh a maximum of 10% of your body weight plus one or two pounds.
Most commercially produced weighted blankets weigh between 20 and 30 pounds. Considering that the average weight for women in the USA is 170 pounds, it is clear that these blankets exceed the 10% recommendation and are too heavy for most adult females.
These blankets are also clearly too heavy for children and teens. Weighted blankets are not recommended for use in infants and toddlers due to the increased risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
The average weight for men in the USA is around 197 pounds. Commercially produced weighted blankets may therefore also be too heavy for males and result in leg and knee pain. It is recommended to purchase a blanket where weight can be removed or added to meet the correct weight specifications. Alternatively, weighted blankets can be made at home.
2. Duration Of Use
Weighted blankets are generally recommended for use during the day and night and there is no specified time limit on the duration for use. However, for those who are suffering from leg and knee pain as a result of sleeping an entire night over an extended period of time, should reduce usage of the blanket.
In these cases, blankets should be used for 2-3 hours at a time. Use of a weighted blanket should be discontinued if severe or chronic leg or knee pain are experienced upon waking.
3. Pre-existing Conditions
Weighted blankets are intended to apply gentle pressure to the body. However, in some cases, even gentle pressure may result in unwanted pain. Existing or pre-existing injuries and some chronic health conditions may be aggravated by the constant weight of the blanket.
This is especially true for the knee joints where deterioration of the soft bone tissue may result in pain and inflammation. Additional weight applies increased pressure to joints that can cause pain. This issue may also affect obese people more than others.
Poor circulation may also contribute to leg pain. The weight of a blanket can further inhibit circulation resulting in pain, tingling or numbing sensations. Diabetics and obese people are particularly prone to poor circulation and the therapy is therefore not recommended for these people.
It is also necessary to take into consideration frailty in the elderly when using weighted blankets. The additional weight can cause bruising as well as muscle and joint pain in the knees.
Conditions such as fibromyalgia or in some cases, osteoarthritis may also experience leg and knee pain as a result of using a weighted blanket. It is always recommended to discuss the use of any alternative therapies such as using a weighted blanket with a medical practitioner.
It is also advisable to discuss any pain in the legs or knee joints resulting from the use of a weighted blanket as it may be indicative of an underlying health condition.
Can Weighted Blankets Relieve Knee And Leg Pain?
Although no clinical trials have been conducted to date to confirm whether weighted blankets may help relieve joint and leg pain in osteoarthritis, reports are promising. Many users also report reduced pain in knees and legs that stem from other medical conditions.
This may be due to the increased levels of serotonin and dopamine that have been detected in people using weighted blankets. Both serotonin and dopamine play a role in natural pain relief. It may also be a result of a better night’s rest for those who are using weighted blankets.
Sources and Additional Resources: