4 ways heated blankets can help chronic pain sufferers
My electric blanket is more than just cozy—it's an invaluable tool.
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I know the image that comes to mind when I bring up heated blankets: I’m sitting in a rocking chair with my knitting and a cat, my figure undetectable and my face saccharine in my bliss. Only part of that is true. If you think of heated blankets and immediately think of the elderly, I have two questions. One: Have you tried one? Two: What’s so bad about aging, anyway?
I experience chronic pain caused by fibromyalgia—a condition that also brings on insomnia, fatigue, and stiffness among other things. And the presence of chronic pain itself causes further symptoms: fatigue, brain fog, mobility issues… the list goes on. Those who have chronic pain know, however, that pain can sometimes get boring. Weary of a slow and careful existence, we sometimes make our bodies to do things we probably shouldn’t. There’s a host of reasons someone might push their body too far, many of which intermingle with ableism, peer pressure, and internalized ableism—or maybe we just want to somehow find a way to still read our favorite book or mindlessly binge another Netflix show. One of the aids that has helped me to continue to do things (not do things) in a better state is the heated blanket.
While you might not think of the electric blanket as an assistive device, it can be that and so much more. Here's how.
1. I can adjust the temperature without running up the heating bill
A practical point, but heated blankets can save you from pumping up your furnace in the winter, often being cheaper to run and offering more localized heat. Some can even heat your entire bed, with separate controls for each side. Chronic pain and illness can often be comorbid with sensitivity to temperature. If you’re somebody who, like me, is eternally frozen, this can be a great way to combat the desire to turn your house into a sauna. Bonus: It’s great for warming up those extremities that never seem to get warm no matter the weather.
2. A heated blanket brings me natural pain relief
Essentially an elongated hot water bottle, a heated blanket wrapping you up into an achy burrito can ease joint and muscle pain, with the heat increasing your blood flow and, hopefully, allowing your muscles to relax. One particular type of pain that my heated blanket has helped with has been nerve pain. Seemingly untouchable by medication, the heated blanket, and the enforced rest it requires of you to use it at its full capacity, is my go-to for nerve pain.
3. I sleep better in a warm bed
Sleep can be a sore subject for the chronically ill—literally. “Painsomnia” is a term often used to describe pain interrupting or stopping you from getting to sleep. Unrefreshing sleep can also often be a common comorbid symptom. Heated blankets are great for warming up a bed before you get into it, or for settling you off to sleep. If you’re looking for this to be one of the main benefits of your blanket, it’s best to get one with a timer so that you’re not keeping yourself too warm in the night or risking a fire hazard.
4. My blanket improves my mood
A small point—until it isn’t. Having something cozy to snuggle under after a long day can do wonders for your mood. Specifically for the chronically ill, at least for me, it feels nice to have something that you know actually works without the hassle of appointments or trips to the pharmacy. Although it doesn’t alleviate my illness or even all my pain, it can be something to look forward to after getting caught in the rain, or if you want to watch a movie with some hot chocolate on a snowy afternoon. It’s these little things that can spark up your mood. While keeping happy is not at all a fix for chronic illness, it can definitely give you a little pocket of joy to keep yourself going. And that really is no small thing. Being chronically ill is exhausting and, if you can afford it, a heated blanket can be a great little pick-me-up, as well as a pain reliever.
Should you buy a heated blanket?
Yes. A heated blanket isn’t a cure, and it shouldn’t be batted around as unsolicited advice for those with chronic pain or illnesses, as we so often see with essential oils and yoga. It's not a fix all—these are complex conditions, occurring through no fault of the person who has one, or two, or several. But it is a little bit of comfort that I’ve found. And a little pain relief can be a very big thing.
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