Deep Pressure Touch: what it is, why it works and how to use it

Deep Pressure Touch is a simple and effective way of relaxing the nervous system. It was popularised by animal behaviourist and autism activist, Temple Grandin.

What is Deep Pressure Touch?

Deep Pressure Touch is a form of relaxation that works by applying firm pressure to the muscles of the body. This pressure can be applied directly by hand, by squeezing or pressing, or via objects being pressed against the body. Even people with hypersensitivity who don’t like to be touched can benefit from deep pressure through specially-designed items such as weighted blankets, pressure vests and hug machines (although please seek advice before using any of these items).

Why Does it Work?

Think of the feelings of security and calm that arise when you get a good hug. Of course, part of this feeling is about social context – being looked after by someone who cares – but it is also about the physical experience of being held. Our nervous systems get the message that for that moment, we are safely held. It is a very secure and reassuring feeling.

At the same time, because tension is leaving the body, emotional release may also occur.

Applying deep pressure to the body can also help with the receiver’s proprioception. Proprioception is the sense that tells us where we are in space: where we are in relation to other objects, where the boundaries of our body lie, how the various joints and muscles of our body are working at any given moment, how much force we need to use to complete various tasks. This sense can be impaired in some people, especially those with Sensory Processing Disorder or autism. Deep pressure can help counteract this by providing heightened sensory feedback that can enhance bodily and spatial awareness, and co-ordination.

How Much Pressure Should You Apply?

The answer depends on how much pressure your partner is happy to receive.

You know your partner or TACPAC receiver, and how they communicate their likes and dislikes. Watch them closely when you are applying the pressure. Are they happy with the pressure they are receiving? Are they showing signs of pleasure and relaxation? If you are unsure, try taking it in turns where this is possible: let them apply pressure to you, and then swap back.

As ever, respect your receiver’s boundaries; but be aware that you need the pressure to be firm enough to encourage your receiver to relax. If you are hesitant about the pressure, the message you are conveying is one of hesitancy and not security.

TOP TIP Go for a deep tissue massage and experience deep pressure for yourself! Pay particular attention to both how it feels physically, but also how it makes you feel emotionally. Do you feel relaxed? Do you feel more aware of your body? If so, in what way? How much pressure were you happy to receive?

How to Use TACPAC to Deliver Deep Pressure

Every TACPAC Set is designed to include an opportunity to apply deep pressure. For example, in Set 1 you can use the flat, wooden spatula to apply deep pressure. In Set 5, you can apply deep pressure in the exercise with the scarf.

Just remember:

  • stick to the basic beat
  • only apply deep pressure to muscle (never bone)
  • pay attention to your receiver. How do they respond? What are they telling you?
  • go at their pace – do not try to do too much, at first they may only tolerate part of the activity, part of the music. As they begin to sense the activity more, build up the time.
  • write down your experiences on the observation sheet, so you know for next time!

Share your story!

Do you have experience of using deep pressure in your TACPAC sessions? How did your receiver respond? How did you gauge how much pressure to give?

Email us to share your stories, photos and videos:

Find out more!

If you want to learn more about the benefits of deep pressure, all about Temple Grandin and other great ways of using TACPAC with your receivers, sign up to one of our online training sessions:

Go in deep on Deep Pressure Therapy

You can read more about the general principles behind Deep Pressure Therapy, including the dos and don’ts of weighted blankets and other aids here: There is also information on other deep pressure activities here:

You can also read more about Temple Grandin’s autism activism:

and buy your own Hug Machine: