How Japan's "Adult Swaddling" Works

Swaddling is a popular way to soothe young infants. You wrap them in fabric like little burritos, and often they’ll nod right off. If you’ve ever looked at a swaddled baby and thought, “I want to go to there,” this one’s for you: Adult swaddling is a form of therapy in Japan. Known as “Otonamaki,” or “adult wrapping,” swaddling for grown ups may relieve shoulder and hip pain, proponents say.

According to Reuters, Otonamaki was developed by a midwife in Kyoto as a way to help new mothers cope with pain and stiffness after giving birth. In each therapy session, the client is wrapped, in fetal position, with a large white cloth, which is knotted to stay in place. For 20 minutes, helpers assist the client in rolling over cushions on the floor. “It felt warm and there was this feeling with my body,” one Otonamaki client told Reuters. “I have never experienced this before so it’s quite hard to describe properly.”

Looking at images of adult swaddling in practice, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I have seen many a baby swaddled, and it always looks so peaceful and safe — It seems like replicating that experience as an adult would be nice. On the other hand, images of Otonamaki clients don’t look like adorable babies wrapped up like burritos. They look like creepy alien eggs waiting to hatch.

Seriously, doesn’t this group of swaddled-adults look like a Xenomorph hive?

(It is slightly possible that I’ve seen Alien too many times.)

Although proponents of Otonamaki say that the therapy helps with posture, muscle pain, and stress, not everyone is a believer. Chiropractor Shiro Oba told Reuters, “There may be cases where people with asthma may find it easier to breathe (in that position), but once the cloth is off it's the same thing. But apart from that, I just can't think of how people can benefit from this even as a form of reflexology or exercise.”

Adult swaddling: Ultra calming return to the womb, or creepy, claustrophobic alien egg cosplay? There’s no way to know without trying it, but I suspect the answer might be “both.”