Massage As Substance Abuse Rehab Helper

While massage has been practiced for thousands of years, medical science and research really woke up to the benefits beginning in the 1990s. As more studies about substance abuse have emerged, it is clear from the findings that massage can have significant and lasting benefits for the body. Those benefits extended well beyond simple relief from aches and pains to dramatic positive effects on mental state and positive attitude. It was only a matter of time before massage became a tool for helping alleviate symptoms arising from depression. Recently, massage has begun to appear as a regular beneficial treatment for those who suffer from addictions.

How addiction works

Some theories propose that people depend on substances like alcohol or drugs because they directly associate them with good feelings. In an effort to continue those good feelings, they use, and overuse, substances to sustain the effects. Many of the “good feelings” are associated with hormones and other chemicals in our bloodstream – like serotonin and dopamine. Both of these attribute to a “euphoric” feeling.  Addiction comes when the urge to seek the stimulus (drug/substance) in order to achieve the response (relief and euphoria) is strong enough to carry the user past the point of control and beyond feelings that they can experience these good feelings other ways.

That’s where massage comes in. Massage, along with other activities like physical exercise, stimulate similar “feel good” substances in the body naturally.  Helping addicted persons shift the focus from self-medication to self improvement is a hallmark of most treatment programs.

Helping drug and alcohol addicts

Massage helps remap attitudes and behaviors and reawakens pleasure centers – all of which can draw people away from addition. While massage is not a cure, nor the only recommended treatment for addiction, it has been shown to have some significant positive effects on mind, body and behavior. It stimulates the production of dopamine and serotonin and decreases cortisol. Caring and purposeful touch, for example, not only make people feel better, they also become healthier and more self aware.

Massage can also help people feel more secure. In a massage session, the therapist-client interaction induces a strong feeling of safety and security and, as a result, stress levels drop. As stress levels drop, strain on circulatory and immune systems lessens. Overall wellness and moves toward homeostasis happen.

Happy hormones welcome

The increase in dopamine and serotonin can have significant effects on the body. As stress drops, there are measurable effects on the way clients feel and their overall health status improves, too. A study at the Royal Brisbane Hospital in Brisbane, Australia found that people in alcohol rehab who received massage had higher average scores on the Alcohol Withdrawal Scale, compared to people in rehab who did not receive massage. This suggests that they were farther along the path to kicking their addition. They also reported more positive attitude, and a safer feeling than control groups.

A feeling of empowerment

While getting a massage can leave the client feeling safe and cared for, GIVING a massage can have some significant effects, too. A Touch Research Institute study examined a group of elderly people who were taught to massage infants, which they did for a short period every day. Another group just receive the massage themselves for the same length of time. Both groups experienced an increase in positive social behavior, slept better and visited the doctor less often.

When massage isn’t recommend

Kicking any addition usually involves period of adjustment for the body. It reacts with fever, susceptibility to acute illness and sometimes skin diseases and other pathologies. These are all contraindicated for massage. A good therapist will recognize these symptoms and delay the massage therapy until the issues have been treated and are fully under control..

The big picture – massage may work for you

More and more, centers such as the Silicon Valley Massage Therapy offer a host of non-talk therapies, including massage, that can valuable parts of recovery programs. Because recovery is a process, it may be a long road. Since massage is touch, not talk, therapy it can meet clients wherever they are an continue to focus on positive impacts on mind, body and spirit.  Massage can help clients reconnect body to emotions and impact them at very deep levels, helping them toward a more effective recovery.

If you suffer from an addiction, ask your counselor or physician if massage might be right for you.

More information

AMTA: Massage and Addiction:

Massage and Rehab:

How Massage Can Help Treat Addiction: