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Holistic Addiction Treatment: Massage Therapy

Massage therapy as a treatment for recovering addicts is referred to as a holistic healing solution. Holistic healing is a type of natural healing that allows the body to recover from the damage of drug abuse.

Massage Therapy in Addiction Treatment

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Massage therapy helps alleviate symptoms of detox along with other symptoms experienced in addiction recovery.

Treatment for addiction requires more than physical rehabilitation. It is difficult to overcome the emotional effects as well. Counseling sessions often concentrate re-learning that drugs are not a singular pleasure source and that it is possible to feel relaxed and happy without them Massage therapy can be extremely helpful in allowing those in recovery to release not just their muscle tension, but the feelings that are causing that tension. It can be a cathartic experience.

Massage therapy creates feelings of pleasure as the muscles relax. The mind releases negative emotions, and skillful hands provide comfort to painful areas of the body. The pleasure derived from massage is able to help individuals avoid emotional cravings for drugs or alcohol, a key part of healing since emotional cravings are a huge trigger for relapse. Massage therapy is designed to fight the emotional impact of drugs or alcohol.

When the muscles begin to relax, the mind is able to release the negative emotions that prevent serenity for a person. Relaxed muscles release negative emotions and reduce cravings, both of which result in feelings of serenity and emotional freedom. Massage therapy helps patients reach an emotional state that is key to maintaining a successful recovery.

Massage therapy can make major contributions to the maintenance of addition recovery. It is different from other recovery treatments in that it is almost wholly passive, requiring little to no interaction on the part between the patient and the masseuse. He or she is quiet, lying supine, eyes closed, while the masseuse does the physical work that helps bring out the negative emotions that the addict has been keeping in. As the body relaxes, the mind is able to reach a serene state and the worries that cause stress fall away, the stress that can cause damage to one’s body and its recovery efforts.

Reducing Stress

Massage therapy is an extraordinary measure in reducing stress. Stress and anxiety cause strong temptations to return to drugs and alcohol to relieve those feelings. Also stress hormones can inhibit the pleasure-causing chemical, dopamine, making someone, especially in early recovery, feel doubly deprived and begin to feel those cravings for substances trigger.

Benefits of Massage Therapy

In a 1998 Norwegian study of how massage therapy benefits patients, the results demonstrated that “massage therapy not only reduces stress, but it produces a 16 percent rise in beta-endorphins. Like dopamine, endorphins give pleasurable sensations. With less than an hour of tactile manipulation, patients can feel less agitated and more positive and all apart from use of any substances. This positive attitude then contributes to the success of other drug rehab therapies.”

Also in the report are the results that massage therapy not only reduces stress and increases positive feelings, but also helps patients become more self-aware. It helps patients slow down, block out distractions and focus on being calm. With regular massage sessions, the study says, a patient becomes more attuned to signals from their body, especially where tension and stress are taking hold. The patient who has been practicing relaxation will recognize symptoms of anxiety and stress more quickly and will learn to deal with those emotions in a positive way.

How Massage Helps with Detox

Many drug rehab programs begin by helping patients to detoxify their body. Massage therapy is helpful here as well. Through massage, muscles are loosened and endorphins are released, but the increased blood flow massage produces also aids detox by nourishing tissues and increasing lymph drainage. In a real sense, massage therapy releases good chemicals and helps to wash away bad ones.

Massage therapy has been proven to help patients relax, get rid of stress, heighten awareness and brighten one’s outlook on the world. It helps in detoxification and boosts the potential for the success of other therapies. Massage can reduce cravings and even helps to lift depression and pain.

The benefits of regular massage during treatment for addiction include:

  • Reduced cravings for previously-abused substances
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Pain relief
  • Increased immunity
  • Holistic healing of the body, mind and spirit
  • Reduced feelings of anxiety, depression and stress

For those in recovery, massage is a great way to relax, ease tension and release stress. Adding massage therapy to your regular stress management regime is a positive way of practicing to caring for oneself and being proactive in improving both physical and mental health.

Massage and Alcohol Addiction

Massage can be particularly helpful in treating alcohol addiction because the body reacts to massage in a similar way that it reacts to alcohol. Massage is pleasurable for most people, and triggers the release of dopamine and endorphins, which create a sense of happiness. Thus, massage can play a unique and important part in reawakening these reward and pleasure pathways in the nervous system and swaying them away from alcohol use. One of the primary first steps for recovering addicts is to find other sources of pleasure beyond drugs and alcohol.

The benefits of massage for the body go much deeper than mere pleasure. Massage makes people feel safe and relaxed, which leads to a decrease in the levels of stress hormones like cortisol. This is important because stress is not just temporary, and it affects more than just a person’s mental state.

High levels of stress hormones can have a negative impact on health as they can lead to a higher heart rate and blood pressure, which puts stress on the circulatory system. Immunity can also be compromised, making the sufferer more susceptible to sickness. Digestion can slow down when stress levels are high as well, making it more difficult for the sufferer to get proper nutrition.

This can all be even more threatening to people who are just beginning their break from alcohol – their bodies are already enduring great stress in readjustment. Massage helps alleviate this stress, which is why many rehabilitation programs have added massage to their regimen of treatments.

Massage therapy is one type of a large group of healing modalities called bodywork—pathways to greater health and improved functioning through physical touch. Some specific benefits of massage therapy for people in addiction recovery include improved physical health, a healthier immune system, improved mood and reduced drug cravings. Many practitioners will recommend regular weekly or bi-weekly massages, but even one well-timed massage can have significant benefits.

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