Benefits of Massage For Drug and Alcohol Recovery

Benefits of Massage For Drug and Alcohol Recovery

Benefits of Massage As Prescription for Drug & Alcohol Addiction Recovery 

An experienced and compassionate massage therapist can do wonders for the healing process. Massage therapy for addiction recovery is one of the most popular holistic services at HQWC and works in conjunction with other  fitness treatments for addiction rehab. Many people experience physical symptoms such as sore muscles and tension for months after their detox, but do not always know why they feel the way they do. Some people may not be able to verbalize or articulate their thoughts and feelings — this is when therapeutic massage for addiction recovery can be most beneficial.

A few benefits and side effects of therapeutic massage include:

Releases Endorphins

After the detoxification stage of addiction treatment, the body’s neurochemistry requires time to get back in balance. Drug and alcohol abuse prevent the release of natural endorphins, which means someone who is newly sober needs a little extra help convincing the body to manufacture these “feel good” chemicals. According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), massage helps to increase serotonin and dopamine (feel-good hormones) and decrease cortisol which is related to stress. During detox and withdrawal, dopamine levels drop dramatically making for uncomfortable or even painful sensations. Therapeutic massage focuses on the body’s pressure points which are linked to the brain’s vagus nerve.

In addition, research has shown massage therapy increases the amount of beta-endorphins in the blood. Manufactured in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, beta-endorphins offer a chemical-free way for those in recovery to feel more like themselves.

Promotes Detoxification

The squeezing and pulling motions we associate with a professional massage do more than just feel good. They help flush lactic acid from the muscles and boost blood flow to the limbs. This improvement in vascular function continues for several days after the massage has ended, which is why professional athletes often rely on massage to keep them in competitive shape. Since massage helps improve circulation, it can aid in the detoxification process by allowing for a more efficient expulsion of toxic waste products away from the body. The invigoration of blood and lymphatic fluid also helps to promote a better utilization of oxygen-rich nutrition into the various organs and tissues.


Easing Withdrawal.

Withdrawing from drugs or alcohol can be a difficult and somatically uncomfortable process. Research indicates that massage therapy can facilitate management of withdrawal symptoms, improve sleep and digestion, reduce joint and muscle pain, and create a more positive detoxification experience at the earliest stages of recovery. A study by researchers at the Royal Brisbane Hospital in Australia found that those receiving massage during alcohol detox had lower pulse and respiration rates, as well as reduced “Alcohol Withdrawal Scale scores in the early stages of the detoxification process.” Massage also helps alleviate muscle aches and pains by increasing circulation, relaxing muscle spasms, sending anti-inflammatory signals to muscle cells, and encouraging the production of mitochondria. By reducing the physical distress of withdrawal, your ability to emotionally engage in the recovery process is enhanced and you can experience an improved sense of control over your body.

Help the Body Cope with Side Effect of Prescription Medication Naturally

During the recovery process, many prescription medications, maybe prescribed to you. If addiction occurs, tapering is practiced reducing the withdrawal side effects. If someone stops “cold turkey,” which is never recommended, they can experience: Cramping, nausea/vomiting sweating anxiety, shaking, seizures, irritable bowel movement, abdominal pain and more.

This mean your body will go through some hardships, side effects of  prescription medications may last a short period of time (less than 4 months), and its medical purposes can wear off, making the drug unable to treat the same symptoms it once could. Instead of stopping the medicine altogether, many up doses in fear their symptoms will return, leading to dependence and an addiction.

Reduces Chronic Pain

For someone who turned to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with chronic pain, massage can be a way to heal the body. Regular massage can lower pain levels and promote a more restful sleep—leading to improved mood and energy throughout the day. If you suffer from opioid addiction related to chronic pain, regular massage therapy sessions can be particularly beneficial. Recovering prescription opioid abusers are often reluctant to use any type of pain medication for fear of relapse, but massage can be combined with alternative treatments such as yoga and acupuncture to naturally increase the body’s serotonin levels.

Improving Emotional Well-being.

Some of the most significant benefits of massage are its ability to improve mood, ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, and create feelings of harmony within ourselves and with others. While the exact mechanism by which these phenomena happen remains largely unknown, researchers have observed that massage encourages the release of endorphins and increases mood-boosting neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Massage therapy also augments the release of oxytocin, a remarkable hormone the promotes human bonding and floods our brains at pivotal moments in our lives, including childbirth and when we fall in love. However, even everyday physical touch can invite the oxytocin release, producing a host of psychological benefits such as decreased social inhibitions and fear, enhanced feelings of trust and well-being, and improved self-esteem, optimism, and empathy. Studies confirming that massage significantly increases oxytocin levels have led researchers to believe that massage can even “reduce morbidity and mortality” as the result of psychological distress. For people in addiction treatment, the emotional benefits of massage are twofold. First, massage can be a central component in the management of psychological disturbances related to withdrawal and the recovery process itself. Massage therapy can also alleviate distress caused by co-occurring mental health disorders that contribute to your addiction and may be used to treat both acute and chronic psychiatric symptoms, fortifying both your overall mental health and your recovery.

Restoring the Mind-Body Connection.

Addiction to drugs and alcohol often creates a severe chasm between the body and the mind. As your focus narrows to feeding your addiction, you lose contact with your physical self and are unable to recognize and nurture your somatic needs. As a body-focused therapy, massage allows you to reconnect to your body and pay attention to its sensations, listen to its messages, and honor what it is telling you. This can be particularly important for those whose addictions have been driven by experiences of physical violation, such as sexual assault, childhood abuse, or intimate partner violence, events that can cause you to disconnect from your physical self as a way of coping with the enormity of the trauma. With the guidance of a compassionate and experienced massage therapist, you can begin to heal the fractured relationship you have with your body to rejuvenate your emotional and physical well-being.

Improving Relaxation.

Addiction treatment can be an intense process. You are going through a powerfully transformative experience that requires acknowledging hard truths about yourself and working towards meaningful and difficult changes to create freedom from addiction. And you are going through this without access to your primary coping mechanism—drugs and alcohol. Learning how to reduce stress and create relaxation in healthy ways is critical to nourishing your psychological health throughout treatment and to establishing positive coping skills for ongoing recovery. Massage therapy allows you to experience natural, restorative relaxation and establish inner balance during your time in treatment. In part, this is due to the biochemical effect of massage; massage is well-known to reduce stress hormones, including cortisol, and brings tranquility to the nervous system. But massage is about something more than neurotransmitters and hormones; it is about the deeply human experience of allowing another person to nurture you in a loving and peaceful way. When you are receiving a massage, nothing is required of you and you can allow your mind and body to relax, knowing that you are safe and cared for and that in this moment, you do not need drugs or alcohol or other self-destructive behaviors to deal with life. And this experience is not limited to your time in residential treatment; massage is easily integrated into your continuing care plan, allowing you to access its benefits whenever you want to fortify your recovery. 

Reduces Stress

Chronic stress can weaken the immune system and create mood disturbances. Massage therapy helps those in recovery feel more relaxed and in control of their newfound sobriety by lowering cortisol levels. Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone. It increases glucose in the bloodstream and increases the availability of hormones to promote tissue repair, helping the body to be primed for a “fight or flight” situation. Although this is helpful when you are actually under attack, an excess of cortisol can lead to stress-related problems such as weight gain, digestive problems, headaches, sleep disturbance, and difficulty concentrating.

Addresses Co-Occurring Disorders

If you suffer from co-occurring disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD, massage therapy can help by triggering the body’s relaxation response. It’s not a substitute for talk therapy, but massage can help you feel more open and comfortable expressing your emotions. This can enhance the effectiveness of your overall treatment plan, reducing the urge to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.

Helps Overcome a Fear of Touch

If you have been physically or sexually abused in the past, touch may be associated with negative feelings. Massage therapy encourages the brain to associate physical contact with more positive sensations.

Psychologists who study trauma have stated that being a victim of abuse undermines five of our most basic human needs: safety, trust, control over one’s life, feeling of value, and experiencing closeness with others. The intimacy of massage therapy provides a safe and therapeutic way to meet these needs, thus offering a foundation for healing.

Enhances Self-Awareness

An essential part of addiction recovery involves learning to manage personal addiction triggers. Understanding how feelings of boredom, anger, frustration, or anxiety trigger the urge to use helps you be proactive in managing your sobriety. Regular massage helps build an awareness of your own body, including where tension exists and patterns that can lead to an increase in negative emotions. This can make it easier to develop productive strategies for controlling cravings and avoiding relapse.

Provides a natural, alternative method of healing, free of drugs.

This can also help lower heart rate and blood pressure. Reduce agitation and anxiety and ease sleep problems. Helps with the removal of metabolic waste. Therapeutic massage triggers or stimulates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. This in turn can increase circulation and promote the effectiveness of the lymph system. The lymph system helps to alleviate pain symptoms and is responsible for removing the body’s metabolic waste build-up.