The healing touch of a trained massage therapist is a valuable tool for many recovering addicts. Since massage therapy connects the mind and body through pressure points, it can help former addicts build new associations for pleasure and relaxation in the brain.
Massage Therapy for Addiction
Massage therapy offers benefits for many physical and mental conditions. Since there is a strong link between mental health issues and addiction, massage therapy can alleviate many symptoms at once. Researchers found that massage therapy affects the body’s production of certain chemicals that control stress levels and mood.
A 2005 article in The International Journal of Neuroscience notes massage therapy reduced cortisol levels and increased serotonin and dopamine levels in several different studies. The authors found massage therapy could benefit many health conditions, including depression and pain. When cortisol levels are lowered, an individual feels calmer and less anxious. Meanwhile, higher serotonin and dopamine levels create feelings of pleasure and peace.
Massage Therapy Affects Dopamine and Serotonin Levels
Since alcohol and drug addictions change the balance of chemicals in the brain that control mood, individuals in recovery often struggle to feel normal again. Many illicit drugs elevate dopamine levels in the brain, which produces euphoric feelings, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Massage therapy produces higher levels of dopamine and serotonin without substances, and it can help restore an individual’s natural chemical balance. Regular massage therapy can be a valuable aid in a behavioral addiction treatment program, which includes individual or group talk therapy. Individuals who receive regular massages gain the most benefit, especially as they are going through the recovery process and are looking for techniques to help them avoid abusing substances.
Benefits of Massage Therapy
Massage therapy produces several reactions in the body and mind, according to the American Massage Therapy Association. The group notes that massage therapy offers the following benefits:
- Reduces blood pressure and heart rate
- Increases cytotoxic capacity, which is the activity level of the body’s disease-fighting cells
- Enhances weight gain in pre-term infants
- Increases lymph flow
- Reduces edema
- Improves certain types of back pain
- Reduces anxiety
- Relieves stress