24 Healing Options for any Illness

Massage Therapy

The skin is the largest sensory organ in the body and plays an important role in relaying information and forming a connection between the outside world and the internal one. Massage provides a wide range of benefits, and incorporating it into one's treatment program can be useful for all stages of the recovery process.

Massage has effects on both the body and the mind. On a physical level, it reduces pain and decrease tension in muscles and soft tissues. It helps improve circulation, which boosts the rate at which toxins are removed from the body, and also boosts the immune system, which is often compromised in those recovering from substance abuse.

Stimulation from massage, especially when it is part of a long-term massage regimen, releases dopamine and endorphins, both of which are often decreased in recovering addicts. These chemicals help patients feel good and experience a mild "high" without having to use drugs. Massage calms the mind, decreases anxiety and depression, and can even help patients deal with cravings. It also allows patients to connect with themselves on an emotional or spiritual level and better understand when, where, and how they become stressed. Research suggests that the mind-body connection fostered by massage may also be useful in preventing relapse. Massage comes in many different forms, and can be customized to suit a patient's needs.

Scientific Studies:

A 1999 article published in Preventive Medicine looked at the use of massage therapy to help smokers quit by relieving anxiety, stress, and mood issues brought on by cigarette cravings. 20 adult smokers participated and were randomly assigned to either a self-massage group or a control group. The massage group was taught to conduct hand or ear self-massage during three cravings each day for one month. Self-reports indicated that the massage therapy led to reduced anxiety, improved mood, and fewer withdrawal symptoms. Those who had been using massages also smoked fewer cigarettes per day by the end of the study.

In 2005, a team of Australian researchers investigated the use of massage therapy as an adjunct treatment in an alcohol detox program. 50 alcohol-dependent patients participated, and were either given seated massage therapy for the back, shoulder, head, and neck, or were part of a control group who simply rested. Compared to the resting group, those receiving massages showed decreased heartrate by days three and four and also had lower respiration scores by the end of the study. Massage was also more effective in reducing Alcohol Withdrawal Scale scores in the early stages of the detox process. The authors concluded their study by saying that massage shows promise as an adjunct treatment to traditional therapeutic and medical interventions.

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