Fusion Recovery

How Massage Can Boost Addiction Treatment and Prevent Relapse


In many social circles, massage is considered a luxury, and spending money to have a therapist soothe sore muscles is seen as an extravagance, not a healthcare necessity. However, thinking of massage as an unnecessary indulgence instead of an investment in your recovery is inaccurate. The benefits of massage support long-term wellness, with extra advantages for those recovering from addiction.

The Role of Massage in Comprehensive Wellness Strategies

Far from a luxury, massage therapy offers clients tangible physical and mental benefits. Research shows that during a massage, the body releases extra dopamine, the chemical responsible for sensations of pleasure. Dopamine is the body's method of encouraging you to take part in life-sustaining activities. For example, there are dopamine surges during eating and physical intimacy. Increased dopamine leads to decreased stress and decreased risk of the many illnesses induced by high stress levels.

The Benefits of Massage in Early Recovery

Going into a recovery program can be a frightening experience. It means a major life change coupled with the physical discomfort of withdrawal. With so much going on physically and emotionally, it can be difficult to make the kinds of personal connections needed to get the most out of counseling and talk therapy. Massage works to break down these barriers, offering relief from the physical symptoms of withdrawal. At the same time, the caring touch of a massage therapist soothes emotional stress, making it possible to begin the process of talking through issues related to addiction.
Even after the acute physical symptoms pass, massage has a place in recovery programs. Like 12-step yoga, massage promotes relaxation and increases mindfulness, allowing you to connect with your body on a deeper level. Some clients report decreased cravings through regular massage treatments as well as lower levels of anxiety and depression.

Preventing Relapse With Massage Therapy Support

One of the most distressing results of long-term drug use is the barrier that creeps up between mind and body. Basic physical needs are overlooked in the pursuit of chemically-induced feelings of well being, and eventually it becomes very difficult to receive and respond to the body's signals. Massage therapy restores the mind-body connection over time, reintroducing the brain's acknowledgement and response to physical needs. As massage clients regain their appreciation for their physical selves, they are more in tune with and respectful of the body's need for care.

Common Massage Styles

Once you decide to invest in massage therapy to complement your recovery program, the next step is to find the style that best suits you. Start with the method that sounds most appealing, then branch out as you grow more better acquainted with your body's needs. These are the most common styles of massage offered at clinics and wellness centers:

Swedish Massage

If you are just starting out in your exploration of massage therapy, Swedish massage is a good choice. Your practitioner uses long, gentle strokes to relax your muscles, along with kneading, vibration and tapping. Most people feel relaxed, alert and energized after a Swedish massage.

Deep Tissue Massage

Just as it sounds, deep massage targets muscles and connective tissue located deeper in your body. Therapists use a stronger, more forceful touch to reach underlying muscles. Some clients find this style of massage more painful than the Swedish technique; however, they report that they experience the benefits for a longer period of time after their appointments.

Sports Massage

Specialists in Sports Massage therapy begin their training with Swedish techniques, then they focus on acquiring additional sets of skills. Through massage, they target muscles at risk for sports-related injuries for the purpose of preventing and treating damage.

Trigger Point Massage

Many people experience ongoing issues with a specific set or sets of muscles, usually as a result of injury or repetitive strain. Whether in their hips, backs or elsewhere, these knotted "trigger point" muscles mean chronic pain, particularly when pressed. Trigger Point Massage is specifically developed to gently ease these bunched muscles so that clients can enjoy normal movement without aches and discomfort.

Your provider may also offer additional types of massage, sometimes in conjunction with the other styles listed. As you explore your options, consider trying Aromatherapy Massage, Hot Stone Massage, Shiatsu Massage, Thai Massage and Reflexology. All of these offer very specific benefits for individuals in recovery.

Your First Massage

Because your massage therapist requires skin-to-skin contact, you are usually asked to disrobe. Between this and the intimacy of an unfamiliar touch, many first-time massage clients feel deeply uncomfortable with the idea. Bear in mind that there is no judgment in a massage room. You can also be assured that skillful use of sheets will keep your private areas private, so you can relax and enjoy the experience. Talk with your provider if you have any questions or concerns, as they are committed to putting you at ease for maximum health benefits.

Consider adding massage therapy to comprehensive recovery programs, along with other complementary wellness activities. Massage pairs well with recovery yoga, nutrition management and talk therapy to give you the tools you need for long-term success.

Written by Michael O'Brien, SAP, CATC, CSC


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