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Benefits of Massage Therapy during Substance Abuse Treatment

Massage therapies have been long considered as alternative forms of treatment. Even then, what kind of treatment it is, is still in question. But even then, the results from massage therapies have never been in doubt. It is often a part of substance abuse treatment because it is effective, even if how it becomes necessary has always been vague. Ask any athlete – the situation has just always been so.

However, slowly but surely, science is making strides into what exactly makes massage therapy effective. Studies are providing more evidence, and in turn, massage therapies are becoming better tools as part of the treatment for drug addiction.

The Connection Between Dopamine and Massage Therapy

Dopamine is a known trigger of drug abuse. By associating natural pleasure responses of the human body with addictive substances, a person is more likely to repeat the behavior.  As this behavior continues the individual begins the path to addiction. Although the correlation between dopamine and addictions weakens over time, dopamine undoubtedly plays a role in forming one.

Studies show that massage therapies also increase the natural dopamine levels in the human body. According to the 1998 publication of the Touch Research Institute, prolonged application of massage therapies can enhance the production of dopamine without resorting to chemical means. This is a naturally occurring result, and can be invaluable as a part of natural pain management in a patient’s recovery during drug rehab treatment.

Relief from Stress and Increased Levels of Cortisol

The other side of the coin in massage therapy increasing dopamine levels is the reduction of cortisol in the patient. These two effects go hand in hand. A study done in the same institution five years after the dopamine-massage therapy relationship was found indicates that the production of cortisol, a hormonal response to stress in the human body, decreased after massages. The effect is immediate, and unlike with dopamine, has no need for long term application of massages.

For the average person, stress is already among the top list of killers – for a recovering addict, even more so. The slightest benefit from any form of medication or therapy to reduce stress can be crucial. When it is as dependable and as simple as a massage to limit the production of cortisol, any recovering patient from substance abuse should take full advantage of it.

Massages and the Mitochondria

Just recently, another relevant discovery about the benefits of massage therapy was made. A study published in Science Translational Medicine in February 2012 found a strong relationship between mitochondrial regeneration and massages. The mitochondria are known to be the powerhouse of the cell, and the regeneration could explain the relaxing and soothing feeling felt during and after massages.

While the applications of the finding are many, for the recovering patient, massages are not only for pain or stress management anymore. Massage therapy can improve patient recovery at the cellular level.

Pain, Stress and Energy

The benefits of massage therapies are clear. Now, with substance abuse treatment, one can point specifically when and where the therapy is needed, and not just blindly use the therapy. The best part about the therapy is it can still be a part of post-rehabilitation care.  Massage therapy may still be considered alternative therapy, but with the science behind it today, the therapy has more of a future in the treatment for recovery.

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