Holistic Treatment


massage therapyIf you’re interested in a holistic approach to addressing your substance abuse issues, massage therapy may be an option to consider. Although it’s not a commonly used part of addiction treatment, massage therapy offers several benefits to people in recovery. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. 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.

2. Releases Endorphins

After the detoxification stage of addiction treatment, the body’s neurochemistry requires time to get back in balance. Drug and alcohol abuse prevents 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.

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. If you’re engaged in a regular exercise program as well as massage therapy, these benefits are further enhanced.

3. 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.

4. 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’re 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.

5. 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.

6. Helps Overcome a Fear of Touch

If you’ve 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.  

7. 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.

How to Incorporate Massage Therapy into Your Recovery

Massage therapy can’t cure addiction on its own, but the guidance of a qualified massage therapist can offer numerous benefits as part of a broader evidence-based drug and alcohol treatment program. If you’re interested in incorporating massage therapy into your treatment, this issue can be discussed with your counselor as you’re developing your recovery plan.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website or call us at 888-352-3297.

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Using Yoga to Promote a Lasting RecoveryWhile yoga is far from a cure for drug and alcohol addiction, a regular yoga practice can help promote a lasting recovery. Yoga is especially popular with those searching for a holistic way to address addiction treatment because it enhances the mind, body, and spirit.

Yoga Is for Everyone

Even if you don’t consider yourself to be exceptionally flexible, it’s never too late to begin learning more about the benefits of yoga. In addition to yoga classes that designed to be part of addiction treatment, there are yoga programs targeted to diverse groups such as troubled at-risk teens, inmates in correctional facilities, military veterans, and nursing home residents.

Benefits of Yoga in Addiction Recovery

People turn to yoga for many different reasons, but some of the benefits it offers for those in recovery include:

  • Replacing artificial highs with a natural alternative. Yoga gives you a natural high by building your connection to your inner self. Instead of chasing external pleasures from drugs and alcohol, a regular yoga practice can teach you to be content with your internal wisdom and awareness.
  • Enhancing mental control. Yoga’s focus on meditation is essentially strength training for the mind. When you feel in control of your thoughts, your cravings will diminish.
  • Decreasing stress and anxiety. Many people turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the stress they feel in their personal and professional lives. Doing yoga to unwind at the end of a tough day helps you stay on track with your recovery.
  • Providing a way to deal with past trauma. If your addiction began as a way to cope with childhood trauma, yoga can help you develop the mental clarity needed to process your feelings and find a sense of inner peace.
  • Relieving chronic pain. If your addiction began as a way to cope with chronic pain, yoga is an all-natural way to keep your pain levels in check while enhancing your overall mobility.
  • Providing a sense of community. If you choose to practice yoga in a studio environment or to attend special workshops, you’ll be able to connect with a community of like-minded individuals who share your passion for wellness. Building social ties is scientifically proven to diminish the risk of relapse after addiction treatment.

Creating a Yoga Practice to Promote Addiction Recovery

It’s best to begin your study of yoga under the guidance of a qualified teacher who can adjust your form and suggest modifications to accommodate any physical limitations you might have. People who are overweight, have joint problems, or are recovering from recent injuries can still do yoga, but may need to modify poses to make them more accessible.

Yoga classes are typically 45 to 90 minutes in length and most studios offer free or discounted trial classes for newcomers. Do not get discouraged if you struggle with poses or find your mind wandering. Learning yoga requires practice and patience, just like mastering any other new skill.

Once you understand the basics, you can easily develop your own home yoga practice. All you need to create a home yoga studio is your yoga mat, comfortable clothes that allow you to move freely, and an open yet quiet place to practice. Some people like to play soothing music or diffuse calming essential oils during their practice, but this is not necessary.

The following beginner level poses are often incorporated into a home yoga practice to help promote a lasting recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.  

  • Balasana (Child’s Pose) releases tension and mental fatigue while promoting a feeling of safety.

  • Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) stretches the lower back and hamstrings while promoting a feeling of calm.
  • Apanasana (Little Boat Hugging Knees) releases pressure in the lower back.

  • Baddha Konasana (Butterfly) is done with deep breathing exercises to open the hips and pelvis.

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) promotes grounding and stress relief as it releases tension from the entire body.

  • Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) promotes feelings of mental strength and focus as it teaches to you stay present in the moment even when faced with discomfort.

  • Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose) is a soothing pose often recommended as a way to promote a more restful sleep.

  • Savasana (Corpse Pose) is a relaxation pose traditionally done at the end of a practice to provide a sense of calm that replenishes both the mind and body.

By Dana Hinders

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Addiction is not just a physical affliction nor is it only emotional or mental. When it comes to recovering from drug or alcohol abuse, a successful comprehensive plan should include ways of understanding and treating your body, mind, and spirit.

That’s why gaining the ability to stop using drugs and alcohol is just one part of the whole-person care recovery process. By the time you enter a treatment facility, your addiction has taken over your life and has consumed your every waking moment. Your personal, professional, and social lives have all been but damaged.

Whole-Person Care Approach

Because addiction disrupts every part of an addict’s being, treatment must address the needs of the entire person for it to be successful. The goal of treatment is to provide you with an environment where you can heal, restore, and renew your life.

Similar to a holistic recovery, the whole-person approach builds on the realization that addiction is only a symptom of a much larger problem. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), one of the principles of effective addiction treatment is placing the emphasis on the multiple needs of a person, not just on his or her drug use. This includes a person’s medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal issues. It is also important to make sure the treatment is suitable to a person’s age, gender, ethnicity, and culture.

While no single addiction treatment is suitable for all addicts, this program works with the client’s preferences and ideas. Some courses of treatment include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapies
  • Medication management
  • Detoxification
  • Individual, family, and group therapy
  • Personal training and cardiovascular exercise
  • 12-step programs
  • Alternative therapies such as animal assistance, art, or sports
  • Meditation

Treating the Whole Body

This type of treatment combines traditional and alternative-based therapies with a slant toward natural treatments and remedies instead of relying solely on pharmaceutical ones. The whole person care approach focuses on treating:
Mind: Specialists work with you to determine what led you to seek out substances in the first place. You can learn a new skill set for handling problems and challenges in your life.
Spirit: Besides counseling for your recovery, you may also receive treatments to help with stress, depression, anxiety, or similar conditions. Treatment options may include meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and spiritual instruction.
Body: Treatments such as nutritional education, exercise, massage, and a healthy diet help promote your well-being. Your body will probably be in need of repair and recuperation after being ravaged by alcohol or drugs. A strong body can help defend all types of illnesses and conditions.

How This Approach Works

The whole person care approach to recovery is a long-term treatment that focuses on self-improvement. It helps you identify the causes of your addiction, understand its triggers, and create a recovery plan. This program can help patients by:

  • Stopping the addiction earlier rather than later
  • Understanding the events that led to your substance abuse
  • Coping with triggers through relaxation, thought disruption, and visualization
  • Finding alternatives to drug and alcohol abuse

By working to bring the natural balance back to your life, empowering change, and building self-esteem, this approach has been shown to provide long-term recovery solutions instead of a short-term reprieve.

Addressing Other Health Issues

Those with addictions have the same medical issues as non-addicts, but their symptoms may be elevated because regular health care isn’t sought. About 45 percent of Americans seeking substance abuse treatment have been diagnosed with a co-occurring mental and substance use disorder.

Dental care is another health problem often plaguing addicts. For instance, if you are addicted to opioids, you may wind up with a dry mouth since this is one of the side effects. If your body does not produce enough saliva, bacteria will grow and cause tooth decay. Oftentimes, you won’t be thinking about brushing your teeth when you are addicted to drugs or alcohol. A whole-person approach to recovery will help address all related health issues, often by putting you in touch with other health specialists who can treat other concerns.

 
To learn more about our programs or for a campus tour  of St. Joseph Institute, please visit our website. You can also call us directly at 877-727-4465. 

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