Tag Archives: tension

Massage and Recovery from Addiction

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“This article was written in 2005 and since then there have been hundred of other studies that have shown the same results: massage helps people. You don’t have to be at a resort or use the excuse of you Birthday to get a massage. The simple excuse of being human is enough. Everyone can benefit from the holistic treatment of massage therapy. And I’m not just saying this because I am a certifiedcpractitioner, I’m saying it because its true. Massage has not only physical but mental benefits as well. In this article you’ll find how massage therapy can help promote a greater sense of well being while in recovery from active addiction. The informat of is backed up by facts that are hard to ignore. You may want to consider taking the money that used to be spent on drugs and alcohol to put towards a weekly treatment. Look for a local massage therapist and ask them about possible discounts that can be given if you schedule a regular session. Let them know your condition and work with them to start your healing process.” -With endless love, Robyn

Massage

Substance abuse is a major public health problem. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, substance abuse costs our nation more than $484 billion per year. This includes costs related to crime, medical care, treatment, social welfare programs, and time lost from work.

Comprehensive treatment for the addicted individual is the key to turning this health crisis around. In the October 2003 edition of Counselor, The Magazine for Addiction Professionals, Joni Kosakoski, BSN, RN, CARN gives us the fuel to propel massage therapists into the realm of drug and alcohol treatment. In her article “Massage: Hands Down, a Treatment for Addiction”, Kosakoski gives us a clear and concise analysis of massage’s benefits for this population and its place in addiction treatment.

Incorporating massage into a substance abuse program is advantageous in all of the stages of quitting an addiction: withdrawal, detoxification and abstinence. The physical, emotional and spiritual components of recovery all can be directly benefited by the healing power of therapeutic touch. The nurturing contact of massage utilizes skin as the translator of the therapist’s intent. Skin, the largest sensory organ in our body, is our primary sense for connecting information from our external surroundings to our internal environment.

The Touch Research Institute in Miami, Florida has performed scientific research documenting the physiological effects of massage on the body. Kosakoski reminds us of some of their findings on massage such as decreased pain, diminished autoimmune response, enhanced immune response, and increased alertness and performance. These effects appear to be related to massage’s ability to reduce cortisol, a stress hormone, as reported by the Touch Research Institute in 2003. Several of the Touch Research Institute’s studies positively document the ability of massage to decrease anxiety, depression, agitation, and cravings.

In order to understand the connection between massage therapy and its benefit in addiction treatment, Kosakoski explains the neurological biochemistry of addiction: “Much attention has been directed to the mesolimbic reward system, the so-called ‘pleasure pathway’ of the brain. The area is activated in part by the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, the chemical messenger responsible for making us feel good when we engage in any pleasurable activity. It is well known that dopamine is significantly involved in addiction and that dopamine levels are lower than average during the withdrawal process and into early recovery until brain chemistry normalizes.”

In 1998, the Touch Research Institute published the findings that a regular massage regimen produced long-term results of increasing dopamine levels. The fact that massage naturally increases dopamine levels, and decreases cortisol levels makes it a perfect addition to a standard detoxification program.

The neurochemistry of an addict takes time to get back into balance, so massage treatments after the initial detoxification phase is crucial. When a person uses a substance to feel good, his/her body stops manufacturing its own “feel good” chemicals, (endorphins), and the substance takes over that task. Therefore, when a person quits using an abused substance, they lose their source of feeling good. Since it takes time for the body to start manufacturing its own endorphins again, this is a challenging interim to endure. This interim is the recovering addict’s most vulnerable time to relapse.

In the 1989 edition of General Pharmacology, Kaada and Torsteinbo of Norway reported on study results that massage therapy increased the amount of beta-endorphins in the blood by 16 percent. The release of endorphins during a massage allows the recipient to feel normal, even fantastic, without the aid of a drug. This can be a powerful, even life-changing experience for the client.

On a physical level, the circulation that occurs with massage is also a desired occurrence during the detoxification process. Therapeutic massage’s invigoration of blood and lymphatic fluid allows for a more efficient exchange of oxygen rich nutrition into the body’s tissues, and the delivery of toxic waste products out of the body’s tissues. Kosakoski adds that “All systems of the body function more efficiently with improved circulation and a reduction in tension of the soft tissues and musculature…”

On an emotional level, part of an addict’s recovery process is learning to identify and manage the triggers that cause them to desire escape. Regular massage sessions can aid the client’s awareness of his or her own body, including where and when tension exists. Being conscious of these patterns is a step toward recognizing one’s own resistance, which can lead to healthfully addressing emotions associated with cravings and stress. In addition Kosakoski says that “Emotional release can commonly occur with massage, which provides a safe, non-threatening opportunity to begin the process of recovering long-buried emotions and memories.”

On a spiritual level, the deep relaxation of a massage can provide a still inner place for the recipient to connect with themselves. Being grounded, centered and fully present can be experienced when receiving therapeutic touch from a grounded, centered and fully present practitioner. A recovering addict has a whole new world opened to them when they acknowledge that they can simultaneously be anchored, present, feel good and be substance-free. As Kosakoski explains, “To allow oneself to surrender to the practitioner’s hands — to breathe fully and easily, to acknowledge and receive the gifts of nurturing, surrender and relaxation ….is an invaluable addition to the newly recovering person’s repertoire of relapse-prevention skills.”

Massage has the unique ability to affect all of our layers of being — from the spiritual plane all the way up to and including our body’s chemical composition. In the process of abandoning an addiction, these many parts of ourselves become fragmented. It is merely a matter of time before all addiction and recovery treatment programs recognize massage’s ability to mend the mind-body connection. When that happens, therapeutic massage will be integrated into addiction treatment, and clients will be optimally prepared to succeed in their recovery.

From IntergrativeHealthcare.org

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P.T.S.D. And Childhood Trauma Linked to Addiction

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“This is a wonderful article that focus’ on P.T.S.D that can develop from childhood trauma and how it is linked to Addiction. I may not have experienced much trauma due to my up-bringing but I can fully understand the diagnosis of P.T.S.D after I was faced with the traumatic experience of an extreme manic outbreak while I was living abroad in India. Its hard not to think of something so dramatic everyday and live in extreme regret and torture from the memories. I hope your able to find as much appreciation for this problem and its connections to addiction recovery as much as I have.” -Love, Robyn

by Kevin VaLeu

We live in an addictive age. In the last five years of my life I have come across and counseled more people struggling with cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, anorexia, sex, and a whole host of other addictions then I did in the previous five years.

Are people becoming more immoral? Or is there something else causing people to turn to substances and sex. Perhaps these next statistics will shed light into what I believe is the underlying causation of our culture’s craziness.

1) The turn of our century (2000) marked the first time in American history that the majority of our children (over 50%) were raised without both biological mother and father in the same home.

2) Even if both mother and father are in the home it doesn’t mean they are in any better shape if they are being abused or neglected. 61% of all children experience some form of neglect.

3) Greater than 1 out of 3 girls will be sexually molested during their childhood or teenage years.

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What does this mean? We live in a day and age where children are experiencing trauma at unprecedented levels from molestations, abuse, abandonment, neglect, and dysfunctional or fragmented homes. When traumatized children slip under the radar of effective treatment they will find illegitimate, illicit and unhealthy coping mechanisms to medicate the long unforgotten pain.

Link Between Trauma and Addictions

Research shows that 50-60% of women and 20% of men in chemical dependency programs report a history of childhood sexual abuse. When you include people that have experienced P.T.S.D. (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) or childhood trauma the number can climb as high as 99% of them having substance abuse problems.

How Trauma Affects the Brain

In order to understand how trauma makes one more susceptible to addictions, we need to understand two types of memories at work in the brain: 1) Explicit Memory–this is a memory that we can deliberately call up or put away at any time. We have a sense of control over it and we know it is just a memory; 2) Implicit Memory–these memories have coded in them not only a picture of a past event but the resulting feelings, sensations, and emotional response that went with it. These memories happen outside our control.

These memories are adaptive or automatic, which means they can “pop up” or shoot into our minds involuntarily upon some stimuli or current event that reminds us of a past trauma (called association). This is why a current event can trigger a flood of negative emotions that are identical to the emotions we felt at the time of the trauma. In fact, this is why people with PTSD are continually being tortured from their memories because when something “triggers” their past they are actually reliving the painful past trauma over again. Its no longer just a memory they recall, its all the emotions, feelings, and sensations engraved upon that memory card they recall and relive in the present.

This is why many Vietnam veterans with PTSD experience such painful flashbacks. They aren’t just remembering the past, they are actually reliving it. The bomb they see coming at them in their memory is a real bomb coming at them right now.

In addition, as we grew up, all of our basic assumptions about people (e.g. can they be trusted), ways of relating, and behaving towards people are formed on these implicit memory cards. This explains why you get tense or tighten up at the bank whenever you run into a particular man that reminds you of your cruel step-father.

In order to successfully treat a person with PTSD they have to be guided to convert their implicit memories into explicit ones.

Trauma is Recorded in the Limbic System which sits on the Vegus Nerve.

An interesting physiological discovery is that our traumatic memories are housed in our limbic system. This might not mean much if it weren’t for that fact our limbic system is on top of our Vegus Nerve. When the vagus nerve is stimulated by pain, fear, other distresses, and at an extreme, fainting may occur since such stimulation of the nerve affects the pace of the heart. Such stimulation also causes nausea and cool, clammy skin.

Its now easy to see how memories not only affect our emotions but also our physical bodies.

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Emotional Disregulation & Tension-Reduction Behaviors (Addiction):

When an implicit memory is jarred the body automatically releases the hormones of cortisol and adrenaline to give it power or enable it to go into the “flight” or “fight” (emergency) mode. However, for a person that has experienced emotional trauma, there response mechanism is a bit different. When a person with PTSD has their “flight” or “fight” system alerted they experience the current stress at a visceral or guttural level (soul depth) and have to shut down the hippocampus. Similar to a computer that is slowed down by too many programs running in the background, the mind shuts down certain parts (in this case the hippocampus) because it is too difficult to run it while in emergency mode. Implicit memories can cause one to live in a constant state of being overwhelmed. Past traumas that induce implicit memories also damage mood regulation. It is easy to see how the extra strain on a brain from trauma would affect our ability to stay an even keel.

When the mind tries to remember what has happened during a traumatic moment a person experiences emotional disregulation. There are three coping strategies a person may employ in dealing with emotional disregulation:

1) Avoidance: A person doesn’t want to talk about the trauma, think about the trauma, or be around anybody or anything that reminds them of the trauma.

2) Dissociate: They disconnect from reality which, without realizing, turns off the integrative links connecting the pre-frontal cortex to the limbic system. This means one disconnects from their experiences, which on the one hand helps them escape from the painful anxiety that would normally come, but on the other hand is detrimental from an emotional stand point. You lose the ability to feel anything through this numbing process; even the ability to empathize for others. This is damaging to the psyche.

3) Tension-Reduction Behaviors (leads to Addictions): When trauma occurs the brain fires up, becomes overactive and makes a person feel they cannot deal with it without the aid of some type of pleasure to “settle things down.” This is the point where a person may turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, etc. It is here, at this stage of the process, that lends itself toward addictions.