How Massage Therapy Can Help Combat the Opioid Crisis

November 18, 2018
Ryan Barichello

Those who abuse substances often rely on drugs to experience pleasure; massage, in contrast, helps people experience their bodies’ natural pleasure pathways. Massage therapy can help those suffering opioid use disorders.


The opioid epidemic is the preeminent public health crisis of our time. Statistics from the Surgeon General of the United States indicate that as many as 2 million Americans are currently addicted to, or otherwise dependent, upon prescription opioids. The problems include opioid overprescribing, addiction, overdose and death. Although medical experts say opioids can be effective tools when used properly, evidence shows they are being used improperly.


Why are opioids so addictive? In essence, because they replace the body’s natural pleasure chemicals. Once the body detects a consistent flow of synthetic endorphins, it stops producing its own pleasure chemicals.


Research shows massage therapy is a realistic approach to many forms of pain that can either replace use of drugs, such as opioids, or work in conjunction with non-addictive medication for pain management.


Opioid-dependent patients who receive massage therapy may experience the following positive outcomes:


  • Increased Body Awareness


Opioid use is often rooted in chronic pain. The opioid user attempts to avoid pain through painkiller medications. Adept massage therapists can help patients feel what the pain is actually like in their bodies.


  • Effective Pain Treatment


Massage therapy can reduce pain, minimize anxiety, and improve health-related quality of life.


  • Manage Detox Symptoms


Withdrawal symptoms can be intense— extremely painful, stressful, and uncomfortable. Massage can help by increasing the levels of natural feel-good chemicals in the brain.


Could incorporating massage therapy into the battle with the opioid crisis bring the potential to save people from suffering—save lives?


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Verified by Nick Gabriele.