Massage's Effectiveness Combatting Eating Disorders

Add another one to the list. Last week I wrote about the many benefits of massage, and I have just become aware of another: Massage has been shown to help in the treatment of eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia.

This comes from scientific observation in recent studies done on people actually suffering from the disorders. Separate studies observed the effect of full-body, Swedish massage on patients receiving treatment for their bulimia and anorexia.

The studies both showed that regular massage therapy – 30-minute sessions, 2 times every week – coupled with regular therapy for the disorders helped improve the overall results of treatment.

Patients who suffered from bulimia and received massage therapy along with their regular treatments for the disorder experienced immediate reductions in anxiety and depression. Furthermore, after their therapy sessions ended, they had lower levels of depression and stress, and they also had higher levels of dopamine in their blood than did the other patients who were receiving treatment but not massage therapy.

Patients suffering from anorexia who received massage therapy on top of their regular treatment also saw better progress than patients who did not receive massage therapy in their treatment. This increase in progress among the patients who received massage therapy was seen in their marked improvements in results from tests that measured levels of perfectionism, drive for thinness, and body dissatisfaction – all causes of anorexia. 

The patients who received massage therapy all showed lower levels of these traits that the patients who did not receive massage. And, just as with the study on bulimia, the patients suffering from anorexia who received massage had higher levels of dopamine than did the other patients who did not receive massage.

Based on these studies – and with nearly 24 million people suffering from eating disorders in the United States – massage therapy seems like the perfect complement for the treatment of eating disorders. Unfortunately, with most people who suffer from eating disorders under the age of twenty – and, therefore, not people who get massage regularly – massage therapy might not be among the first options for treatment, despite its proven therapeutic results. Let’s hope doctors and clinics start prescribing massage to complement treatment of bulimia and anorexia and help reduce the number of people who suffer from these terrible disorders. 

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