Massage therapy improves the management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome

J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Apr;11(2):311-3. doi: 10.1089/acm.2005.11.311.


Objectives: Massage therapy has promise as an adjunct to standard alcohol detoxification procedures but has not been investigated comprehensively.

Design: The study was a randomized controlled trial comparing massage therapy to a "rest" (control) condition in patients undergoing alcohol detoxification.

Settings/location: Hospital-based alcohol and drug detoxification clinic.

Subjects: Fifty (50) patients with alcohol dependence (41 males, 9 females).

Interventions: The massage intervention involved a seated back, shoulder, head, and neck massage.

Outcome measures: Alcohol Withdrawal Scale, respiration, pulse rate, and subjective patient evaluation.

Results: Those receiving massage generally showed reductions in pulse rate on 3 of the 4 days of treatment compared to the control group. Massage was also more effective in reducing Alcohol Withdrawal Scale scores in the early stages of the detoxification process. Respiration in the massage group was reduced toward the end of the detoxification admission.

Conclusions: Massage shows promise as an adjunct to traditional medical detoxification for alcohol.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol-Induced Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Alcoholism / prevention & control*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Inactivation, Metabolic
  • Male
  • Massage* / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / rehabilitation*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome