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The massage, Therapist and client

Can massage become addictive?

A reader asked the following question:
“Is there something as massage addiction? Can going to for a massage on weekly basis harm your body on the long run ? Does your body get too used to it where you get crams if you don’t go for one anymore.”

I have never heard about massage addiction or harm come to the body due to too many massages, so I asked the LinkedIn group, Massage Therapists and Bodyworkers, which is one of the biggest online Massage Therapy communities with professionals from all over the world. The experts here have before given me valuable information and shared their experiences.

The conclusion is that massage can not become physically addictive. Nor can a weekly massage harm the body on the long run. You do not build up some addiction to a drug by receiving massages. Even with the release of endorphins and other hormones, they’re completely natural for the body and not something you can get addictive to.

That said, there is a risk of a mental and psychological addiction and dependency. Addiction isn’t really the right word to use, as it generally refers to a substance you have withdrawals from, such as alcohol or nicotine.

In some cases the relationship between client and therapist can become of same nature as between doctor and patient. Here the client depend on the therapist for their well-being, and can’t do things on their own. Dependency in essence means that the client gives up responsibility for themselves and their own well-being and hand it over to the therapist. This is one of the major risks in psychotherapy for instance.

If the therapist isn’t aware of these mechanism and stops it before it happens, a weekly massage can become ‘addictive’ and an unhealthy experience for the client. It is the same issue which faces all health-professionals dealing with patients and most are educated to deal with it.

There’s some interesting studies showing that touch and closeness involves some bonding hormones. The same which bonds mother and baby close, as well as make couples stay together after the rush of falling in love is over. It’s an interesting thought if the same sort of bonding might happen in a long-term therapist and client relationship and how that might affect people.

I think this bonding (if it happens) serves to build trust between therapist and client and allows for a better massage and relationship. If will in return also cause pain if that relationship is terminated for whatever reason, just like parting from a good friend hurts. If the bonding happens, then it’s a good argument to find your therapist and stay with him or her for a long time. I look forward to what studies into the field might reveal and discover. It’s deeply fascinating to say the least.

About Pia Poulsen

Pia Poulsen is educated as a wellness massage therapist at Institut FIGARI in Paris, from where she passed her certification exam in January 2008. Since then she has expanded her skills to become the first Advanced LaStone® practitioner in France as well as a certified LaStone® instructor.


4 Responses to “Can massage become addictive?”

  1. I really love this article because this is actually something many people do not even think about. I enjoy a professional massage once in a while. It really helps to deal with the stress on the job. An addiction to this would hit the paychecks hard on anyone who goes to a private office for them. I would greatly appreciate it if you stopped by my health blog. The site is Have a wonderful day and stay healthy!

    Posted by Davon Jacobson, Md | Saturday 23 January, 2010, 20:31
  2. Dear Davon,

    Thank you for your post. Your site is well done as well, covering many topics. Good luck with it.


    Posted by Pia | Sunday 24 January, 2010, 20:40
  3. Hi Pia, excellent article, your answer is 100% perfect and gives me complete insight on this issue. Yes you are right, it is probably more psychological than a physical addiction.

    You truly are the best!

    Posted by Anonymous | Monday 25 January, 2010, 18:34
  4. Dear Anonymous,

    I'm very happy that you found the article useful and had your questions answered. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any further inquiries.

    All the best and thank you for your kind words.


    Posted by Pia | Monday 25 January, 2010, 18:37