Massage For Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is a progressive disorder, and it can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. It occurs in periods of flare and remission, and the inflamed regions appear in an unpredictable pattern (Werner, 2009).





Causes Crohn’s Disease (Wyatt, 2016)

Many theories have been proposed as to what could be the cause of Crohn’s, however the true cause remains unknown. Some of the proposed causes include:

  • Issues with the immune system: It is believed that Crohn’s disease begins as a normal inflammatory response to a pathogen. After the pathogen is eliminated, the immune response fails to shut off, resulting in chronic inflammation. It is also believed that the immune system may mistake a substance typically present in the GI tract as foreign, causing the inflammatory response to kick in.
  • Genetics: A specific gene mutation has been identifies that increases the likelihood of developing Crohn’s.
  • Environmental Factors: Crohn’s disease is more common in people living in industrial and urban areas. It is evidenced that pollution and lifestyle may play a role in the development of Crohn’s disease.


Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease (Werner, 2009)

Patients typically do not experience symptoms during periods of remission, but during periods of flare up, the patient may experience the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea, typically with blood
  • Bloating
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Ulcers in the mouth and throat
  • Skin lesions
  • Sever pain around anus
  • Anal fissures and abscesses


Can Massage Be a Treatment (Werner, 2009)




During period of flare ups, Crohn’s disease is treated vigorously with steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and immunosuppressant drugs, and during this period massage therapy is usually not recommended. During a flare up, a patient with Crohn’s may be uncomfortable on the table, and massage therapy can make the client feel even worse.

During periods of remission, massage therapy can be beneficial, as massage activates the parasympathetic response, which is responsible for (among other things) stimulating a more efficient digestive process. Abdominal massage may feel great for a patient suffering from Crohn’s disease, but work over the abdomen should not be deep or painful, as this can be counterproductive.

Other treatments for Crohn’s disease include a low-fiber and/or liquid diet, and in extreme cases may even include surgery.


Please remember that none of the posts in this blog are meant to diagnose or prescribe treatment for any pathology. Please also remember that massage therapy should not be used as an alternative form of medicine, it is only complementary. Please always follow the advice of your primary care physician.



Wyatt, A. Causes of Crohn’s Disease. [Internet]. [Updated 2016 Jun 6]. Healthline. [Accessed 2017 Jun 19]. Available from:

Werner, R. 2009. A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology, Fourth Edition. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, MD, 21201. Pp 489-494



Lee Health. Mystery of Stomach Pain. Vimeo. 2013.

Tip Times. DIY Stomach Ache Massage. 2013 Sep 24.


About Tonya Sapiel, LMT

My goal with The Wellness Seeker blog is to educate the general public on the benefits of massage therapy, why it is an important addition to their health care routine, and what they can do to help themselves in between their massage therapy sessions. I welcome feedback and questions. I also accept requests for post topics. For more information about me or my practice, please visit

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