Can Deep Tissue Massage Help Inflammatory Bowel Diseases?

Experts estimate that around 1.6 million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. These conditions cause several chronic side effects that can make everyday life harder, so it's important to consider different treatment options that can help ease the symptoms. Find out how these diseases affect the body, and learn more about the benefits that deep tissue massage can offer.

How IBD affects the body

Inflammatory bowel disease affects people of all ages, and men and women are equally likely to suffer. Crohn's disease causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, while ulcerative colitis only affects the large intestine, but both conditions can cause similar symptoms.

Patients with IBD suffer from:

  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Urgent bowel movements
  • Weight loss

Doctors believe that inflammatory bowel diseases occur because of a problem with your body's immune system. There's currently no cure for these conditions, but medication and lifestyle changes can help ease the symptoms.

Stress and anxiety can often trigger a flare-up in IBD symptoms. What's more, the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease can often make each other worse. For example, during stressful periods you're more likely to tense certain parts of your body. By doing this, you can place pressure on your gastrointestinal tract, which can exacerbate the symptoms of an IBD flare-up. In turn, you may find that you sit awkwardly to control pain or discomfort, which then causes stress in other parts of the body.

How deep tissue massage can help

Deep tissue massage focuses on the muscles and soft tissues that are painful or tense. With an experienced hands-on approach, a therapist can manipulate these parts of the body to ease tension, allowing your body to better cope with underlying medical problems.

IBD sufferers can often benefit from deep tissue massage in the abdomen. A therapist can spot areas of congestion or bloating. With careful manipulation and pressure, they can stimulate healthy movement of the digestive system, which can then ease symptoms like bloating and cramp.

Therapists will often suggest that you use heat during deep tissue massage sessions. A gentle, warm massage can stimulate natural bowel movements, easing IBD symptoms like swelling. Deep tissue massage is also an effective way to ease the anxiety and tension that may cause a flare-up in your symptoms. For example, if you are studying for exams or going through a particularly stressful period at work, you may benefit from deep tissue massage around your neck, shoulder and legs.

Colonoscopies and deep tissue massage

People with ulcerative colitis must regularly undergo a colonoscopy, which helps doctors examine symptoms inside the large intestine. Immediately after a colonoscopy, patients often experience severe bloating and abdominal pain because of the air that a doctor uses to inflate the colon during the examination.

Deep tissue massage can help ease the symptoms you face immediately after a colonoscopy. Indeed, studies show that deep tissue massage can even help patients recover from chest or abdominal surgery. Researchers believe that massage therapy helps ease pain in a similar way to pain relief medications like morphine.

When IBD sufferers should avoid deep tissue massage

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease can cause flare-ups, where your symptoms become particularly bad. For example, you may see a lot of blood in your stools, and you may need to take pain relief medication to ease more severe symptoms.

You should avoid deep tissue massage during an active flare-up. At these times, the pressure from a deep tissue massage could actually worsen the pain. In a worst-case scenario, your therapist could inadvertently cause intestinal perforation.

If you suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, deep tissue massage could help you control your symptoms. Talk to your doctor for more advice about this treatment option. Click here for info about deep tissue massage and its other benefits.