Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis: What are they and can spas help?

Today is Crohn’s and Colitis awareness day.  Our team has grown familiar with these diseases because two of our team members who have agreed to let us use their name, are living with them.  Cassandra, our nail technician and esthetician was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at 21.  Celeste, one of our receptionists, has Crohn’s disease, which is the main reason she is no longer working as a cosmetologist.

We recently partnered with our friends at Two Rivers Marketing in the East Village for their month of fundraising for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) by sending two of our massage therapists, Jamee and Justin, to do chair massage in exchange for donations.  In just 90 minutes, they raised nearly $300 for the foundation from the employees at Two Rivers Marketing!

Justin providing chair massage to raise funds for CCFA at Two Rivers Marketing

Justin providing chair massage to raise funds for CCFA at Two Rivers Marketing

Crohn’s and Colitis are inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) that affect all or part of the digestive tract. Symptoms common to both Crohn’s and Colitis are  diarrhea, blood in the stools, fever, inflammation, pain, and unintended weight loss.  The inflammation and symptoms can lead to scarring, ulcers, fistulas, and blockages which may necessitate surgery. These diseases aren’t typically fatal, but their complications can be.  These diseases and their treatments can also increase the risk of cancer.

Doctors don’t know the exact causes of IBD.  Some speculate that stress plays a role, though there is some indication that hereditary and immune system disorders play a major role.  Others risk factors are diet, history of smoking or living in polluted areas, age, and use of certain medications.

Surgery may be a cure for someone with Ulcerative Colitis by removing the colon and rectum, but will lead to diet and lifestyle changes.  Surgery may temporarily alleviate symptoms of Crohn’s Disease, but is not a cure.

Cassandra says that one thing she wishes more people understood is that she can no longer eat like everyone else.  She has to eat small, frequent meals and is often hungry.  Her abdomen makes lots of noises as well.  She works to make sure her schedule at the spa includes frequent breaks for small meals between clients.  Cassandra recommends that people who are newly diagnosed with these diseases join a support group, get a CCFA membership, and talk to others online or in person.

While people primarily see these as digestive diseases, according to the Crohn’s Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) 10-20% of people, like Celeste, who have these diseases also have joint pain and problems.  

There hasn’t been much research into spa services and inflammatory bowel diseases, we do know that stress can exacerbate symptoms of Crohn’s and Colitis.  Spa treatments, especially massage therapy, have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.  Massage therapy is also beneficial with post surgical scarring and range of motion.  Because Crohn’s can cause chronic pain, massage also might be beneficial as it has been shown to have a positive effect on people with other inflammatory and auto-immune diseases.  This month, Massage and Bodywork Magazine published a great article about massage therapy and Crohn’s Disease.

If you or someone you know are living with Crohn’s or Colitis and want to know which services might be appropriate, don’t hesitate to contact us!  For more information, see the three great resources below.




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