Crohn’s disease is a debilitating disorder that affects many aspects of a patient’s life. Traditional medicine offers a wide variety of medications, which unfortunately come with side effects, and surgeries, which have their own set of potential complications. Chiropractic could be a safer form of alternative or complementary care option. Crohn’s disease is an IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease. It can affect the small intestine, in the lower part, called the ileum (it might also be sometimes called ileitis or enteritis), but, in some patients, it may affect the entire digestive tract “from the mouth to the anus”. The disease seems to run in families, which unfortunately means that anyone, including those who do not know their own family medical history, could be unknowingly carrying the disease. Fortunately, Crohn’s disease is not contagious.1 Crohn’s was named after Dr. Burrill B. Crohn in 1932. While it is an IBD, it is not the same as ulcerative colitis, another type of inflammatory bowel disease, which affects only the colon. Crohn’s is more widespread in the digestive tract, and it can “affect the entire thickness of the bowel wall”. With Crohn’s, the inflammation might “skip” some areas and leave them normal. Because it can affect any part of the digestive tract, symptoms vary, and one patient might not even have a similar experience with the disease that another has. The most common symptoms of Crohn’s disease are rectal bleeding, urgency of bowel movements, diarrhea, constipation/bowel obstruction, and abdominal cramps. Patients may experience weight loss, fever, night sweats, and menstrual and appetite irregularities. It can lead to fissures (tears) in the anus and fistula, which is a serious condition. More issues may arise over time if a patient leaves the disease undiagnosed or untreated. Crohn’s is considered a “chronic disease”.2
Traditional Medicine for Crohn’s
Mainstream medical approaches to Crohn’s include dietary changes, as well as medications and possibly surgical repair/removal of parts of the GI tract. Dietary changes are needed because the lack of absorption of nutrients is a problem with patients. The medications are designed to suppress immune response so that inflammation does not occur. The idea behind those medications is that there is also symptom relief for pain, diarrhea, and fever as well. Immune suppression, theoretically, gives the digestive tract time to heal. Some medication is designed to prevent “flare-ups”, while others are for maintenance. Even with the many medications, “two-thirds to three-quarters of people with Crohn’s disease will require surgery”, especially in the cases of “fistula, fissure, or intestinal obstruction”. The medications themselves might even come with their own set of side effects that, for some patients, cause more harm than good in the end. Surgery may only have success for several years. Symptoms often return for most of the patients, negating the effort and time that they spent undergoing and recovering from surgery.3 Before and after surgery, medications can be serious, and there are often side effects. The five most common medications used to manage (but not cure) Crohn’s disease are: Aminosalicylates (5-ASA), which treat inflammation, especially in the colon; Corticosteroids, to suppress the entire immune response; Immunomodulators, for those who have not responded to the prior two medications; Antibiotics, to treat infections and abscesses; Biologic Therapies (anti-TNF agents), to help certain types of patients with inflammation.4
Chiropractors work to help the body heal itself. Instead of serious medications and surgeries, or perhaps as a complementary treatment to them, chiropractic may be a useful option for those suffering from Crohn’s disease. Patients who go in for an adjustment from a chiropractor will not experience the same potential side effects and complications that they would otherwise be likely to experience with traditional medical treatment options. A recent study has shown the effectiveness of chiropractic care for Crohn’s disease and allergies. There was “long term remission and alleviation of symptoms”. Patients with Crohn’s and allergies both had vertebral subluxations, which seemed to affect the immune functionality. Spinal adjustments caused alleviation in many of the patients, and stable remission in most who participated in the study. Unlike surgery, the patient could easily go back to their chiropractor for future adjustments to stay ahead of Crohn’s without taking invasive measures 5
As it is in many cases of natural healing, massage is a great alternative and complementary treatment option to chiropractic care. The patient, as they would for any practitioner of medicine both traditional and alternative, should inform their massage therapist about their condition. The therapist might then employ techniques that they find to be helpful, such as Swedish massage. The massage therapist is not curing Crohn’s disease. Instead, they work to help relieve the patient’s stress, helping to “lessen the severity and regularity of flare-ups”. The massage therapist should also be careful when applying pressure to the abdomen, as this could aggravate the patient’s condition. Some therapists mix Eastern and Western massage beliefs in their techniques. Often, massage therapists work with the patient’s chiropractor to relieve and treat Crohn’s disease.6
Find out more about chiropractic care and digestive problems.