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  • Jan Baker

What is a healing crisis?

A lot of clients wait until they're in pain before booking an appointment with me. At this point, their symptoms have already worsened, and will often need specific treatment. More about his here: https://www.aromaoilslimited.co.uk/post/what-happens-when-i-come-for-a-treatment

A healing crisis can occur after a massage treatment is undertaken, to unknot stubborn muscles or ease conditions like a frozen shoulder etc. So what is a healing crisis? Simply put, it's where your muscles may hurt after treatment before improving, just like going to the gym and feeling stiff and sore the next day. There is very little scientific research undertaken on this, but it is believed to be caused by the eliminination of toxins or waste products from your body in response to treatment. Certainly, it's a natural part of your body's healing process and you should definitely see it as such.


Note: This is quite different from an adverse effect of treatment, which is a harmful or undesired reaction that doesn’t improve as treatment continues.

The healing crisis is very similar to another type of reaction that is brought on by antibiotic treatment for specific types of infection. This is called Jarish-Herxheimer reaction (JHR) and the terms are very often used interchangeably. They are in fact though two different but very similar reactions. An example of JHR would be a temporary worsening of symptoms for a bacterial infection such as Lyme disease.


People experiencing a JHR may have symptoms like:

  • fever

  • shaking and chills

  • muscle aches and pains

  • headache

  • nausea and vomiting

  • worsening of an existing skin rash


While the exact mechanism of the JHR is unclear, it’s believed to be caused by an inflammatory reaction that occurs as the antibiotics act on the bacteria. Typically, a JHR resolves within 24 hours.


The signs and symptoms of a healing crisis can to vary from person to person. Most people will have no symtoms at all. A few will have minor symptoms but occasionally symptoms can range from minor aches and pains to sweating (see below). As a rule, you normally see them described as flu-like symptoms or as a general feeling of being out of sorts for a day or so.


A few people too may experience an intensifying of the symptoms of the condition for which they’re being treated. For example, someone using a complementary healing method to treat eczema may notice that eczema gets noticeably worse after starting treatment before it improves. And other symptoms that have been reported in association with the healing crisis include:

  • body aches and pains

  • headache

  • fatigue

  • chills

  • sweating or flushing

  • nausea

  • diarrhea

This is also why you can feel so awful when you start a detox diet to begin with.

On the other hand, you may also have an increased feeling of overall well-being after a healing crisis begins, despite the fact that your symptoms have worsened. This can include things like having more energy and getting better sleep.


There is no way to predict how your treatment will react with your body in terms of its healing. Thankfully, most clients when they have a massage treatment with me, appear to have no more than a few aches and pains at most for a day or so afterwards which wear off quite quickly.

Which brings me quite nicely to how long a healing crisis can last.


A healing crisis often begins immediately after treatment, which is why I use an essential oil pain blend during treatment to off-set this as much as possible. Generally speaking, it only lasts between 1-3 days. After this period, symptoms begin to improve. And even if your muscles are a little sore, you should still have improved mobility or flexibility after treatment.


Note: A healing crisis can last longer depending on which complementary health treatment you choose. For example, the healing crisis for reflexology can last several weeks.

There’s no specific treatment for the symptoms of a healing crisis. However, if a healing crisis has you feeling under the weather, here are some self-care measures that you can use at home until your symptoms go away:

  • Make sure to stay hydrated - it is always a good idea to drink plenty of water after any massage.

  • Rest up while you’re experiencing symptoms.

  • Use an essential oil pain blend to help with aches and pains.

  • Try to avoid foods that may irritate any digestive issues.

So will I need to see a doctor?

Generally speaking no. Symptoms should resolve by themselves. I would say though that if you are still suffering heavily after 2 weeks, then it is likely you may have had an adverse reaction and in this case, it is always wise to see a doctor if you have any worsening conditions. If this happens, I will likely suspend treatment until this has been investigated.

I will say though, it hasn't happened to any of my clients yet!!!


Stay safe, as always

Jan xx






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