Can I Get a Massage with Spondylitis?

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

I am just about to qualify in therapeutic body massage. I have been asked to massage a colleague. However, she tells me she has "spondylitis" in the 1 and 2 cervical vertebrae (atlas and axis). My instinct tells me that she needs to get the 'all clear' from her doctor. Would you agree with this and can you tell me if body massage can help this condition?

Doctor's response

Spondylitis is characterized by inflammation of the spine. The inflammation can lead to damage to the vertebrae of the spine. Sometimes this causes fusion (bones become fused together) of one vertebrae to another, whereby there is complete loss of mobility of the spine. Occasionally, this can cause loosening of the ligaments that maintain the normal positions of one vertebrae on another. This is a dangerous situation because if the vertebrae suddenly slip in relation to each other, it is possible to permanently injure the spinal cord in the neck.

All clearance for therapy procedures in this patient should come from her doctor. Massage can be very helpful for patients with spondylitis who commonly have muscle spasm and loss of flexibility. For additional information on this condition, see the Ankylosing Spondylitis article of

Medically reviewed by Robert Bargar, MD; Board Certification in Public Health & General Preventive Medicine


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Last Editorial Review: 6/21/2017