Massage is an ancient technique which combines the manipulation of muscle and connective tissue, and is traditionally used to promote relaxation and enhance wellbeing. There are many different types including Swedish, Reflexology, Bowen Therapy and Lymphatic Drainage. Here we aim to explore abdominal massage techniques, including self-massage, that can be employed to help relieve constipation and ease abdominal discomfort.
Abdominal self-massage in a clockwise direction can be an effective tool in relieving constipation
If you are suffering from constipation, which may be driven by a number of factors such as stress, or an imbalance in your gut bacteria, you may like to try self-massage. This is a straight forward approach you can implement at home which does not take up precious time in our busy lives.
How can abdominal massage help with constipation?
Here are some simple steps to follow:
1. Lie down on your back, either on a bed or on the floor. Ensure you are comfortable. Place one of your hands palm down on your abdomen.
2. Keeping your fingers flat, make a clockwise motion around your belly button. Apply light pressure initially and gradually increase it as well as enlargening the circles.
3. Continue to rotate your hand in large circles over your abdomen (following the direction of your large intestine) applying relatively firm pressure to ensure the massage is effective.
4. Repeat the clockwise motions 5-10 times
5. Allow yourself to relax and help soothe the abdominal area by smoothing your hand from left to right, using both hands alternately. Try to breathe deeply and slowly.
The massage can be effective both due to the stimulation of the large intestine which initiates peristalsis in the bowel. It also helps to induce a sense of relaxation which helps to draw blood flow back to the organs and digestive system.
When we are stressed, our bodies focus attention away from our digestive system which can cause constipation and sluggishness. You can read more about stress and the role is plays in constipation here.
You can of course practice abdominal massage on a partner or loved one. It can be a really enjoyable way of sharing time together, as well as knowing you are helping to make them feel more comfortable and increase relaxation.
Carrying out abominal massage on a partner can be an intimate and rewarding experience
Massage for babies and young children
Constipation is a fairly common problem in babies and young children due to a number of different factors from weaning and introduction of new foods, food intolerances or an imbalance of gut flora. It can be very frustrating for parents who often feel at a loss as how to help, and it is always difficult seeing your child struggling.
There are some simple yet effective massage techniques you can try to help improve bowel motility and function, as well as helping to relieve the associated discomfort of constipation. It can also be a genuinely enjoyable bonding experience for both parent and child.
Performing abdominal massage can be helpful in encouraging a bowel movement
Follow these simple steps for massage in babies and young children:
1. Start by placing your thumb or three fingers (depending on the size of the baby) on their belly button and gradually start to move your fingers in a clockwise direction. Applying some oil or cream (coconut oil would work well) to your fingers can help to prevent pinching the skin, and will ease the movement.
2. Another technique you can try, particularly helpful in younger babies, is to lie the baby on their back. Standing or sitting at their feet, hold their legs and rotate them gently in a quick cycling motion. This can have a more intense massage effect, and the impact of the stomach muscles can stimulate the large intestine to produce a bowel movement.
For more ideas in relieving constipation naturally in babies read this piece by herbalist Megan Crowch.
I hope this guide helps you to implement self-massage methods at home as a means to reducing constipation. If you try it out, let us know what you think by leaving a comment below!
Don't forget to also check out the article, Natural Remedies for Constipation.