Constipation is a symptom that many people experience, however, not many of those individuals are aware of the great relief that abdominal massage can provide. There are several lifestyle and physiological reasons why someone may be constipated such as a diet low in fiber and water, stress, postural imbalances, side effects to medication or gastrointestinal conditions (ex. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, IBS).
The most noticeable benefit that Massage Therapy has on constipation is to treat the abdomen through specific and manual movement of fecal matter through the large intestine. This may sound invasive but it is usually relaxing and at most, patients experience a small amount of discomfort during the treatment. During an abdominal massage the therapist feels for the location of the blockage and uses slow rhythmic fingertip kneading to soften the matter and move it in a clockwise manner. Clockwise is the direction of natural movement within your large intestine. The results of abdominal massage are usually experienced within a few hours to one day after the treatment.
Let your Massage Therapist know if constipation is an issue for you and the two of you can determine if abdominal massage is appropriate for your circumstance. As a precautionary note, this technique is NOT to be used to treat constipation caused by inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
Stress can be a result of constipation but it can also be the cause. While an inability to have a normal bowel movement may be plaguing you, a full body relaxation treatment can help decrease the stress and anxiety that may be contributing to lowered intestinal motility. Additionally, addressing postural imbalances will help improve your abdominal, low-back and gluteal muscle’s ability to contract during a bowel movement.
For those struggling with constipation, along with Massage Therapy, we would also encourage consultations with one of our Naturopathic Doctors or Holistic Nutritionist to ensure that the root cause of the problem was being properly assessed. Wholistic approaches to constipation encourage appropriate dietary selections, an exercise regime that includes walking or swimming (they improve intestinal movement especially after eating) and a thorough assessment of potential food sensitivities. In the mean time, what are you waiting for, see if abdominal massage is something that may be helpful to you.
Robin Dickie is a Registered Massage Therapist at the Integrative Health Institute. The Integrative Health Institute is located downtown Toronto at the corner of King and Sherbourne St.