What is an abdominal massage?
It is a therapeutic treatment involving clockwise techniques over the abdomen. The sequence should last about 10-15 minutes long. It can be performed by a Registered Massage Therapist or one can perform the treatment independently.
Who would benefit from an abdominal massage?
Typically it is those who suffer from constipation and all of its companions who benefit most from these specialized hands-on techniques. So that means a lot of us. Constipation affects so many individuals today and some don’t even know it. You could have a bowel movement every day and still suffer from constipation. Passing hard stools, difficulty and/or infrequently passing stool and incomplete bowel movements all fall under symptoms of constipation along with possible pain, gas, bloating, and distension. Constipation can lead to haemorrhoids, bowel obstruction, a hernia, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Should any of this sound all too familiar to you, I urge you to give this treatment a try. As an ex-chronic constipation sufferer myself, I know this life all too well. If I have learned anything at all in the past few years it is that proper diet and exercise really is as big of a deal as they make it out to be. However in addition to the popular lifestyle changes, this abdominal massage can help to provide healing benefits for both the gut and the mind. It is proven to reduce stress (which is always a contributing factor to compromised digestion) and supports ideal intestinal function.
How to Perform the Massage
1. If you can, try to create a relaxing atmosphere. Dim the lights and pour your favourite essential oil blend in the diffuser and turn that baby on. Play some light music in the background and turn your phone on silent. Pick an appropriate oil to massage with (coconut, almond, jojoba, and even an organic extra virgin olive oil are all great choices). Get extra fancy and select an essential oil to combine with your chosen massage oil (peppermint is fantabulous for digestion).
2. Lie down and get comfortable. Rest your head on a soft pillow and cover your legs with a light blanket. You can also place a pillow underneath your knees to release any pressure in the lower back.
3. It would be easiest to remove your top but you can also lift up your shirt and tuck it underneath your bra. Pour approximately half a teaspoon of your massage oil in your dominant hand and add a few single drops of your essential oil, if using. Rub your oils together and start on your right side.
*To further understand the flow in which you want to work, please refer to the diagram above. You are working your way up the ascending colon on your right side, across the transverse colon, and down the descending colon to the sigmoid on your left side. This flow is crucial. Working backwards can lead to further intestinal damage.
4. Start at the lowest right side of your stomach. Apply a comfortable pressure and start making small circular motions working your way to just below your right rib. For your circles, you can use whatever feels comfortable for you. Feel free to use the fingertips of your dominant hand or you can alternate your thumbs if that feels best.
5. Using that same circular motion, work your way across your stomach over the transverse colon. Continue with that same directional pattern until you arrive just below the left rib.
6. Lastly, you are going to make your way down the descending colon to your groin area. This will send everything down where it needs to be.
7. The goal of our circular technique was to loosen the stagnant matter in our colon. Now we are going to gently send it all to the rectum where we can empty our bowels. Simply take the palm of your dominant hand and we are going to perform some effleurage. Start at that same lower right side of your abdomen and with pressure; gently slide your palm up, across, and down that same intestinal path. Repeat this free flowing effleurage with your opposite palm.
Steps 4-7 are considered one full round. You are to repeat these same steps two more times. Be patient, apply increased pressure every round but not enough to cause any pain or discomfort. Go slow, take your time, and get up slowly. Sit up before standing to avoid feeling faint or dizzy.
*This treatment also works wonders for fussy and/or colicky infants. Adjust your pressure and shorten your session to about 5 minute’s tops.
**Do not perform an abdominal massage if you have a history of malignant bowel obstruction or growth. Do not perform this treatment if you have inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or issues with a spastic colon. Avoid abdominal massage if you are pregnant. Should you have a hernia, scarring or have had a recent abdominal surgery-ask a doctor or nurse if you are eligible for this treatment.
- Drink plenty of water following this treatment. The fluid will help encourage the elimination process.
- Ideally, this massage should be performed once a day. Of course, results will work best in addition to a healthy lifestyle.
Other helpful tips on regulating digestion
- Eat plenty of colourful produce and quality sources of protein.
- Drink at least 8 ounces of water every day.
- Keep active. Even choosing the stairs over the elevator will make a difference. Leisurely walks, yoga, or more intense workouts like crossfit will all suffice.
- Add nutrient dense sources of fibre to your diet such as chia, ground flax, and psyllium husk. These sources are all very subtle in taste and very easy to add to meals. Upping your water intake must accompany an increase in fibre intake. Without proper hydration, the fibre will bulk up your fecal matter in your intestines but not move along as its intended. This situation will result with bloating and discomfort.
- Start your morning off with a glass of warm water with freshly squeezed juice from half of a lemon. This combination works magic for our digestive systems along with tons of other health benefits.
- Consider taking probiotics to help support your gut health. Only buy from reputable health stores or companies to ensure the purchase of a high quality product. Purchase probiotics that are stored in a refrigerator and must be kept in one after opening.