By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer
One of the things massage therapists learn in massage school is how to give a proper abdominal massage. Along with gliding and kneading techniques, we learn to massage the abdomen in the same direction as waste products move through the colon (large intestine). This movement helps move waste material away from the small intestine and towards the exit of the colon. Since our colons work by peristalsis (actually contracting and releasing to move waste through the tubelike structure of the column), massaging the abdomen, especially tracing the colon with gliding strokes, can be useful in relieving constipation. Logically, the mechanism of physically moving waste material out of the colon by pressing or kneading material through the colon is pretty simple and makes sense. However, don’t take my word for it. The Journal of Advanced Nursing recently published an article about research that showed that abdominal massage helped relieve constipation and could be a considered a cost-effective way to improve patients quality of life in this area.
The study, conducted by Umeå University in Sweden, evaluated changes in health-related quality of life for people with constipation receiving abdominal massage and estimated the cost-effectiveness of two alternative scenarios developed from the original trial. In the study, a randomized controlled trial, 60 participants in Sweden between 2005 and 2007 were given either laxatives or massage. The control group continued using laxatives (control group) and the intervention group received additional abdominal massage. In the self-massage scenario patients learned to give self-massage, and in the professional massage scenario patients in hospital received abdominal massage from an Enrolled Nurse. The researchers determined health-related quality of life was statistically significantly increased after eight weeks of either self-massage and professionally provided abdominal massage.
“Abdominal massage may be cost-effective in the long-term and it is relevant to consider it when managing constipation,” the report noted.
What does this mean for you? If you have problems with constipation, you may want to try a little self massage of your own abdomen. However, consult your physican before attempting any abdominal massage. If you have a bowel obstruction massage or if your constipation has lasted longer than a day or so, seek medical attention.
Here is a link to directions for self massage of your own abdomen.
The research, “Abdominal massage for people with constipation: a cost utility analysis,” ran in the June 16 edition of the Journal of Advanced Nursing.
Source: lämås k., lindholm l., engström b. & jacobsson c. (2010) Abdominal massage for people with constipation: a cost utility analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing 66(8), 1719–1729.
• Abdominal Massage Alleviates Constipation
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