What is constipation?
Constipation occurs when your bowel movements become less frequent (fewer than three times per week) or are difficult to pass. This decrease in bowel movements can last for several weeks or longer. Sometimes your stools can be hard and dry.
Constipation is one of the most common digestive problems in the United States. Approximately 16 out of every 100 American adults experience symptoms of constipation, estimates the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Can massages provide relief?
Regular massages can relieve constipation by helping you release gas and waste products. They may also help treat any underlying or accompanying conditions. For example, regular massage can reduce stress and in turn reduce pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome.
Abdominal massages are thought to be especially beneficial for constipation, but you may also find other types of massage help, too.
You can use castor, argan, or coconut oil for these massages. Or experiment with these essential oils for added benefit.
Abdominal massage for constipation relief
Research shows abdominal massage can be effective in treating chronic constipation. Studies have found it can:
Abdominal massage has also been shown to stimulate the muscle contractions that help pass a bowel movement in people with postsurgical ileus. This is a temporary lack of movement of the intestines that can lead to an intestinal obstruction.
Here’s how to massage your abdomen:
You can repeat any of these steps multiple times, but be careful not to overdo it.
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Colon massage for constipation relief
Massages for the colon are sometimes referred to as deep abdominal massage or internal organ massage. Massage practitioners claim that colon massages can be used to:
However, there’s currently no evidence to prove these claims. If you want to try it, here’s how to perform a colon massage:
Other types of massage for constipation relief
There are several other massage options you can use to treat constipation. Massages that focus on other parts of the body may be used alone or combined with other types of massages. This allows for some variety as you check out which options best suit you.
Foot massages (reflexology)
Foot massages, also known as reflexology, may be used to treat constipation.
Research from 2003 found that children with constipation showed symptom improvements after receiving reflexology. The children had six 30-minute sessions over the course of six weeks. The treatment also helped with encopresis, also called fecal soiling.
To do this:
Having a back or full-body massage may help relax the entire body. Full-body massages are helpful in improving digestion, relieving stress, and reducing muscle tension. All of these may be beneficial in treating constipation.
You’ll need to have a back massage by a massage therapist or your partner.
A 2015 study found that perineal self-acupressure paired with standard care was more effective than standard care alone in treating constipation. After doing the massage for four weeks, study participants showed improvements in:
To do this:
In babies, tummy massages can be used to:
Massages can also deepen the bond between you and your baby.
To do this, gently massage your baby’s stomach and lower abdomen in a clockwise direction. Do this a few times throughout the day.
Wait at least 45 minutes after feeding before massaging your baby. If your baby has any underlying conditions, talk to their doctor before trying infant massage.
See a doctor if your child:
You can have a gentle abdominal massage for constipation while you’re pregnant during the second and third trimesters. Make sure to use soft movements. You can have your partner or a professional perform the massage, or you can do it yourself.
Avoid abdominal massage during the first trimester of pregnancy.
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Additional tips for relieving constipation
You can make lifestyle changes to prevent future constipation. Here are some tips:
When to see a doctor
Going more than three days without a bowel movement isn’t considered healthy. If this happens every now and again, it’s usually not a cause for concern.
But see a doctor if you have:
You should also see a doctor if you:
Your doctor may prescribe medications or advise you to stop taking certain medications that can cause constipation.
More severe conditions will require a procedure to clear the colon, therapy to retrain the muscles, or surgery.
You can treat most mild cases of constipation by making lifestyle changes. Drink plenty of water, exercise often, and increase your fiber intake. You may want to continue having regular massages to prevent constipation in the future.
Keep an eye on your bowel movements so you notice constipation as soon as it starts. You might also try keeping a food diary so you can see how your diet affects your bowel movements.