Abdominal Bowel Massage
Constipated? We’ve all been there at some point or another. The abdominal cramps, pain, and discomfort can be hard to manage. There are so many things that can cause constipation like certain medications, inactivity, medical conditions, and more!
There are many different ways to deal with constipation, and sometimes it takes a combination to be successful. Today we are going to focus on one of those ways: the abdominal bowel massage. If you want to learn more about the other ways to treat constipation, you can check out our blog here.
Studies have shown that abdominal bowel massage can help to stimulate the bowels, move poop through the colon faster, and increase the frequency of bowel movements in constipated patients to decrease the pain and discomfort associated with it. (Sinclair, 2011) Abdominal massage has helped many people achieve regular bowel movements.
Regular pooping is very important for pelvic health and general health. Abdominal massage is one tool that may help you achieve that. This method can be great because it is inexpensive and doesn’t require medications or enemas. You can perform this massage on yourself, or even do it for a loved one.
An abdominal bowel massage should not be performed in the following scenarios without special healthcare provider clearance: pregnant people, cancer or tumors, unexplained pain, bleeding, irritated skin, open sores or incisions.
HOW TO PREPARE/SET UP
You may want to be near a toilet so when you get the urge, you can go! Sometimes people feel it immediately, sometimes it takes 20-30 minutes, and sometimes you may not feel anything.
Your nails should be short and smooth.
Find something to use as lubricant, it can be a non-irritating lotion or oil, like coconut oil.
Find a comfortable position. Ideally, you will be laying on a comfortable surface with something (like pillows) under your knees. You want to be able to relax you belly, legs, and the rest of your body while you massage.
So now that you’re all set up, how do we perform the massage? We want to perform the massage in the same path that poop moves along the colon.
Find you right hip bone and move your hand inwards slightly (towards your belly button). We will move up along the right side of the abdomen, stopping just before we get to the ribs. Then massage along the ribs from the right to the left. Once we get to the edge of the left side of the rib cage, we will move down along the left side of the abdomen (just like you did on the right.)
As you massage, use a gentle “C” cupping motion with your hand, gently massage the belly moving in semi circles. Visualize “scooping” the poop along the colon. If the poop is backed up and you sink deep enough, you can even sometimes feel the stool.
Perform this massage for 5-10 minutes regularly—this can be daily or as often as you need to.
If you have pain or discomfort, stop and contact your healthcare provider.
Once it’s time to go, listen to your body. Don’t ignore the signals to have a bowel movement! The more you ignore them, the weaker they may become.
To see a video of the massage being performed, check out this great video from Jeanice.
If you are ready to learn more about your bowels, here are some great resources:
Ask your healthcare provider for a referral to a pelvic therapist.
Find a pelvic therapist on your own at myPFM.com. We have links to 4 free searchable databases under Find a PT.
Check out our Amazon store for products to help manage your bowel health.
Learn more about the pelvic floor muscles with our book: My Pelvic Floor Muscles The Basics
Sign up for our email newsletter!
Visit our Instagram page for more on pelvic health.
Watch a quick video to learn about your pelvic floor.
What experiences or tips do you have that can help others? We’d love to hear them. Please join the conversation in the comments section below.
Written by Emily Reul, PT, DPT
1. Sinclair M. The use of abdominal massage to treat chronic constipation. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2011 Oct’15(4):436-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2010.07.007 Epub 2010 Aug 25.