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Constipation Massage

Does Constipation Massage Actually Work? If so, How?

Question:

This is kind of embarrassing, but I’ve been struggling lately with constipation. It used to be more occasional, but it’s become more frequent as I’ve gotten older. I don’t like to take laxatives because the side effects make me uncomfortable. I’ve seen stuff about constipation massages on the internet. What exactly is a constipation massage, and does it actually work?

Answer:

Constipation is a relatively common problem, and can seriously decrease your quality of life. That’s why sufferers are increasingly turning to complementary therapies, such as massage, to ease their symptoms. The reality is that massage has been used to relieve constipation since the 19th century, although it’s only recently that the therapy has been studied scientifically.[1] Generally speaking, abdominal massage increases the frequency of bowel movements, reduces discomfort and pain, and induces relaxation. The best part is that there are no adverse side effects, so even if it doesn’t give you the results you desire, there’s no harm in it.[2]

One study published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies confirmed that abdominal massage can increase your bowel function, as well as decrease the severity of other gastrointestinal symptoms.[3] However, that same study also noted that abdominal massage did not lead to decreased laxative intake with the patients participating. The study concluded that abdominal massage is meant to be a complementary treatment rather than a substitute – although the patients did achieve better results with massage than without it.[4] So if you decide to try massage therapy, don’t stop any other medications, particularly those that have been prescribed by a doctor.

Constipation is also a common symptom following certain types of surgery. A study published in Gastroenterology Nursing found that patients who received abdominal massage defecated more often following surgery, and that the intervals between defecation were decreased. Overall, these patients reported a generally increased quality of life.[5]

Patients who’ve received abdominal massage for constipation have described it as something that affected the whole person and improved their life overall. They reported the experience itself as pleasurable, and felt more comfortable with their bowel function afterward.[6]

Because of the sensitive nature of your problem, you may want to have a massage therapist come to your home, so you have more privacy and control over your environment. However, you have to be willing to be frank with your massage therapist in discussing your problems, so they can choose the combination of techniques that will give you the most benefit.

Getting a massage once a week for at least six weeks will likely give you the best results. You can always reschedule with the same therapist. Once you find someone with whom you’re comfortable, there’s no need to have to repeat that awkward conversation with anyone else. You might also ask your massage therapist to teach you simple abdominal massage techniques that you can do yourself, if you find yourself with problems in between visits.

References:

[1] Nursing Times: “Does Abdominal Massage Relieve Constipation?” https://www.nursingtimes.net/clinical-archive/continence/does-abdominal-massage-relieve-constipation/5027718.article

[2] Id.

[3] International Journal of Nursing Studies: “Effects of Abdominal Massage in Management of Constipation – A Randomized Controlled Trial,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19217105

[4] Id.

[5] Gastroenterology Nursing: “The Effect of Abdominal Massage on Constipation and Quality of Life,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26825564

[6] Journal of Clinical Nursing: “Experiences of Abdominal Massage for Constipation,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22098585

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