Massage has been used as the principal treatment for pain and other bodily discomforts for thousands of years. It was practiced by the Arabs, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese, for therapeutic purposes and today its many benefits are being backed scientifically – more and more empirical evidence proves that massage offers effective relief from physical pain and stress.
Now, when most people think of massage, they don’t imagine massaging their stomach. Stomach massage, also known as abdominal massage, offers an incredible self-healing strategy that is gentle and non-invasive, and without any side effects.
Stomach massages, though uncommon, can treat a variety of digestive issues including constipation and bloating, and can improve your overall health.
You can get it done professionally or you can do it yourself. All it takes is some oil and five to ten minutes of gentle rub and press each day.
Note: if you’re pregnant, or have some other condition, consult your doctor first.
6 Benefits Of Abdominal Massage
The advantages of getting an abdominal massage are manifold. It helps release physical and emotional tensions and soothes and restores energy. Here are some of the key benefits.
#1. It improves digestion
The practice of abdominal massage can be traced back to the ancient Chinese who used it to improve digestive function and to effectively detox the body. Massage relaxes the stomach muscles and stimulates digestion. This is particularly useful for people who have had an endotracheal tube.
Research conducted in 2018, looked at the effects of abdominal massage on people with an endotracheal tube. Those who were given an abdominal massage for 15 minutes twice a day for three days experienced more relief in their symptoms than the people who received no massage. Researchers also noticed that the people who were given stomach massages had lesser constipation and a smaller stomach circumference. This group also had a lower amount of stomach liquid.
#2. It relieves constipation
Research has shown that regular abdominal massage can help in treating chronic constipation. Studies have shown that it can relieve the pain and discomfort associated with constipation, and reduce the amount of time it takes for stool to move down the colon. While at the same time, it improves the frequency of bowel movements.
Massaging the abdomen stimulates muscle contractions, which are important in helping make a bowel moment.
A study conducted in 2016, looked at the effects of abdominal massage on constipation symptoms following surgery. The group that was given abdominal massages reported lesser symptoms of constipation and had more bowel movements.
#3. It reduces bloating
A study conducted in 2015, examined the amount of excess fluid in the abdominal cavity (often seen in people being treated for cancer) and its symptoms. One group of people was given 15-minute abdominal massages twice a day for three days while the other group received none. People in the massage group reported reduced abdominal bloating and also showed improvement in their overall well-being.
Though abdominal massage did not have any impact on their other symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and pain, it certainly lowered their levels of depression and anxiety.
More research is still underway to establish these benefits.
#4. It alleviates period pain
In 2005, a research group studied the effect of stomach massage in alleviating menstrual cramps and pain. The group of women who received a 5-minute massage every day for 6 days before the start of their period, reported vastly low levels of menstrual pain and discomfort.
Researchers also suggest that using essential oils for abdominal massage can prove to be more beneficial. Essential oils can help lower friction across the stomach and soothe and stimulate your olfactory sense (sense of smell). Similarly, they may help lessen period cramps.
Another study was conducted in 2013, in which women were given ten-minute-long abdominal massages with essential oils. The study found these women experienced vastly reduced levels of period pain while still bleeding excessively. The duration of their pain was also shorter.
The aromatherapy massage group incorporated essential oils of rose, lavender, clove, and cinnamon in a base of almond oil. While the other group was massaged with almond oil only.
More research is still needed to fully explore and establish the effectiveness of essential oils and aromatherapy in relieving period cramps. And scientists have yet to understand why essential oils have proven to be more helpful.
#5. It releases stress and anxiety
There is an active connection between psychological stress and digestive function, and both systems impact each other. Our digestive system has a nervous system of its own called the enteric nervous system, which many are now referring to as our “second brain”. This nervous system is home to more than 100 million nerve endings. Every time our brain transmits stress hormones, these nerve endings respond to them.
The stomach’s nervous system is viscerally linked to our central nervous system and actively “communicates” with it. Sometimes, especially around periods of excessive stress, the complex system of nerves in the stomach grows hypersensitive and becomes reactive even in response to simple, routine digestion. That is because mental and emotional stress is also actively and physically held by your gut. Overwhelming mental tension can often be stored in your gut in the form of bloating, cramping, diarrhea, or indigestion.
Common metaphors like having “butterflies in the tummy” or getting “knots in your stomach” are rooted in the gut-brain connection and reaction.
Massage combined with deep breathing offers effective relief alongside long-term benefits if done regularly. Gently massaging your tummy, relaxes the stomach muscles and releases the stress stored within. It soothes your digestive system and helps it focus on its key roles – to digest and absorb nutrients and discard waste.
#6. It helps your overall health
A remarkable proportion of the immune system functions are connected to and located in the gut. A happy stomach and healthy digestive functioning play a major role in the workings of our immune system. The better the state of your gut, the stronger your body, and the better your body can fight diseases and viruses. So that indirectly, a happy stomach means a healthier immune system.
Abdominal massage stimulates the lymphatic system and allows better detoxification, which in turn boosts the inbuilt defenses of the body. It is also one of the reasons why abdominal massages are said to help in weight loss.
In addition to improving your immune system, abdominal massage also plays a part in toning and strengthening your core. It encourages relaxation and healing and releases physical and emotional stress. It also offers relief from muscle spasms and effectively increases blood flow to the stomach. The latter, in turn, proves beneficial for other organs in the abdominal area.
How To Massage Your Abdomen
You can visit a massage therapist and request an abdominal message. But it is best to learn how to do it yourself and perhaps make it a regular part of life.
The golden rule of a good stomach massage is to rub along the flow of your intestines. Food and liquid pass in a clockwise direction and that is why we follow their flow. Also, if you are massaging specifically to relieve constipation, it is best to use argan, coconut, or castor oil.
- Lay flat on your back.
- Now place your hands on your belly, overlapping them across the lower belly, and hold that position. Now concentrate on your breathing.
- Rub your hands together to warm them up and then apply any oils you want to rub. You may incorporate your favorite essential oils for some aromatherapy benefits.
- Now using the palm of your hand, massage the entirety of your stomach in circular, clockwise motions. Do this a few times.
- Now massage the very centerline of your abdomen. Start just below your sternum and take it to the pubic bone.
- Massage three more lines on the left side of your abdomen keeping these lines an inch apart. Repeat the same motion on the right side.
- Now firmly press your finger into your navel.
- Keeping pressure gentle, continue massaging, circling outward from your naval. Circle in a clockwise direction.
- You may spend more time on areas that need more attention and adjust your pressure accordingly.
- Continue to massage for up to 20 minutes.