Abdominal massage used to be the go-to treatment for constipation. It’s a safe and natural way to ease that stopped up feeling, and the gas and bloating that often go with it. When you massage your stomach in the right way, you induce peristalsis — the wave-like motions of your intestines that push everything through. This means that it takes less time for waste to get out of your body.
The great news? You can massage your own abdomen, have your partner do it, or find a therapist who specializes in abdominal massages.
"I was having pain in my lower back and went to a chiropractor," says Angie E. from Portland, Oregon. "Turns out, I had gas bubbles all through my intestines. He sent me to a massage therapist, who — much to my relief (and also embarrassment) — was able to work them out."
Abdominal massage doesn’t take very long and is an excellent natural remedy for mild gastrointestinal stoppage or gas. "I experienced near-instant relief when the gas was massaged from me," says Angie. "While I haven’t experienced pains like that since, if I am feeling particularly bloated, I will sometimes use self-massage to gain similar results."
Abdominal Massage Breakdown
Giving yourself a stomach massage is an easy way to encourage bowel movements and get your system moving again. It works safely and effectively for both occasional and chronic constipation.[1, 2] With this simple at-home method, you can work away bloating, cramping, and pressure that constipation causes.[3, 4]
In a nutshell, you use tiny clockwise motions with your massaging hand, slowly moving that hand around your abdomen, also in a clockwise direction. The clockwise motion follows the natural movement of your intestines. Here’s how it works.
- Find a peaceful spot where you can relax. Lie flat or elevate your legs if it is more comfortable.
- Start on the right side of your stomach by the pelvic bone. Using gentle pressure, rub in tiny clockwise circular motions, working your way up to your right rib cage. Continue the circular motions as you move across to your left side, then down the left side to your hip bone. Keep up the circular massage while moving inward, toward your belly button.
- Continue this for three minutes. You may feel a hard lump in your belly. This massage will help move that lump along. Be gentle but firm.
- After three minutes, use a little more pressure, continuing the circular movements. Take one minute to move up from your right pelvic bone to your right rib cage, one minute over to your left rib cage, and one minute down to your left pelvic bone. Then, one minute to move upward to your belly button.
- Continue massaging for 10 minutes. Keep moving in a clockwise motion. You should not feel pain.
Abdominal Massage Tips
Once you have the movements down, you can give yourself an abdominal massage as needed. Here are a few tips.
- For constipation, abdominal massage works best when done about an hour after eating, first thing in the morning, or before bed.
- To reduce bloating, abdominal massage works best right after you eat. Use a lighter touch.
- Limit abdominal massage to once or twice per day.
- Lighten up your pressure if you feel any pain.
Avoid this technique if you’ve recently had abdominal surgery or if you have a bowel obstruction.
Other Benefits of an Abdominal Massage
Abdominal massage helps whether you’ve had constipation for a short time or an extended period. As mentioned, it can also help if you have a bloated, gassy stomach and may even help with lymphatic drainage and reduce excess fluid accumulation.[5, 6]
Beyond digestion, abdominal massage has many health benefits, including the following:
- To ease cramps, try five minutes of abdominal massage every day the week before your period.
- Abdominal massage improves blood circulation. This brings more oxygen and nutrients not just to the abdominal cavity and intestinal tract, but to all of your internal organs. That will improve organ function, as well.
- Massage naturally detoxifies your body by moving lymph around. Abdominal massage can also help remove fecal material stuck on your intestinal walls.
- Like any massage, massaging the abdomen can also improve mood and ease emotional tension.
What Else Can I Do For Gut Relief?
Abdominal massage is a great way to relieve constipation and bowel movements, but it will not repair any gut conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Below are the top ways to get gut relief.
Nourish Your Body
One of the best ways to help a gut condition is to change unhealthy eating patterns. Eliminate processed foods, gluten, dairy, or other foods that cause digestive issues.
Probiotic-rich foods provide a powerful kick for your gut health. Not only do they have a pretty long shelf life, but they’re also full of healthy bacteria and live cultures you need for a flourishing gut biome. Eating these foods boosts your vitamin levels, promotes heart health, and increases your body’s probiotic bacteria, which stimulate digestion. Try these probiotic-rich foods:
- Alternative-milk yogurt (almond, coconut, oat)
- Fermented vegetables
Try a Colon Cleanse
You can power-up the digestion process and boost colon health by performing a colon cleanse. Even better, do them regularly.
A gut cleanse resets your colon and digestive tract to restore normal processes. Afterward, your gut will process and digest food more efficiently. For most people, it results in more regular and consistent bowel movements.
Global Healing’s 6-Day Colon Cleanse Program will help you eliminate accumulated toxins and waste material that are messing up your system. It’s one of the best things you can do for your personal wellness and the secret to true health. Disease begins in the colon, and health does too!
Create a Wellness Routine
A proper wellness routine is essential to a happy and healthy lifestyle — and it can boost your gut health. Getting one started isn’t the hard part. Maintaining it and making it a habit can be tricky, though.
It can help to create a daily wellness journal. In it, track the following activities to make sure you’re sticking to it. It can help to pick just one or two you want to add to your routine. Once you’ve gotten those habits to stick, add more, as desired. As a bonus, creating a regular wellness routine generally improves quality of life!
- Drink enough water. Buy a reusable water bottle that tracks how much you’re drinking based on the time of day. That way, you ensure you’re getting enough throughout the week to be properly hydrated.
- Get enough sleep. You may have noticed after a colon cleanse that you sleep better. This is because the gut microbiome is linked to sleep regulation. Most cellphones have a sleep tracker on them now — use it to make sure you’re getting plenty of good sleep. But keep the phone away from your bed at night!
- Start exercising. Working out regularly helps your immune system, digestion, and mood, so get in the gym. Try downloading and using a fitness app, or watch YouTube videos and follow along. Just get moving!
- Reduce your stress. Alleviating stress can improve digestion issues. A good probiotic supplement, in addition to probiotic foods, can help out here. Not only do they aid digestion, but they also support a positive mood. For other stress reduction techniques, practice deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. Anything that calms your nerves will help you maintain a healthy digestive system.
- Eat a balanced diet. This is by far the best method for maintaining proper gut health. Leafy greens and vegetables should be your new best friends. Track what you’re eating in a journal or a fitness app to make sure you’ve got a variety of healthy foods in your diet.
Points to Remember
Abdominal massage is an easy, at-home way to help treat constipation. It only takes a few minutes of massaging in circular motions to get things moving again. Abdominal massage works by stimulating a wave-like effect in your intestines that helps push everything through.
Only do stomach massage once or twice a day. If it causes pain, lighten your pressure, or stop altogether.
For other, more general gut relief, make sure you’re nourishing your body with fermented and probiotic-rich foods. Starting a wellness routine is another ideal solution. That means getting enough sleep, exercising, drinking enough water, and eating healthier.
Anytime you feel you need a complete reset, do a colon cleanse to get your digestion back to normal. In fact, doing them regularly will keep your gut happy!
- Lämås K, et al. Effects of abdominal massage in management of constipation--a randomized controlled trial. Int J Nurs Stud. 2009 Jun;46(6):759-767.
- Sinclair M. The use of abdominal massage to treat chronic constipation. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2011 Oct;15(4):436-445.
- O’Neill T. Abdominal Self Massage. University of Michigan Health System. Updated Sep 2014. Accessed 15 Oct 2019.
- Harrington KL, Haskvitz EM. Managing a patient’s constipation with physical therapy. Phys Ther. 2006 Nov;86(11):1511-1519.
- Wang TJ, et al. The effect of abdominal massage in reducing malignant ascites symptoms. Res Nurs Health. 2015 Feb;38(1):51-59.
- Vairo GL, et al. Systematic review of efficacy for manual lymphatic drainage techniques in sports medicine and rehabilitation: an evidence-based practice approach. J Man Manip Ther. 2009;17(3):e80-e89.
- Kim JS, et al. The effects of abdominal meridian massage on menstrual cramps and dysmenorrhea in full-time employed women. Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi. 2005 Dec;35(7):1325-1332.
- 6 Things To Know About Massage Therapy for Health Purposes. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, National Institutes of Health. Updated 9 Oct 2019. Accessed 22 Nov 2019.
- Rezac S, et al. Fermented foods as a dietary source of live organisms. Front Microbiol. 2018 Aug 24;9:1785.
- Li Y, et al. The role of microbiome in insomnia, circadian disturbance and depression. Front Psychiatry. 2018 Dec 5;9:669.
- Clapp M, et al. Gut microbiota's effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clin Pract. 2017 Sep 15;7(4):987.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.