pic of a man with constipation


What is constipation?

Normally bowels should move at least once per day and a bowel movement should be fairly easy to pass, without straining and stool should be well-formed. Really, after each meal bowels are prompted to move.  So 2-3 bowel movements per day are considered to be truly healthy bowels. Less frequent bowel movements can be caused by multiple factors. Food sensitivities, overgrowth of unhealthy organisms in the gut, dehydration and even stress are some possible reasons for irregular bowel movements.

How Can Massage Therapy Help Bowel Movements?

While it might not seem obvious that massage therapy can help constipation, it can. If stress is the cause of the problem, massage therapy can help relax muscles and invoke parasympathetic nervous system activity. The parasympathetic nervous system helps with digestion. The rhythmic contractions of the muscles that propel food and stool through your digestive tract are dependent on the parasympathetic system. Abdominal massage can be very effective in treatment for bowel issues.

What Does the Research Say About Massage Therapy for Constipation?

  • Studies since 1999 studies have demonstrated that abdominal massage can stimulate peristalsis, decrease colonic transit time, increase the frequency of bowel movements in constipated patients, and decrease the feelings of discomfort and pain that accompany it.
  • It was determined that abdominal massage increased the number of bowel movements, stool weight, and stool consistency, decreased the mean scores for straining, and decreased inability to completely empty the bowels.
  • Both lifestyle advice and abdominal massage were perceived to be beneficial in relieving symptoms of constipation for people with Parkinson’s.

Massage Therapy for Constipation Research

J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2011 Oct;15(4):436-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2010.07.007. Epub 2010 Aug 25.
The use of abdominal massage to treat chronic constipation.
Sinclair M1.

Gastroenterol Nurs. 2018 Sep/Oct;41(5):396-402. doi: 10.1097/SGA.0000000000000343.
The Effect of Abdominal Massage on Constipation in the Elderly Residing in Rest Homes.
Çevik K1, Çetinkaya A, Yiğit Gökbel K, Menekşe B, Saza S, Tıkız C.

Parkinsons Dis. 2016;2016:4842090. doi: 10.1155/2016/4842090. Epub 2016 Dec 8.
Abdominal Massage for the Relief of Constipation in People with Parkinson’s: A Qualitative Study.
McClurg D1, Walker K1, Aitchison P1, Jamieson K1, Dickinson L2, Paul L3, Hagen S1, Cunnington AL4.