Abdominal Massage for Constipation Relief

article image

Having trouble finding relief from chronic constipation? Natural, first-line approaches include drinking plenty of water, increasing fiber intake, and identifying food intolerances. But if these strategies haven’t worked for you, don’t give up just yet. You may benefit from abdominal massage for constipation.

Causes of Constipation

Constipation can be caused by a dietary change, medication use, daily routine disruption, surgery, or emotional stress. In these cases, constipation is usually considered acute and can be resolved relatively quickly without treatment. If your constipation is long-lasting and bothers you on a regular basis, however, it could be caused by an underlying medical condition, poor diet, or other factors requiring your attention.[1]

Visit your doctor to discuss your symptoms and possible causes as your first step in managing constipation. You may be prescribed a laxative, but these should only be used as a last resort and should not be used regularly. Increasing your dietary fiber intake should be tried first, and you should stay well hydrated. But if this doesn’t help, you might find abdominal massage to be the treatment option you need to find relief.

What Is Abdominal Massage and How Does it Work?

Abdominal massage is the use of massage therapy techniques on the abdomen, focusing the touch over organs of the digestive tract. Compressing and releasing sections of the intestines and other digestive organs can stimulate digestion and help promote bowel movements. Abdominal massage can be done by a professional practitioner, but it can also be easily taught. Parents can learn to perform abdominal massage for their children, and in some cases, you can do it for yourself.[2,3]

Researchers believe that abdominal massage increases the contraction of muscles in the digestive tract that push waste through the gut (a process called peristalsis).[4] Bowel movements are also associated with parasympathetic nervous system activity and massage may stimulate this division of the nervous system, helping to stimulate activity in the digestive tract.[5]

The Effectiveness of Abdominal Massage

Abdominal massage stimulates peristalis, decreases transmit time in the colon, and increases bowel movement frequency.[2,5] It has also been effective at resolving constipation in those cases when diet and even laxatives have not helped.[4]

In one randomized controlled trial, participants who were assigned to receive 15 minutes of abdominal massage five days per week reported significantly less severe gastrointestinal symptoms, less severe constipation, and more bowel movements than the control group after eight weeks of treatment.[5]

Abdominal massage can be an effective and safe treatment for children with constipation, too. In one study, parents were trained to complete abdominal massage for their children for 20 minutes each day. After six weeks, the children had improved quality of life, reduced laxative use, and improved frequency and consistency of bowel movements.[3] Exercises to train the abdominal muscles and breathing exercises can be used in conjunction with abdominal massage to effectively relieve constipation in children, as well.[6]

In one study where massage was found to improve constipation symptoms and abdominal pain, participants were also asked about their feelings regarding the intervention. Many participants were skeptical at first about getting the treatment and about whether it would be effective, but none reported discomfort during the therapy and most described their experience as a satisfying one that not only positively changed their bowel habits, but also influenced “the whole person.”[7]

Soaking in Epsom salts, using castor oil packs, supplementing with magnesium, and taking probiotics are other effective, all natural constipation remedies to explore.

Speak with your doctor about your constipation. Ask them if they know how to perform abdominal massage. You can also search for massage therapists who are trained in abdominal massage for constipation. See if you can find a practitioner who can teach you how to use abdominal massage yourself at home to find relief.


[1] J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2011 Oct;15(4):436-45.

[2] Nurs Times. 2011 Mar 29-Apr 4;107(12):20-2.

[3] Community Pract. 2014 Dec;87(12):25-9.

[4] Nurs Stand. 2014 Jul 15;28(45):37-42.

[5] Int J Nurs Stud. 2009 Jun;46(6):759-67.

[6] Colorectal Dis. 2013 May;15(5):e250-5.

[7] J Clin Nurs. 2012 Mar;21(5-6):757-65.

Chelsea Clarkis a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer forNatural Health Advisory Institute.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.