Does abdominal massage relieve constipation?

Massage has been used for constipation since the nineteenth century, but how effective is it and can it help you?

Constipation can be caused by dietary and exercise patterns, medication and disease. If untreated, chronic constipation can lead to serious complaints, such as fecal impaction, incontinence and bowel perforations. Constipation can affect anyone, but disproportionately affects women and older adults.

Abdominal massage is thought to encourage rectal loading by increasing intra-abdominal pressure. Abdominal massage also appears to stimulate peristalsis, reduce colonic transit time and increase the frequency of bowel movements.

Constipation is often seen as a benign, easily treated condition, with short-term treatment being relatively straightforward.

However, chronic constipation is associated with complications that can develop into serious bowel complaints if left untreated, such as faecal impaction, incontinence and bowel perforations.

Massage can relieve constipation in various physiological causes by stimulating peristalsis, decreasing colonic transit time and increasing the frequency of bowel movements. It also reduces discomfort and pain, induces relaxation and improves quality of life and no adverse side-effects have been reported.

The use of abdominal massage reached a peak in the early 20th century, forming part of the core curriculum for physiotherapy students, yet had almost disappeared by 1950. Massage therapy for constipation has since undergone a revival in clinical practice and is a natural way of treating constipation. Speak to us today to find out how our massages can help relieve your constipation.

This article is based on a paper by Doreen McClurg, who is a research fellow at the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit, Glasgow Caledonian University. Her paper was published in print by The Nursing Times and online at

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