In our era of limited movement, one of the parts of the body that suffers quite a lot is our gut. When our intestines lack the appropriate dose of movement, they sometimes forget to do their jobs, leading to constipation and bloating. In this article I’ll present an easy self-massage for your gut, to help them function closer to their optimum.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Constipation can be a very serious issue (leading to death in extreme cases), so do not rely on self-massage alone in case of prolonged symptoms, and check with a GP that nothing too severe is at work.
We’ll work on our back, legs folded, feet on the floor. The pictures show me shirtless for details, but it works just fine, if not better, with clothes. Feel free to support your head if needed.
Gentle and general
Let’s start with a general mobilisation of the gut area. For this, gently press on the middle of your abdomen (roughly over your navel) with your two hands, then turn your hands clockwise (as seen from above you). You should feel the tissue between your skin and your abdominal muscles, as well as the muscles and some tissue below them, move with your hands. However, at this stage we’re not sliding the hands on the skin. This means that your hands might not move as much as shown on the picture if your tissue is less supple. Practice regularly, and your skin and fascia (connective tissue) will loosen.
This will introduce some movement in both intestines, and possibly make you aware of the state of your tissue. Indeed, if pressing heavily or moving far causes discomfort or pain, it’s a sign that your tissue really need the extra movement. Back off a bit and massage again tomorrow and regularly after that; this will help your tissue loosen and regain better health.
After this gentle and general self-massage, we will target the colon (great intestine) a bit more precisely, and possibly make things move inside it. This must be done very gently, especially if you’re not used to this kind of work. We will start closer to the end, but always massage in the direction of the flow (clockwise around the abdomen from above).
So first, the very end. Just put your hands on top of each other, heel of the hands roughly over the navel, fingers pointing towards your feet. They should rest roughly on your pubis. Press the heels of your hands down first, then gently push towards your feet. Again, be mindful of your body’s reaction. If you cause yourself pain, you’ve been too enthusiastic and should back off a bit.
Then, the descending portion of the colon, which is on your left. With the finger pads of both hands, gently press just under your rib-case, about in line with where your left nipple would be if your were standing. From here, glide towards your feet. You can use some lubricant (massage oil, olive oil…) or just two layers of clothing to assist the gliding. The same cautions apply as above.
The horizontal tract comes after that. Press just under your rib-case, in line with where your right nipple would be if you were standing, and glide towards the left. Accidentally, this is a good test to know if you can properly relax your abdominal muscles: if they’re a bit tense, you will feel strong opposition to this movement.
And lastly, the ascending tract. For this one, press just above your iliac bone (the bone that’s under your belt if and when you wear one), again in line with where your right nipple would be if your were standing. From there glide upwards to where you started the previous segment.
So here you are, ready to help your digestive system get things going. Again, go gently and repeat often to get your tissue used to some amount of movement. And check with a doctor if you stay constipated for more than a few days!
Last piece of advice
Lastly, some advice to lead your gut to better health: give high priority to your bodily functions! As much as you can, go to the toilet when your body asks you to. Refusing to do so is a big element leading to constipation. Likewise, let your belly relax. Yes, it will bulge out, because it’s supposed to! Your organs take place. They will move in and out of your abdomen as you breathe, giving you a more or less rounded belly during different stages of breathing. Let that happen. Tensions due to cosmetic demands are the other big cause of intestinal issues.
Want more like this?Check out the following blogs from massage therapists I know from around London:
- On The Run Health and Fitness on running, nutrition and sports massage.
- The Soma Room on sports massage and exercise.