Person massages stomach in a clockwise fashion

Self-Massage for Constipation

Since I had a hysterectomy at the end of 2019, I have been experiencing sporadic constipation, which I hadn't experienced in many years.

For whatever reason, it seems I am not more prone to constipation than diarrhea now, whether due to age, hormonal shifts, surgery, or other reasons. But over the past 2 years and change since this has become my new norm, I have learned some tips and tricks to help me "go" – some useful IBS hacks that I thought I would share here in case it is helpful for others too.

Chronic pain and massage

The other day, a person in my chronic pain support group who also struggles with constipation (as do many people living with chronic pain, it seems, by the many responses to her comments) asked what offered others relief. One thing I mentioned that seemed new to her and many others in the group were self-massage.

When my constipation was at its worst and the most frustrating, I began looking up different massage techniques for constipation. You can find many just by Googling "self-massage for constipation" or similar phrases. The most helpful I found is abdominal massage. For this, I would lay flat on my back, either on my bed or on my yoga mat on the floor, but bend my knees and keep my feet flat on the floor (also known as "hook lying"). This position in and of itself can be helpful for constipation because it reportedly relaxes tight low back muscles, and tight muscles can contribute to constipation.

How I give myself a massage

While lying in that position, I gently but firmly massage my low belly, starting with the right side and then advancing to the left side, using clockwise circles. When I get to the left side, I can often actually feel the blockage of hard stool under the skin (as that's the large intestines, the last part of the bowel before stool begins to exit the body). It's kind of freaky to feel, but it can be helpful because it can guide your massage.

So I often press down and smooth my hands down toward my groin. I can actually sometimes feel the blockage move along, and often this alone is enough to help me go to the bathroom if things are "stuck." However, sometimes it's not the only kind of massage that helps, and I need to employ multiple techniques.

Other areas I focus on to alleviate constipation

Another helpful technique is to massage my calf and feet. Namely, massaging the balls of my feet and right below the toes can also help massage the calf at the muscle right below/behind the knee and the shins. I do this with my hands and small hand-held rolling massage instruments. Sometimes I do these massages before I advance to the abdominal massage, and sometimes after.

Finally, I also find it helps to massage my lower back. I can reach behind a little bit with my arms and massage my low back with my fist, where I feel knots and spasms. But I do find it most helpful to get my partner to massage my low back with his hands or my massage tools as he can reach the area better. There have been times when nothing else has worked but one or more of these massage tricks for relieving constipation.

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