Massage therapy can help to treat the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and create secondary physiological benefits such as decreased stress and increased relaxation. However, like most health care professions, this holistic approach to treatment is more effective when complemented with the application of therapeutic exercise.
While exercise is likely not the first choice for relief in someone suffering from (IBS), research shows it’s actually very beneficial. Studies suggest that exercise increases gastrointestinal blow flow and motility as well as increased stimulation within the neuroimmune and endocrine systems thanks to the mechanical bouncing that occurs during physical activity (Daley et al, 2008). It is also suspected that exercise helps to improve colon and gas transit time as well as to decrease bloating. Exercise also counteracts the effects of stress such as exaggerated gut response. It’s important that the right dose of exercise be used as to not aggravate symptoms instead of improve them (Asare, Störsrud & Simrén, 2012).
The American College of Sports Medicine (1998) recommends 20-60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity 3-5 days per week. This is a good range because it caters to all fitness levels. Even some light biking or walking can help reduce stress and constipation. There are also a number of free online resources utilizing gentle digestive yoga to help release gas, bloating, and constipation. One I can recommend is YouTube channel Yoga With Adrienne. She goes over a really gentle and easy wind-relieving pose in a few of her yoga-for-digestion videos. Another good movement is seated abdominal circles which Adrienne also discusses.
In addition, some light self-abdominal-massage can help decrease pain and constipation. The important note with this self-care technique is that you want to make sure you circle around the belly button in a clockwise direction applying light touch at the top of the circle closer to your chest and increase to moderate pressure at the bottom of the circle nearer to the pelvis. This can be done over the clothes or directly on the skin, whatever is more comfortable for you, however direct skin contact is always more effective.
I hope this article was insightful and helpful! Feel free to leave a comment or question, or contact us for further information on how the team at the Centre for Collaborative Health can help you and your gut!
Daley, A.J., Grimmett, C., Roberts, L., Wilson, S., Fatek, M., Roalfe, A., & Singh, S. (2008). The Effects of Exercise upon Symptoms and Quality of Life in Patients Diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Randomised Controlled Trial. Int J Sports Med, 29(9), 778-82. doi: 10.1055/s-2008-1038600.
Asare, F., Störsrud, S., & Simrén, M. (2012). Meditation over Medication for Irritable Bowel Syndrome? On Exercise and Alternative Treatments for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Curr Gastroenterol Rep, 14, 283-289. doi: 10.1007/s11894-012-0268-2.
American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. The recommended quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, and flexibility in healthy adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998 ; 30 : 975 – 91.