A study recently published in the European Journal of Oncology Nursing (Yıldırım et al, 2019) suggests that abdominal massage may help people with constipation.
Researchers in Turkey conducted a randomised controlled trial with 204 patients with constipation as a result of opioid medication, who were split into two equal groups. The intervention group were taught to administer a 15-minute abdominal massage on themselves, in a clockwise direction over the intestines, which they did twice a day (once in the morning and once in the evening) for four weeks.
The control group received standard medical care, such as laxative suppositories and enemas. Both groups were asked to keep a ‘defecation diary’ and completed the Bristol stool scale, for evaluating stools and bowel habits; the visual analogue scale (VAS), with questions about constipation severity, straining and pain; and the patient assessment of constipation quality of life (PACQLQ) scale, which looks at anxiety, physical and psychological discomfort, and satisfaction.
Patients in the massage group reported significant improvements in stool consistency, straining during defecation and the feeling of incomplete emptying after defecation, and experienced increased bowel movement. They also reported a reduction in the severity of constipation, pain, straining, gas and fullness in the rectum. However, the massage had no effect on the stool amount.
The authors of the study also noted that, ‘Anecdotally, participants also found the abdominal massage to be relaxing, and it was interesting that the majority of the participants were keen to undertake the massage themselves, as it provided a means of self-help and empowerment’.
Reference: Yıldırım D, Can G, Talu GK. (2019). The efficacy of abdominal massage in managing opioid-induced constipation. European Journal of Oncology Nursing, 41: 110-119. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejon.2019.05.013