What to Know About Belly Massage for Digestion

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on February 20, 2024
3 min read

In belly or abdominal massage, a gentle massaging movement is used to relax and manipulate the abdominal area. If you’re constipated or having other issues with digestion or abdominal discomfort, belly massage may help.

Natural health practitioners believe belly massage can help improve the movement between your internal organs and other tissue in your body. It’s also thought to help ease stress and body tension.

While you can do belly massage on yourself or someone else, it is important to use the correct technique. Consider seeking the guidance of a licensed massage therapist, osteopath, or another trained practitioner.

Don’t get an abdominal massage if you’re pregnant or have:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome with spastic colon
  • A recent injury to the belly area
  • A spinal injury that your doctor considers “unstable”

Belly massage may temporarily relieve discomfort and symptoms from digestive issues. For a long-term solution, seek help from a medical professional.

Abdominal self-massage. Lay down on your back, bend your knees, and plant your feet in a comfortable position. If you prefer to stretch your legs out, place a pillow behind your knees to ensure that your lower back touches the floor. There should be no space between your back and the surface under you. Start out by relaxing your body. You may even use a massage oil.

Place both hands on your lower right belly. Press down gently with your palms as you breathe out and stroke upward to your ribs. Repeat this motion 10 times to warm up your abdominal muscles and prepare for a deeper massage.

Now place your palms close to your lower back and apply pressure as you move your hands around to the front, over your hips, and down to your pelvis. Repeat 10 times to stimulate the nerves controlling your bowel function. 

Next, place one hand on your lower right abdomen. Use firm, deep pressure to make a circle. Go up and across your body, just under your ribs, back down, and across your lower abdomen. Repeat this circle for two minutes to help encourage a bowel movement. 

You can repeat this same clockwise motion with a kneading technique. Each time you apply pressure, make a small circular motion before you move your hands to the next massage point. As a final step, place both hands firmly on your belly, then move them up and down as well as back and forth to cause vibrations that encourage a bowel movement.

‌Pelvic floor abdominal massage. Do this massage around the time when you usually have a bowel movement. It may be more effective in the morning rather than later in the day. You can drink some warm liquid, like tea or water, to help encourage a bowel movement.

Used once or twice daily, this technique could help you maintain consistent bowel movements. The massage should last 10-15 minutes. Lie down on a firm surface and bend your knees into your chest to release tension in your back and abdomen. Then stretch your legs out so that you are comfortable.

Work in a clockwise motion. Start under your left ribcage and massage in a single stroke down to the front of your hip bone on the same side. Repeat this motion from top to bottom ten times. Then, begin the next motion by stroking down again on the same side, this time adding in a horizontal stroke across your lower abdomen to form the letter “L” with each motion.

Complete the “L” motion 10 times. For the next motion, add a third stroke up the other side to form the letter “U,” repeating 10 times. The final step is massaging your belly in a clockwise motion 2-3 inches out from your belly button, to stimulate your small intestine.