Abdominal massage, which may sometimes be referred to as stomach massage, is a gentle, noninvasive treatment that may have relaxing and healing effects for some people.

It’s used to treat a wide variety of health concerns, especially those related to the stomach, such as digestion issues, constipation, and bloating.

You can give yourself an abdominal massage or visit a massage therapist for a session. You may benefit from the effects of abdominal massage after only 5 or 10 minutes of massage per day. Continue reading to learn more about this self-healing technique.

Be sure to talk to your doctor before getting an abdominal massage if you are pregnant or have any health concerns.

According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), massage therapy can have a positive effect on the physical, mental, and social well-being of people. It’s thought to improve overall health and wellness.

Abdominal massage may provide these additional benefits.

Relieve constipation

Massaging the abdomen may help to relax your stomach muscles. That, in turn, helps stimulate digestion and relieve constipation.

A small 2016 study examined the effects of abdominal massage on constipation following surgery. The researchers found that people who had abdominal massage — compared to the control group who didn’t receive massage — had:

  • reduced symptoms of constipation
  • more bowel movements
  • less time between bowel movements

Abdominal massage was further shown to have a positive effect on their quality of life scores. Larger in-depth studies are needed to expand upon these findings and to learn more about characteristics that can affect constipation.

Incorporating essential oils into your massage treatment may enhance the benefits.

To relieve constipation, you may wish to focus on these acupressure points during your massage:

  • CV6, which is two finger widths below the belly button
  • CV12, which is along the center of your torso, halfway between the belly button and the rib cage

Do not use acupressure points if you are pregnant.

Improve digestive function

Research from 2018 examined the effects of abdominal massage on the digestive issues of people who had an endotracheal tube. People who had a 15-minute abdominal massage twice a day for three days showed improvements in their symptoms compared to people who received no treatment. The massage group also reduced the amount of stomach liquid they had, and their abdominal circumference and constipation decreased significantly.

More research is needed, both in hospital settings and among people outside of the hospital.

Reduce bloating

A 2015 study found that abdominal massage was effective in treating some symptoms of excess fluid (common in people being treated for cancer) that accumulates in the abdominal cavity.

In this study, people who had a 15-minute abdominal massage twice a day for three days had lower levels of perceived abdominal bloating. Depression, anxiety, and well-being levels also improved.

Abdominal massage did not have an effect on their other symptoms, including pain, nausea, and tiredness.

Alleviate menstrual pain

A 2005 study found that abdominal massage was very effective in relieving menstrual pain and cramping. Women who had a five-minute massage daily for six days before menstruation had significantly lower levels of pain and cramping compared to women who had no treatment.

This was a small-scale study of only 85 women, however. More research is needed to support the use of abdominal massage for the treatment of menstrual pain.

Incorporating essential oils into an abdominal massage may provide more benefits than a massage alone. Using essential oils may help to reduce friction and enhance your olfactory senses during a massage. They may also help to reduce menstrual pain and bleeding.

A 2013 study found that women who had a 10-minute abdominal massage with essential oils had significantly lower levels of menstrual pain and excessive menstrual bleeding compared to women who had abdominal massage using only almond oil. The duration of pain was also reduced.

Both groups in the study had an abdominal massage once daily for the seven days before their period. The aromatherapy massage included essential oils of cinnamon, clove, rose, and lavender in a base of almond oil.

More research is needed to understand aromatherapy abdominal massage in greater detail. Scientists need to learn more about exactly how the essential oils work on the body and how they work together with abdominal massage.

Other benefits

In addition to the benefits above, abdominal massage may also:

  • aid in weight loss
  • encourage relaxation
  • tone and strengthen the abdominal muscles
  • release physical and emotional tension
  • release muscle spasms
  • increase blood flow to the abdomen
  • benefit abdominal organs

However, there isn’t specific research proving the effectiveness of abdominal massage in bringing about many of these benefits, including weight loss.

Generally, abdominal massage is safe for most people provided it’s done in a gentle and safe manner:

  • Don’t have an abdominal massage if you’ve had recent abdominal surgery.
  • Talk to your doctor before getting an abdominal massage if you’re pregnant or have any health concerns.
  • It’s best that you don’t eat any heavy or spicy foods for a few hours before and after an abdominal massage.

Drink plenty of water after the massage.

To perform abdominal massage on yourself:

  1. Lie flat on your back with your belly exposed.
  2. Overlap your hands on your lower belly and hold them here as you focus on your breath.
  3. Warm your hands by rubbing them together for about 30 seconds.
  4. Apply any oils that you’re using.
  5. Use the palm of your hand to massage your entire stomach in a clockwise direction several times.
  6. Then massage the centerline of your abdomen, starting below your sternum and ending at your pubic bone.
  7. Do three more lines an inch apart down the left side of the abdomen.
  8. Do the same on the right side of the abdomen.
  9. Then press your fingers into your navel firmly.
  10. Continue massaging with gentle pressure and circle outward from your navel in a clockwise direction.
  11. You can spend extra time on specific areas or trigger points that feel like they need some extra attention.
  12. Do this for up to 20 minutes.

If you don’t feel comfortable massaging yourself, you can also have your abdomen massaged by a massage therapist. Call before you make your appointment to see if the therapist performs abdominal massage. Not all masseuses provide this service.

Abdominal massage is a low-risk treatment option that you can use to help several health conditions. It’s up to you as to whether you wish to do it on your own or have a session with a massage therapist.

Even if you see a massage therapist, you may want to spend a short amount of time each day doing self-massage, especially if you’re trying to treat a specific issue.

Always see your doctor for any serious conditions or if any of your symptoms worsen or become severe.