Q: I used to go for massages regularly, but about halfway through, my stomach would start making loud grumbling noises. The RMT didn’t say anything but I found that it made me quite self-conscious and I stopped going. Is this something that makes me weird? Is there a way to prevent this?
A: You are not weird at all! Everybody’s bodies make those same noises at some point during the day. It is completely normal to have digestion related noises during a massage – actually we RMTs encourage and appreciate when our clients have them.
Many of us these days are too stressed and stress brings on all kinds of different symptoms in our bodies. One of the biggest benefits to massage therapy is to promote the relaxation response (which happens in the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) of the body). Relaxing the body helps to decrease stress and to decrease muscle tension that could be causing stiffness, headaches or pain. The relaxation response in the body also lowers stress hormones and lowers your blood pressure in the body so that your brain can focus on other important things: promoting the immune response and healing injuries, promoting good sleep habits (by increasing energy and decreasing fatigue) and promoting digestion. So here’s where those stomach noises come in. As massage therapy stimulates the PNS, it also stimulates digestion. Once your digestive system is stimulated, it then increases motility (movement in the gastrointestinal system – your stomach and gut). This increase in motility can be the cause of stomach grumbling, flatulence and even the urge to expel any digested food.
As a massage therapist, I encourage my clients to embrace this part of the relaxation response, as it means that I am doing my job to promote relaxation. I know that a lot of bodily functions are considered embarrassing in today’s society, but everyone out there should know that EVERYONE has these functions in the body and without them, our bodies would not work as efficiently. It is healthy and nothing to be embarrassed about.
Another benefit to massage therapy that not a lot of people know about is helping the digestive system itself. Massage therapy, specifically to the abdomen and lower back, can aid in intestinal motility to relieve constipation by helping the muscles of your back relax and help your intestines to break down fecal matter and flush it from the body. You can see the correlation of massage therapy and the digestive system with babies and colic. Massage therapy to the abdomen and certain exercises involving the hips and legs can help relieve the painful gas that many babies suffer from. Despite that fact that babies have smaller digestive systems, the same massage therapy techniques can be applied to adults to relieve constipation and gas.
Registered Massage Therapists are taught physiology and other body sciences in college and I believe that any of us out there will react in a professional and encouraging manner when it comes to these bodily functions. Think of it as a healthy bonus to the reason you may be seeking out massage therapy!
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