Regular massages can help sufferers of IBS symptoms in two ways. Firstly, the same way it helps most other people: relaxation. Stress often contributes to the onset of IBS symptoms, so anything that can help you relax is beneficial. The use of aromatherapy oils can enhance this relaxation. See our article on Relaxation and Stress Management for other suggestions and advice on how to relax.

Secondly, through direct massage and palpitation of the abdomen. The muscles of the abdominal wall can be quite tense in some IBS sufferers and a massage can be especially effective if you are suffering from IBS-constipation. By contrast, if you suffer from IBS-diarrhoea, you should be wary of direct abdominal massage as it has been known to exacerbate existing symptoms. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t still take advantage of the relaxation and reduction in anxiety provided by a more general, soothing massage.

Areas to massage if you wish to avoid the abdomen include the thighs, the buttocks and the middle of the back. If you are experiencing an acute flare-up of IBS you should avoid massage as it may cause more irritation. If you feel concerned, please visit your doctor.

If you decide that direct abdominal massage might help, it’s easy to try it at home on your own or with the help of a friend or partner. Start by lying down on your back on a flat, comfortable surface. Massage your abdomen with a firm but gentle anti-clockwise motion of your hand, balled into a fist for a firmer massage, from below your ribcage to above your hips.

You can also seek the professional touch of a trained masseuse, preferably one with experience of IBS or abdominal massage. They will also be able to give you a more complete and relaxing massage experience, and many will even visit you by appointment for a stress-free experience in the more familiar and comforting surroundings of your own home.