The Gastrointestinal System and Bodywork
Acupuncture and acupressure techniques have been shown to reduce nausea and vomiting resulting from opioid drugs, general anesthesia, cytotoxic drugs, and pregnancy.
Aromatherapy oils are being used for various con-ditions associated with the GI tract,3 including con-stipation, dyspepsia (indigestion), diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Massage is beneficial in helping with bowel move-ments,4-7 and people with constipation may find mas-sage useful. Massage primarily affects the viscera through somatovisceral reflexes. In elderly patients, massage promotes regular bowel movements, re-duces the incidence of incontinence, and decreases the use of enemas.8 Massage may also help relieve in-testinal colic, biliary colic, and flatulence. By affect-ing the parasympathetic system, massage can pro-mote secretion and digestion of food; hence, massage can be useful in programs to retrain bowel function. Abdominal massage is sometimes performed using a tennis ball or other rounded, heavy objects.9
Massage is of benefit in other disorders related to the gastrointestinal system, such as anorexia and bu-limia.10,11 Reduced anxiety, improved mood, and de-creased stress hormones are some benefits seen in this condition.
In general, the therapist should avoid massaging the abdomen if the client complains of abdominal pain or diarrhea or if tenderness is detected. The therapist should refer the client to a physician if she or he com-plains of blood in the stools or vomit, difficulty swal-lowing, or other unusual symptoms related to the gas-trointestinal system. Diarrhea of acute onset is usually a result of infection, and the therapist should avoid treating these clients to prevent spread of infection.
All therapists should ensure that she or he knows enough about the specific conditions (and medica-tions being taken) that clients have been diagnosed with to avoid perpetuating the problem.