Experiences of abdominal massage for constipation

J Clin Nurs. 2012 Mar;21(5-6):757-65. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2011.03946.x. Epub 2011 Nov 21.


Aim: This study aims to illuminate participants' experiences of receiving abdominal massage for constipation.

Background: Abdominal massage has been found to decrease the severity of constipation and abdominal pain, but little is known about how patients experience receiving abdominal massage.

Design: The present study is a qualitative descriptive study, based on individual interviews.

Method: Nine adults receiving abdominal massage for constipation were invited to participate. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in Sweden between 2005-2007. The interviews were transcribed and subjected to qualitative content analysis.

Results: Four themes were formulated: 'being on one's guard', 'becoming embraced by safe hands', 'being touched physically and emotionally' and 'feeling vulnerable'. The participants reported that they were on guard, i.e. they were sceptical about whether or not abdominal massage was effective and suitable. However, as the massage sessions continued, they found the massage pleasant and began to feel embraced and in safe hands. They described how the abdominal massage made them feel as 'being touched physically and emotionally' and their bowel habits were improved. Along with the improvements, their agony was gone and they felt relieved. However, they considered their new condition fragile and they felt vulnerable to relapse.

Conclusions: Abdominal massage was experienced as pleasurable, and after treatment, the participants felt more comfortable with their bowel function. Participants described abdominal massage as affecting the whole person.

Relevance to clinical practice: Abdominal massage has been shown to be an effective intervention for constipation. A crucial aspect is that nurses need to be sensitive and respect the intimacy associated with the abdomen.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen*
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Constipation / nursing
  • Constipation / psychology*
  • Constipation / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage / methods*
  • Massage / nursing
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Assessment
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Sweden
  • Treatment Outcome