A 2007-2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, found that in the United States, two-thirds of the population is either overweight or obese. According to the CDC, these numbers are only getting worse. Most experts agree that the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to find a balance between healthy eating and exercise. If you've tried diet and exercise and still need help, abdominal massage may provide the extra help your body needs.
Several benefits are possible from abdominal massage, including improved digestive functioning, stress reduction and increased muscle tone, but more research is needed to confirm these claims for abdominal massage specifically. According to a 2009 study by the National Institutes of Health, abdominal massage was found to successfully reduce constipation and abdominal pain and increase bowel movements. No report of weight loss was recorded. However, according to the American Massage Therapy Association, numerous studies have shown that full body massage -- which includes abdominal massage -- to effectively reduce blood pressure, boost the immune system, increase lymphatic flow and thereby reduce edema, reduce pain and reduce stress and anxiety.
Full-body massage will improve the function of the body's metabolism overall, while abdominal massage will target the digestive system and muscle structure in that specific area. Most experts agree that the better your entire body functions, the better your chances of weight loss.
Types of Massage
Many types of massage are available, and most massage therapists would agree that one massage does not "fit all." In other words, the right massage for you will vary based on your body type, personal preferences, weight loss goals and other lifestyle factors. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, four types of massage are most commonly used: Swedish, deep tissue, sports and chair massage. These four have many other more specific styles that fall under each category. All but the chair massage will include abdominal massage if requested or indicated for weight loss purposes.
A Swedish massage is the most common type of massage. It is a lighter massage used primarily for relaxation and rejuvenating purposes. Lymphatic massage, hot-stone massage and prenatal massage would also fall into this category. A deep-tissue massage and sports massage are much more intense and therapeutic. Deep pressure is contraindicated on the abdomen due to injury risk, so these massage types, which would include shiatsu, rolfing and myofacial release, may not be the best options for weight loss. Chair massage is usually a shorter session that focuses only on the upper back, neck and shoulders and is always performed with full clothing.
While all massage will affect the body in one way or another, specific types are best suited to specific goals. For example, a person who retains water may best benefit from the light touch of a lymphatic drainage massage, which helps the body drain and detoxify by releasing excess fluids. This massage may focus on the abdomen, but will also target other areas of the body for the best results. On the other hand, for a person with high stress--which increases the release of cortisol, a hormone linked with weight gain--a deep-tissue massage may help enhance relaxation, and weight loss still may be achieved.
It is important to note that all massage provides pressure in varying degrees to the body. This pressure, whether focused on the abdomen specifically or not, will aid in blood and fluid flow in the body and boost the metabolism. An improved metabolism should help return the body's balance by helping it to function more smoothly and ultimately lose weight more effectively.
Getting a Massage
Your massage experience will vary significantly based on the location of your treatment and the therapist performing it. Massage is not an exact modality. While the foundation of strokes for the specific types of massage style can be taught, the individuality of the therapist and specific needs of the recipient can cause a great deal of variety. Just because two therapists give a very different lymphatic massage, for example, does not mean that one massage will not be effective.
Depending on the setting, your therapist should briefly discuss your goals and personal health concerns as it pertains to massage. She may ask about past injuries, surgeries and health conditions, including pregnancy. After a short interview, she should leave the room to allow you to disrobe to your comfort level, lay on the massage table and cover yourself with a sheet or towel. While it is acceptable to disrobe completely, you should never feel forced to do so. A trained therapist can work around undergarments.
Depending on the length of your session and your therapist, you may begin facing up or down. While extra time may be spent in the abdomen for weight loss purposes, your therapist will also probably cover your arms and legs, back and shoulders, neck and abdomen. This full-body approach will provide for best blood and fluid movement, and will also help the entire body to relax. At the end of your session, the therapist should leave the room again to allow you to get dressed. It is important to drink water after your treatment. Even though you have relaxed for an hour or more, your body has had a workout and needs replenishment.
At the end of your session, talk to your therapist about your treatment. Your therapist should be able to determine, after a session or two, how many treatments are needed based on your individual goals, body type and response to massage.
It is important to consult your doctor before beginning any weight-loss regimen and to ask if massage, and specifically abdominal massage, is right for you. Pre-existing conditions such as cancer, high blood pressure, pregnancy, varicose veins, history of blood clots, recent surgery and chronic injuries can make massage dangerous.
Be sure to find a licensed massage therapist in your area. If you are not aware of one, ask your doctor, chiropractor or acupuncturist to refer you to one. Ask to see your massage therapist's license. Any therapist unwilling to do so should send up a red flag in your mind. It is better to see a licensed therapist than to risk injury with an individual who is not properly trained.
Massage is not a substitute for the care your doctor provides. It is also not a quick way to lose weight. The best and safest way to lose weight and keep it off is to find a balance between healthy eating, exercise and lifestyle modification, stress management and disease prevention. Massage is an excellent resource to complement your weight loss efforts. However, for best results, massage should always be done in a professional setting, with your progress monitored, within reason, by your doctor.
Source - LIVESTRONG.COM