Abdominal pain can be caused by many different body systems, and I find that treating the abdominal muscles helps to reduce belly and pelvic pain. I treat many women suffering with endometriosis, pelvic floor dysfunction, interstitial cystitis, constipation, pelvic congestion, and menstrual cramps—and they all have some form of abdominal pain. Many times women complain about lower abdominal pain but I often also hear complaints about abdominal pain that is on either the left or right side of the mid-section. Most women with the above conditions respond favorably to abdominal massage and abdominal trigger point releases.
Abdominal massage works well because oftentimes the women who have abdominal pain also have abdominal muscles with moderate myofascial restrictions, adhesions, trigger points and spasms. Abdominal rolling/massage helps to normalize the abdominal tissue and helps to release tension and pain that has accumulated in the mid-section of the body.
The Pelvic Floor Muscles (PFMs) are influenced by the fascia of the abdominal muscles. When the PFMs are painful, in spasms, and lack mobility, the abdominal muscles can sometimes respond by becoming tight, painful and developing trigger points. They respond in the same manner when other body systems are compromised.
I find that when abdominal massage and rolling are incorporated into the treatment sessions, my patients are better able to make it through the day with less pain. Many of my patients tell me that after the abdominal massage sessions they can sit for longer periods, move without pain and have sex more easily. The abdominal muscles may also have trigger points in them, and you will discover yours as you massage and explore the abdominals. I will show you how to treat abdominal trigger points. There is one major trigger point in the lower rectus abdominal muscles that if left untreated can contribute to menstrual cramps.
Remember that it’s important to determine your pain level at the start of any treatment so that you can track your progress. To facilitate abdominal rolling, place a heating pad or hot water bottle on your tummy for 10 minutes before you start rolling. The heat should be low heat. Avoid high heat because you could burn yourself. Trust me: patients inadvertently burn themselves at home all the time. You can roll the abdominal muscles with or without oil. First, try without oil; if that is too painful then think about using aromatherapy and choose an oil that helps you to relax and glide over the abdominal muscle with ease and less or no pain.
Precautions for Abdominal Rolling After Surgery
Your physician will provide the guidelines, but generally you must wait until 6 weeks after your abdominal surgery before starting these techniques. (Also check with your doctor if you are recovering from another type of surgery.) This is when the abdominal scar is almost fully healed. While your doctor may give you permission to start earlier, do not begin abdominal rolling/massage any earlier than 6 weeks after abdominal or laparoscopic surgery without medical clearance. During these surgeries small incisions are made into the abdomen. Also check with your MD regarding time frames for Cesarean or myomectomy surgeries.
WHAT TO DO:
1. Get a pleasant aromatherapy oil with a scent that helps you to relax as you work with your abdominal rolling. Lavender oil is a great scent and helps reduce bladder symptoms and spasms.
2. Start massaging your abdominal muscles with clockwise circles to warm up the abdominal muscles; 10-20 circles will work. Pay attention to what is going on in your abdominal muscles as you do the clockwise circles.
3. Cup your abdominal muscles by placing index fingers near each other so they are gently touching and place your thumbs superior to the other fingers as in the photo above. Stay superficial on your abdominal muscle and avoid grabbing the muscles too deeply.
4. Gently glide your fingers toward your thumbs repeating 10 to 20 times and change your hand placement. For simplicity’s sake, I have divided the abdominal muscles into an upper part and lower part. Roll the lower part first, focusing on upward motions. Make sure to cover all the lower abdominal muscles and then switch to rolling the upper abdominal muscles in a downward motion.
5. Finish your abdominal rolling by gently massaging your entire abdominal region with clockwise circles.
6. Try to roll your abdominals 5 to 15 minutes on a daily basis and perform at least 20 clockwise circles to end your massage.
ABDOMINAL TRIGGERPOINTS: HOW TO TREAT THEM
Trigger points are knot-like spots – the most well-known example being the ones we sometimes get in our necks and trapezius muscle that create a burning and stabbing pain. Trigger points in the abdominal region are quite similar to these. On a more anatomical and physiological level, trigger points are taut muscular bands that are the result of an injury to the motor end plate of the muscle cells. Trigger points in the abdominal muscles can be activated by stress, pelvic and hip mal-alignment, chronic pelvic floor muscle holding, hormonal imbalances, prolonged sitting or female gynecological conditions. Trigger points in the abdominals are common and can refer pain to the belly, pelvic-hip area and can mimic menstrual cramps. They must be found and treated, and trigger point release therapy works very well here.
WHAT TO DO:
1. Investigate your abdominal muscles for trigger points. Search each quadrant of the abdominals. Sometimes it is easier to divide the muscles into 4 parts: 2 upper parts and 2 lower parts.
2. If you come across a very painful trigger point, stop on the tender spot and ask yourself: “What is my pain level on a scale of 0 to 10 (0 is no pain, 10 is the worst pain imaginable)?” Press into the pain but do not elicit a pain level higher than 3-5/10.
3. Stay on that spot for 60-90 seconds, or until your pain reduces by at least 50 percent.
4. Repeat several times until tender spots are relieved. Do this once a day for pain relief. This type of pressure to a tender spot is called trigger point therapy.