4 Reasons You Need Abdominal Massage

4 Reasons You Need Abdominal Massage

Re-post from PhillyAreaYoga
Massage Therapy is one of the most accessible forms of self-care. Our first instinct when we feel an ache or pain, is to touch, hold, and/or guard the area. Abdominal pain is common amongst children, adolescents, and adults alike for a variety of reasons. If there is no major medical illness present, massage therapy can help alleviate aches and pains. There are many types of massage and bodywork that have their own approach to abdominal health. Chi Nei Tsang, Thai massage, Mayan abdominal massage, and Swedish massage are just a few of kinds of therapies. Here are a few reasons why receiving regular abdominal massage is beneficial:
Relieves Low Back Pain
Therapeutic massage to the abdomen can help relieve low back pain from various sources. For example, women who experience endometriosis, dysmenorrhea, and other gynecological disorders may have pelvic pain that refers to the low back. Another source is post-surgical adhesions and scar tissue. This may result in weak or inhibited abdominal muscles. This can affect your posture and make low back muscles work harder to support your torso. This additional load to the muscles can cause low back pain.
Encourages Bowel Movements
Peristalsis is the rhythmic motion of the GI tract. It helps moves food through our intestines. Providing circular massage to the abdomen in a clockwise motion encourages peristalsis. This can be incredibly helpful for those with constipation. Constipation is caused by poor diet, not drinking enough water, and in some cases, it may be a side-effect of a medication. Abdominal massage increases the frequency of bowel movements, and can also reduce discomfort and pain due to constipation.
Great for Perinatal Care
Over the span of 40-weeks, a woman’s body changes drastically. The positioning of the growing uterus stretches the abdominal muscles, while displacing the lungs and other internal organs. It also creates a deeper lordotic curve (swayback) in the low back. This shift in posture can cause pain in the hips and torso region. This pain often doesn’t end upon delivery. This is often because the abdominal muscles are weakened. Postpartum abdominal massage can help reduce swelling and speed healing after a c-section.
Encourages Parasympathetic Response
When our body’s sympathetic nervous system or “fight or flight response” is engaged, the blood rushes to our skeletal muscles, our pupils dilate, our heart rate increases, and elimination temporarily slows. This is what happens in our bodies when we are either in danger, highly stressed, or experiencing anxiety. Biologically, our bodies don’t know the difference between being chased by a tiger or being late for work! It responds the same way in either circumstance. Massage therapy stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps the body to “rest & digest”. This system is responsible for allowing the body to digest food, assimilate nutrients, and eliminate on schedule. Abdominal massage provides non-judgmental touch to an area of the body so commonly neglected. This calms the nervous system and allows your body to relax.

Skill Building for Thai Bodyworkers Series: Four Common Foot Conditions

Skill Building for Thai Bodyworkers Series: Four Common Foot Conditions


Four Common Foot Conditions

With Vanessa Hazzard

Hello Healers!
Welcome to the second installment Skill Building for Thai Bodyworkers Series, featuring four common foot conditions. In this blog we will discuss:

  • Anatomy of the lower leg and foot
  • Common conditions you may encounter with clients
  • Thai massage foot techniques

As you go through this blog series, I encourage you to palpate the muscles and bones on your own body.

Quick Foot Facts

Each foot has:

  • 26 bones in each foot, 56 in total
  • The bones in the foot make up about ¼ the amount of bones in the human body
  • 33 joints and 107 ligaments
  • The foot has the highest amount of nerve endings per square centimeter than any other part of the body.

Depending on the individual, there are 19 or 20 muscles that control the foot. Some of these muscles originate on the lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) and insert onto the foot via tendinous attachment sites. These muscles have several functions, which include:

  • Enabling the foot and ankle to move on various planes
  • Supporting the arch
  • Providing stability to support the rest of the body

Problems in the feet and ankles can contribute to pain the low back, hips, knees, and affect spinal alignment.

Common Foot Conditions

Pes Planus (Fallen Longitudinal Arch)
Flattening of the longitudinal arch of the foot. This occurs when the bone structure of the foot no longer supports the longitudinal arch. It affects gait and soft tissues of leg and foot.

Pes Cavus (High Longitudinal Arch)
 This is the opposite of pes planus.  It is an increased or exaggerated longitudinal arch of the foot. Tightness in the plantar fascia and the soft tissues on the plantar (bottom) surface of the foot draw the ends of the foot closer together.

This can occur over time when there is an increase of external friction on the distal metatarsal; causing a callus to form. The bursa (fluid filled sac) located at this metatarsal head becomes inflamed. In severe cases, a bone spur will form as well.

Plantar Fasciitis Inflammation of the plantar fascia- the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot. Inflammation occurs through chronic overuse. Increased stress due to high or fallen arches also causes inflammation of the plantar fascia. Pain is likely to be worse when weight is suddenly put on the foot after periods of rest. Pain may be particularly intense at the heel bone and the balls of the feet.

Thai Massage Theory & Techniques

Traditional Thai Bodyworkers often start supine at the feet, and then work their way up to the head. The sen line associated with the feet is sen kalathari. This invisible energy pathway goes from the tip of each toe, to the heel, up the legs, crosses in the abdomen, up through the arm pit, down the arms, and into each finger. Working this sen line relaxes not only the foot, but the body as a whole. The picture below is an example of how sen kalathari is often depicted in Thai massage texts.

Supine Techniques

Thumb press along sen kalathari. Start at the heel, then work up each toe.

Apply circular friction in between the bones of each foot.

Dorsiflex the foot by pointing the toes towards the head.

Plantarflex the foot by pointing the toes towards the ground.

Prone Techniques

Gently step on the bottoms of the client’s foot.

Thumb press along sen kalathari. Start at the heel, then work up each toe.

While trapping the toes under your hand, forearm roll the plantar surface of the client’s foot.

Circle and gently traction each toe.

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Skill-Building for Thai Bodyworkers: Basic Anatomy Terms

Skill-Building for Thai Bodyworkers: Basic Anatomy Terms



Basic Anatomical Terms

With Vanessa Hazzard

Hello Healers!
Welcome to the first installment of my monthly series.  The Skill Building for Thai Bodyworkers Series was designed to formally introduce you to your body! You will sharpen your anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology skills…while learning cool Thai Massage techniques to address the body’s needs. Each series will include:

  • Common conditions, disorders, body system, and/or injuries
  • Physical anatomy as it correlates to the sen lines
  • Applying Thai Massage techniques that will address featured condition(s)

If you have taken Thai massage classes before, you know that this modality was not designed for “spot treatments”. The goal is to remove stagnation within the sen lines (energy pathways) so that lom, or energy (which actually translates to “wind”), can flow more freely. This means that the client experiences a sense of ease (as opposed to dis-ease). This is done with compressions, massage, stretching, and movement. These physical techniques have energetic intentions. That being said, for the sake of making learning about the body more attainable, we will focus on one portion of the body at a time. The techniques shown should be included in a full body sequence for best results.
Who is This Series for?
The Skill Building for Thai Bodyworkers Series is specifically for people that have taken at least one Thai massage course and do not have a strong background in anatomy. It is also beneficial if you have taken an anatomy course and wish to strengthen your knowledge. As I mentioned above, while Thai massage is an energetic modality, you are still manipulating the physical body. This series will help you know the names of things you are touching!
So, before we jump into specific conditions, let’s talk about basic anatomical terms. This will help you to navigate future blogs. Use this specific entry as a resource…it’ll make your life easier. I’ve included a PDF of this blog for future reference. We will be discussing:

  • The names of each directional plane
  • Movements within those planes

Basic Anatomical Terms


Planes are three imaginary lines penetrating the body to aid in visualizing the spatial relationship.
Sagittal– lengthwise cut dividing the body into left and right portions. Mid-sagittal means the cut divides the body into equal left and right halves.
Transverse or Horizontal – perpendicular to the sagittal plane.  Divides the body into superior (upper) and inferior (lower) portions.
Frontal or Coronal – perpendicular to both the sagittal and transverse planes.  Divides the body into anterior (front) and posterior (back) portions.

Movements: Sagittal Plane

Decreases the angle between two bones. It bends a joint, or brings two bones closer together.
Ex. My arm in the photo (elbow flexion). My model’s arms (shoulder flexion).
Increases the angle between two bones by straightening or opening a joint. Hyperextension is when a joint extends beyond its normal range of motion.
Ex. My model’s arms are in elbow extension.

A movement of the ankle that lifts the toes towards head.
Ex. Flexing the foot in a calf stretch

Plantar Flexion
A movement of the ankle that points the foot toward the ground.
Ex. Pressing the gas pedal

Movements: Frontal or Coronal Plane

Moves the limb(s) away from the midline (think “take away”)
Ex. Leg abduction to palm press leg muscles
Moves the limb(s) toward the midline (think “adding towards the body”)
Ex. Leg adduction to place the leg back to original position after performing technique

Ulnar Deviation

Radial Deviation

 Abduction and adduction at the wrist joint is called “ulnar deviation” and “radial deviation”.

Ulnar deviation is when it angles towards the pinkie finger side.
Radial deviation is when the hand is palm up and angles towards the thumb side.

Flexing the head or vertebral column to the side. This is a head and vertebral column movement only.

Movements: Transverse Plane

Turning from side to side. This is a head and vertebral column movement only.
Example: Shaking your head “no”

Medial/Lateral Rotation (Sometimes referred to as internal and external rotation)
These photos show internal and external rotation of the hip joint.
Medial rotates the body part towards the body.

Lateral rotates the body part away from the body.

Movement of the sole of the foot inward toward the midline.
Example: Twisting the foot at the ankle joint towards midline of the body.

Movement of the sole of the foot outward away from the midline.
Example: Twisting the foot at the ankle joint away from midline of the body.

Movement of the hand that turns the palm upward.

Movement of the hand that turns the palm downward.

Horizontal Adduction
A movement that adds the limb towards the body in the horizontal or transverse plane.

Horizontal Adduction
A movement that adds the limb towards the body in the horizontal or transverse plane.

Turns the part in a complete circle.

Thumb Opposition
This is the only joint that performs this motion. Thumb opposition is when the thumb and fingertips touch.

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Massaging My Mom After Surgery

A couple weeks ago, my mom had a partial gastrectomy. This surgery removed the lower part of her stomach. It is becoming a more widely used weight loss intervention. While the surgery went well, there was obviously a lot of discomfort. My mom had a hard time getting comfortable and having a full night’s rest. She was often woken up in the middle of the night from all of the pain she was experiencing.
I stopped by to see how she was feeling, and she told me about the discomfort and lack of sleep. She asked me to rub her back. Now, my mom, rarely asks for massages, and when she does, she only wants the lightest pressure ever. She’s the most sensitive client I’ve ever had…and I’ve had plenty over the years! The slightest bit of pressure, and she’s jumping off the table. So, I knew if she was asking me for a massage, she must’ve been in a lot of pain. Without hesitation, I gently rubbed her back in the area that was hurting. Because she can’t lay flat yet, I massaged her while she was sitting in a chair. The massage was less than 5 minutes but it made a world of difference.
The next day, on Facebook, she posted,
“Happiness is having a daughter that is the best massage therapist there for you when you need her most. Thank you Vanessa Hazzard.  I slept like a baby last night and no pain medication. Love you to the moon.”
While I love helping all of my clients become pain free, it’s nothing like helping out those closest to you. Not only is my mom the person that introduced me to anatomy and kinesiology when I was 10 years old, she is the backbone (pun intended) of our family. To be able to help the person that has helped countless others, both professionally and personally, is an honor. She’s since told me that she is counting down the days until the doctor gives her the okay to get deeper massage work on her back. Because of this, I’ve been doing my research!
I’d like to share some of it with you, in case you also end up working with post-surgical partial gastrectomy clients:

  • According to a study at Chungnam National University Hospital, the degree of pain [after the partial gastrectomy] was significantly reduced according to post operation day and quality of sleep was significantly increased (Asian Oncology Nursing 2012).
  • Complications such as postoperative bleeding, delayed gastric emptying, early satiety, and nutritional deficiencies may occur in some patients.
  • Abdominal massage can help with hypertrophic scarring (adhesions)
  • In most cases, after 6 weeks post-surgery, clients are able to receive massage. Any time before then, request a doctor’s note.
  • Once client is cleared for massage, depending on sensitivity to pressure, they may need to be worked on side-lying. (They may be able to sleep on their stomach, but sleeping and having pressure applied while laying prone, are two different sensations. Always check in with them, and adjust accordingly.)

I’d like to hear about any experiences you’ve had working with post -surgical clients. Tell me about it in the comments section!
Asian Oncol Nurs. 2012 Feb;12(1):69-76. Korean. http://dx.doi.org/10.5388/aon.2012.12.1.69