Massage Therapy as a Remedy for Heartburn (Acid Reflux)
Heartburn, also known as acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can often be helped with moderate adjustments to your diet, including eliminating the following:
- carbonated beverages
- spicy foods
- fatty foods
- garlic and onions
- acidic foods like tomatoes and oranges
Unfortunately, diet modification doesn't always help and you can still be left with a potentially constant feeling of discomfort and pain. In fact, left unchecked your reflux symptoms could be indicative of something worse, so be sure to have your doctor perform all the possible medical tests before investigating options into complementary medicine. Once your doctor has ruled out anything dangerous (such as angina or a even a heart attack), trying something natural such as massage therapy can often bring you great relief.
Although symptoms of heartburn can vary from person to person, you may feel some or all of the following:
- difficulty swallowing
- nausea after eating
- coughing or wheezing
- sore throat
- bitter taste in your mouth
- increase in pain when lying down or bending over
Generally speaking, heartburn is caused by a weakening or malfunctioning of the sphincter connecting your esophagus to your stomach. Because your esophagus is not lined as well as your stomach to protect it from hydrochloric acid, a malfunctioning sphincter here can cause you a lot of pain. Although the reason why this happens with acid reflux is not precisely known, the smooth muscle in a sphincter does have the potential to fail, in this case causing your stomach to act much like a clogged sink that won't drain properly. Thus the hydrochloric acid in your stomach can flow backwards into your esophagus, where it doesn't belong.
During your visit, your massage therapist may elevate your upper body, and will work on your abdominal muscles, seeking to reduce abdominal pressure there. In addition, your therapist will more than likely attempt to relieve you of stress in other, bigger muscles in your body (such as your back, shoulder and leg muscles), since stress elsewhere can potentially contribute to heartburn symptoms.
Even your infant can suffer from acid reflux, so consider infant massage if your baby exhibits some of these symptoms:
- spitting up excessively
- vomiting more than usual
- poor feeding
- blood in stools
A massage therapist properly trained can help you or your baby be relieved of heartburn symptoms. Be sure to seek a registered massage therapist, who has to abide by a specific set of rules and laws in their state or province.
Note: if you are suffering from heartburn and would like to try a massage therapy treatment to find relief, be sure to schedule your meal time at least two hours before your session.
By Richard Lobbenberg, BSc BHSc DAc
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