Massages are usually associated with relieving stress and muscle pain, not with losing weight. A massage may be relaxing, but there isn't really any scientific evidence to show that it improves weight-loss results. For that, you'll need to make changes to your diet and start exercising more often. Check with your doctor before getting a stomach massage, as this isn't safe for everyone.
Massage and Weight Loss
Lymph is a liquid in the body that helps fight disease, and during a lymphatic drainage massage, light strokes are used to help move this fluid around the body and drain excess lymph. Lymphatic drainage massage, including the massage of the stomach, is sometimes used in France to help with weight loss, although there isn't a lot of research to back up this practice. A study published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology in 2010 found that lymphatic drainage massage, connective tissue manipulation and mechanical massage all helped to slightly decrease the thickness of fat under the skin. The difference was only about 2 millimeters, however, so it isn't likely to lead to significant fat or weight loss.
Aromatherapy Massage and Weight Loss
A study published in the Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing in 2007 found that regular aromatherapy abdominal massage using a mix of oils including grapefruit and cypress helped reduce abdominal fat and waist circumference more than similar massages using plain grapeseed oil. Further research is necessary to verify these effects, however, as the study wasn't very well designed. The control group and the study group weren't equivalent, so something else may have affected the results other than the aromatherapy.
Stomach Massage and Constipation
Getting a stomach massage may help speed the passage of food through your digestive tract and help treat constipation, according to a review article published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies in October 2011. While removing any blockage isn't actual weight loss, it may help you look and feel a little better. Constipation can cause your stomach to be bloated or swollen, so treating the problem may help you appear thinner.
Electrical Stimulation Devices and Weight Loss
While the idea of buying an electrical stimulation device you can use to massage your stomach -- or any other part of your body -- to help increase the muscle and lose body fat in that area may be tempting, it probably isn't worth the money. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2002 found that these devices weren't beneficial for weight or fat loss.
Importance of Diet and Exercise
Instead of relying on stomach massage for weight loss, exercise more often and eat fewer calories. Aim to get 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense exercise at least five days a week, and participate in a strength-training session at least twice per week. This will help increase the number of calories you burn and make it more likely that you're losing fat instead of muscle. To lose 1/2 to 1 pound per week, you'll need to eat 250 to 500 fewer calories per day. Limiting highly processed foods, high-fat and sugary foods while eating more foods high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and foods high in protein will help you limit the calories you eat while still feeling full.
Although getting a massage is generally safe, there are some people who should avoid doing so, including those with bleeding disorders, blood clots in the legs, heart or kidney failure, contagious skin conditions or infections of the soft tissue or superficial veins. People who have recently had surgery, those with cancer and those with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoporosis should check with a doctor before getting a massage to make sure it would be safe for them. Stomach massage is contraindicated during pregnancy or if a person has a urinary tract infection, high blood pressure, an abdominal hernia, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory infection or prolapsed uterus.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Massage
- Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies: The Use of Abdominal Massage to Treat Chronic Constipation
- Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing: [Effect of Aromatherapy Massage on Abdominal Fat and Body Image in Post-Menopausal Women]
- NYMag.com: How French Women Combat Cellulite
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Effects of Electrical Muscle Stimulation on Body Composition, Muscle Strength, and Physical Appearance
- General Council for Massage Therapies: MT1 Principles of Cautions and Contra Indications
- Drugs.com: Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour
- Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology: Effects of Mechanical Massage, Manual Lymphatic Drainage and Connective Tissue Manipulation Techniques on Fat Mass in Women With Cellulite