Massages aren’t off-limits after you have an ileostomy, but there are a few things for patients to know.
After having an ileostomy, it’s common for patients to experience increased soreness, tenderness, or stiffness — not only in the parts of the body directly affected by the surgery, but often in the surrounding areas, including the neck, shoulders, and back.
Visiting a massage therapist is an excellent way to relieve muscle tension — especially if you are still regaining mobility or easing back into everyday life — and can help even reduce the formation of scar tissue during your recovery. The body creates scar tissue, or “adhesions,” in response to muscle damage, which can cause recovering organs and tissues to stick to each other during the healing process. Massages help to keep the adhesions from setting and can even minimize the formation of scar tissue down the line.
If you’re concerned whether you can get a massage with an ostomy, you don’t need to be — getting a massage is a perfectly safe procedure. Here are a few things you can try with your therapist to get the most from your visit.
Depending on your comfort level, the first step is to inform your massage therapist about your ostomy. This is not necessary or required but is often helpful in developing an approach that accommodates and works best for your body. Your therapist is there to treat your body specifically, with all of its quirks and everything that makes it unique. Many massage therapists have experience working with patients who have ostomies — even if yours doesn’t, they might be interested to learn more about them from you. Another reason talking to your therapist is useful is that it can help to establish a rapport. This way, if anything feels uncomfortable or not quite right, or if you need to shift or pause during the session, you feel comfortable speaking up right away.
From there: If you are comfortable lying face-down on a massage table, place the headrest or a travel neck pillow beneath you around your ostomy, with the opening of the pillow aligned with the opening of the pouch. This helps relieve direct pressure from the ostomy, allowing output to flow if need be, while still supporting your hips. Stomas are resilient and won’t typically be harmed when you lie face down, but providing enough lift for your hips will often improve your comfort — especially if you place a second pillow under your other hip to keep you from being lopsided.
When recovering from surgery, it might take months before you feel comfortable lying on your stomach, but there are a few options available for patients who aren’t ready or able to have a face-down massage. One is to look into massage therapists who practice or are familiar with prenatal massage. Prenatal massage tables are designed to accommodate large bellies, which can also work for face-down massage for ostomy patients.
Other alternatives include getting a massage while sitting or lying on your side; prenatal massage therapists are also more likely to have experience with these kinds of massage. Massage chairs or benches can also be used.
Having an ostomy shouldn’t — and doesn’t — bar you from accessing the relaxing, therapeutic benefits of seeing a licensed masseuse.
The Center for Ileostomy Surgery works hard to ensure that patients recovering from ostomy surgeries can return to living life to the fullest. To learn more about how to improve your quality of life with an ostomy, including which myths you can ignore, visit our website. While you’re there, contact us to schedule a consultation.