Written by: Phindile Le Bris Sithole-Spong
As someone who had sangomas (traditional healer) as grandparents, the idea of natural and alternative medicine has never been entirely new to me. The older I become, the more confident I am about traditional, natural and alternative routes for healing. My upbringing in Pretoria, South Africa gave me a sense of confidence, comfort and peace, knowing that these healing styles are valid and that, when done correctly with proper knowledge, they can have fantastic results.
As a self-proclaimed alternative medicine lover and pseudo practitioner, I have many alternative medicines, lotions, potions and gadgets. After years of learning and expanding my knowledge on this subject, I am further convinced of its powers and capabilities. The same can be said for auto (or self) massage, which falls, at least for me, under the realm of alternative medicine as it helps with several ailments.
My journey with self-massage began when I was introduced to the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice of gua sha. Gua sha, which means to scrape, is the process of using a flat stone tool with various nooks and crannies to use upward motions on your skin to allow better blood flow, its heals sore muscles and sculpt facial muscles when used on the face. For a while, I did it religiously before bedtime. I found it relaxing and effective in helping to heal sore joints and muscles.
Nowadays, I still do it, especially after walking a lot or after working out and feeling a bit stiff. But apart from healing sore aches and pains in the body, I have found gua sha and other auto massage practices to be very effective. Especially when it comes to healing my chronic Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which I have struggled with for as long as I can remember.
Now instead of reaching for the medicine cabinet, I find a comfortable spot to lie down and use my hands to massage my abdomen. I use a form of auto massage that focuses on helping to move any trapped gas and food from the large intestine, helping it to move easily to the small intestine and then out of the body. Through this practice, I have gained instant release and comfort, which I had previously only found through the use of western or conventional medicines for IBS. And whilst this form of massage can feel intimidating at first it. After a few tries, I realized how simple and effective it is to try and follow and can also be used on loved ones or children. Just the other day, I used this massage technique to help move my daughter's bowels after she complained of stomach aches. I was both silently amazed but also happy to see that with just my hands and gentle pressure, I could help ease her discomfort and, in her case, help her go to the bathroom easier.
I also love to use auto massage as a form of pain relief during my period. Because as many of you know, that time of the month can lead to hormonal changes that can cause bloating, trapped gas, diarrhoea and even constipation. All of which I have found to be eased by 5 minutes of auto massage. Hopefully, if you are like me and struggle with bowel issues, this simple technique can significantly help you. Following the massage, I like to load up on water and let my body do the rest and usually find relief within 30 minutes. So grab your hands and get massaging and if your loved one or little one also finds themselves with constipation or gas issues, feel free to try this on them too, the way I like.