The liver is an indispensable organ and its proper function is vital to a personal wellbeing and overall health.
The stresses of our modern daily lives place extra demands on it which can impact its proper functioning over the long term.
There are different modalities of massage that can benefit the liver. It can be affected by visceral manipulation, a direct but very gentle technique to improve the vitality and mobility of the organ itself within the abdominal cavity. Or it can be indirectly improved by regular systemic massage on the whole body. How is that possible? You may ask, ‘Doesn’t massage and manipulation on the muscles just help those tissues? In independent studies, massage has shown that it can have a positive affect on immune system functions, while increasing the feel-good hormones dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, while decreasing the hormone related to stress, called cortisol.
Cortisol is an important hormone for survival, signaling our energy stores to be made available quickly in emergencies. Our livers can then convert protein and fat in into glucose. However, too much stress built up over a long time wreaks havoc with blood sugar levels creating inflammation from imbalance within the endocrine system. The relationship between the brain, liver and cortisol in the stress response is a complex one, and not one to be tackled in this short article! Suffice it to say, prolonged stress can lead to liver stagnation from overwork.
Common signs of liver stagnation are brain fog, fatigue, itchy eyes, itchy skin, worsening signs include jaundice, bruising easily and swelling in abdomen and legs, pale coloured stool and dark urine. Also, it isn’t uncommon to soften musk skeletal dysfunctions, like peri arthritis of the right shoulder. For those of us who are women, our lives already have enough on their plate with all the other usual duties plus the extra hormone metabolism from our menstrual cycles, so it’s especially important not to overlook the liver. It is likely that a direct technique like visceral manipulation will benefit the stagnant liver more effectively.
The soothing effects of massage seem to modulate the constant barrage of blood cortisol in someone with chronic stress and the positive effects of a regular massage therapy regime have shown to be accumulative, with long term gains in general health, but of course it is necessary to also exercise, eat health and get good sleep!
Self-abdominal massage breathing techniques and stimulating acupressure points no the liver are things you can do at home.
Lie down comfortably on your back with your knees up and feet on the floor, place you hands on your lower ribs, most of your liver is on the right side, starting at the fifth rib (just below your breast) and below the breast bone (sternum) at midline gently hold and give a little squeeze with both your hands while breathing out, an inhale, release and spread your hands, keeping contract and repeat exhale with gentle squeeze. You can also stimulate the liver rather point on the bottom of the foot, just past the ball on the foot at the third to fifth toe, close to the instep, knead this area vigorously, massaging across the bottom of the foot.
Linda McLaren, RMT