Why Does My Stomach Grumble in a Massage?

Working as a massage therapist  I’ve learned how to pick up on subtle clues from you to see how the treatment is going. Sometimes you let out an audible sigh with a small smile. Often you tell me, “That feels good right there.” Or “you found the sore spot!”

Other signs of relaxation or enjoyment are not easy to see. Slowed breathing, un-clenched hands, and un-tensing muscles aren’t shining beacons of light to the untrained eye, but they are all things I pay attention to. I want you to be relaxed on the massage table. You should be comfortable and able to rest during your massage. Most of the time your body will settle in to the work and I can see or feel it.

Headache relief with scalp massage
Headache relief with scalp massage

Sometimes I can even hear your body switch from un-relaxed to relaxed. Yep, that’s right. I can hear your body begin to rest. And so can you! Actually, many of you make a comment about this not-so-subtle sign of rest: “I’m so sorry my stomach is growling, I’m not even hungry! It’s so loud.”

This is how I know your body is comfortably resting.

Your body’s autonomic nervous system has three divisions: sympathetic, parasympathetic, and enteric. The sympathetic nervous system is commonly associated with the “fight or flight” response. It’s not uncommon to be in a state of fight or flight during the work-day. You are dealing with stress, driving, meeting deadlines, etc. Your body isn’t usually “at rest” while working. Your energy is used in your activities.

The parasympathetic nervous system is associated with “rest and digest.”

Certain bodily functions happen while at rest: salivation, urination, defecation, and digestion. Your body’s digestive system begins working when you rest or relax. What happens when the digestive system works? It moves and makes grumble-y/growl-y noises!*

Almost every single massage client I’ve worked on this past decade has experienced a grumble-y stomach.

I can even pin-point when your stomach will growl: half-way through the treatment. Sometimes it happens earlier, sometimes later, but it almost always happens. And I smile because I know your autonomic nervous system is responding how you want and need it to.

Your body needs time to “rest and digest.” What better way than with a massage? Please, don’t be embarrassed by your growling stomach, it’s how I know I’m doing a good job!