The liver is the source of detoxification of the body -- so when it's stagnant, or not working the way it should, you may experience symptoms such as moodiness, menstrual pain, irritable bowel, back, neck and shoulder pain, or other symptoms. In the worst cases, a stagnant liver could lead to cancer. If you experience symptoms like these, contact your doctor. Some massage therapists believe you can keep your liver healthy and allow it to remain its "motility," or natural movement, with massage exercises, either self-administered or administered by a massage professional. As with any self-treatment, be sure to talk to a health professional before trying these techniques.
The first step to performing liver massage is knowing where it's located. Look at a picture of the body's internal organs and you'll see that it's mostly just below the right rib cage, with parts of it extending under the left ribs. To feel for it, lie on your back, which will help to relax your abdominal muscles and make it easier to find the liver. Slide your fingers from your sternum, down along your right rib cage. The liver is partially obscured by your ribs, but you may be able to feel a slight bulge, depending on your body composition.
Lie on your back and place your left arm over your head to lengthen the abdomen. Place the heel or thumb portion of your palm on your sternum, with your thumb pointing toward your left side. Then slide your right hand along your rib cage, all the way down until you reach your side, roughly parallel with your navel. Breathe deeply and massage down the rib cage and away from the body in this manner for as long as it feels comfortable, anywhere from one to 10 minutes.
Now lie on your right side, with your knees bent, with your head in a comfortable, slightly forward position. Place your left hand over your liver, and use the thumb knuckle of your left hand to slide under your rib cage on the right hand side, at the location of the liver. Press inward along the bottom of the rib cage, moving slowly down and then back up along the ribs. Do this technique for as long as it feels comfortable -- one to 10 minutes should suffice.
You can also do a standing yoga position that massages the liver, without having to perform a massage with your hands. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and place your hands on your hips. Make circles with your hips, focusing on pushing your torso farther and farther outward with each circle. Continue these hip circles for about 10 minutes.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.