Visceral Manipulation

Visceral Manipulation is a manual therapy consisting of gentle, specifically placed manual forces that encourage normal mobility, tone and inherent tissue motion of the viscera (organs), their connective tissue and other areas of the body where physiologic motion has been impaired.

Many factors can can cause loss of tissue mobility and function:

  • Inflammation
  • Infection
  • Direct Trauma
  • Posture
  • Repititious Movement
  • Diet
  • Environmental Toxins
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy

Visceral Manipulation assists functional and structural imbalances throughout the body including musculoskeletal, vascular, neurologic, urogenital, respiratory, digestive and lymphatic dysfunction. It evaluates and treats the dynamics of motion and suspension in relation to organs, membranes, fascia and ligaments. Visceral Manipulation increases proprioceptive communication within the body, thereby revitalizing a person, creating efficiencies of function and relieving symptoms of pain.

Visceral Manipulation is used to locate and solve problems throughout the body. It encourages your own natural mechanisms to improve the functioning of your organs, dissipate the negative effects of stress, enhance mobility of the musculoskeletal system through the connective tissue attachments, and influence general metabolism. Today, a wide variety of healthcare professionals perform Visceral Manipulation.

The purpose of Visceral Manipulation is to re-create, harmonize, and increase proprioceptive communication in the body to enhance its internal mechanism for better health.

Jean-Pierre Barral, D.O.

What is Visceral Manipulation?

“Viscera” relates to the internal organs of the body, such as the liver, kidneys and intestines.  Visceral Manipulation is a gentle manual therapy that aids your body’s ability to release restrictions and unhealthy compensations that cause pain and dysfunction.  Visceral Manipulation, or VM, does not focus solely on the site of pain or dysfunction, but evaluates the entire body to find the source of the problem.  The VM therapist feels for altered or decreased motion within the viscera, as well as restrictive patterns throughout the body and then applies VM techniques.  VM therapy re-establishes the body’s ability to adapt and restore itself to health.

How do organs contribute to pain and dysfunction?

Our body is made up of many interrelated components such as bones, muscles, nerves, a thin connective tissue called fascia, as well as the internal organs (viscera).  Your organs are in perpetual motion.  When you breathe, walk and stretch, your organs move in your chest and abdomen.  For example, when you take a breath, your kidneys move one inch; and with deep inhalation, they move 4 inches. In a day, they move a little over 1/2 mile.  That’s around 19,000 miles a lifetime!

This movement of organs is transmitted through fascia to other structures of the body.  When you are healthy, all structures move with an interconnected fluidity.  All of this movement is important as it influences activities throughout the body from the tiniest cellular pulsations to rhythmic contractions of the heart and blood flow.  Optimum health relies on a harmonious relationship between the motions of the organs and other structures of the body.

There are many reasons for an organ to lose its mobility: physical traumas, surgeries, sedentary lifestyle, infections, pollution, bad diet, poor posture and pregnancy/delivery.  When an organ is no longer freely mobile but is fixed to another structure, the body is forced to compensate.  This disharmony creates fixed, abnormal points of tension and the chronic irritation gives way to functional and structural problems throughout the body – musculoskeletal, vascular, nervous, urinary, respiratory and digestive, to name a few.

Imagine scar tissue around the lungs.  Because of the pull of the adhesion, with every breath, the movement patterns of the nearby structures would be altered.  This could shift rib motion creating pulls on the spine.  These restrictions might then show up as mid-back and neck pain, as well as limited motion in the shoulder.  This scenario highlights just one of hundreds of possible ramifications of a small dysfunction – magnified by thousands of repetitions each day.  This also explains how pain can often be far removed from the actual cause.

What does it feel like?

VM is a soft, hands-on manual therapy.  Underneath the pain or diagnosis is a compensatory pattern created in the body with the initial source of the dysfunction often being far from where the pain is felt.  Because of this, the practitioner searches for this pattern and the source, and treats the related tissues.  The treatment is a gentle compression, mobilization and elongation of the soft tissues.  As the source of the problem is released, the symptoms will start to decrease.