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What is Visceral Manipulation

An Introduction

The whole body is connected, you have to look at everything when treating a patient – this is where viscera comes in.

The whole body is connected

By: Rebekah Hobbs – Sharing her Personal Journey into the discovery of Visceral Manipulation.

As a physiotherapist I have always been fascinated with the biomechanics of the body and how dysfunction in the one area can have widespread effects on the rest of the body. As my experience in working with the human body grew, I began to notice that there was a large connection between abdominal surgeries and musculoskeletal pain. However, I noticed that the ongoing problems seemed to stem beyond surface scar tissue and muscular spasm after being manipulated during surgery. Once having my interest piqued I began to notice that there seemed to be a correlation between gastrointestinal issues and back or hip pain. I began to explore Visceral Manipulation (VM) and quickly signed up for the next available course. What I discovered has not only changed the way I treat my patients, but it has enhanced my understanding of the human body.

I developed a severe pain in my hip a few years ago. There was no identifiable cause and it continued to worsen, even affecting my leg. The pain really impacted my life. While on the VM course, we were taught a technique – I could immediately feel the impact on my hip while they were working on my gut. After standing up and walking a few steps my hip pain immediately improved and so did my walking pattern.

The thing that fascinated me the most was that I have never had a surgery, but here I was, with scar tissue in my abdomen. Since then I have begun using the techniques and theory of Visceral Manipulation to help a variety of patients with problems arising from stress, disease and surgeries that have caused a change in abdominal biomechanics.

What are Viscera?

Viscera are the organs of your body. The term viscera is derived from the Latin word ‘viscus’, which means an organ of the body; viscera is the term used in medical practice to refer to the internal organs as a whole. For example, our heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and gut all form part of the viscera.

Our organs are suspended in our bodies by layers of fascia, which surrounds and connects the organs to each other and the body wall (muscles and bones). Fascia is a thin connective tissue layer that surrounds and separates organs and muscles. Fascia is continuous throughout the body and provides a variety of functions; such as a passageway for blood and lymph vessels and nerves. Fascia also provides shock absorption and stores fat and water.

What is Visceral Manipulation exactly?

Life is defined by motion; the human body is no different.

We do not only move in response to our external environment, but our internal environment has motion of its own that we are not always conscious of. This internal motion is of utmost importance to the functioning of the body.

Tissues lose their normal motion when they become inflamed or suffer trauma. This is because the healing process replaces the normal tissue fibres with less elastic granular (scar) tissue. This disrupts the physiological motion of the organs thus, decreasing the overall health and function of not only the organ itself but surrounding organs and tissues.

VM is a gentle manual therapy technique that assesses the relationship between the body’s organs and their connections to surrounding structures.

Causes of Tissue Inflammation include:

  • Infection
  • Direct Trauma
  • Repetitive Movements
  • Diet
  • Environmental Toxins
  • Emotional or Psychological Stress

How does Visceral Manipulation Work?

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

Jean-Pierre Barral, D.O.

Visceral Manipulation helps restore the natural motion of the organs by using gentle specifically placed manual forces.

These specific forces stimulate mechanoreceptors and proprioceptors (nerve endings) and encourage normal mobility in relation to surrounding structures, as well as the inherent tissue motion of the organs (motility) and their connective tissue.

What can I expect of visceral manipulation?

While lay people in the media are referring to VM as organ massage it is a very different technique and requires a lot less pressure. The touch is very light and does not involve the ‘stroking’ motion associated with massage. The touch is so light and specific to the problem area that people often ask if I am even doing anything.

The session generally starts with a quick interview, as do most physiotherapy sessions, then moves on to assessment. VM, like conventional physiotherapy starts with observation of general posture and local restrictions. When the hands on assessment begins we use a technique called listening (which is done with the hands) to feel the lines of fascial tension through the body and down to a specific organ. From there the specific organ restriction is treated and the conventional physiotherapy is used to release any residual musculoskeletal restrictions.

Homecare after VM is all about being kind and listening to your body. Specific organs have specific sets of care but overall the general rule is no tight clothing or ingestion of things that may irritate your systems and stress management.

Conditions that can be treated with Visceral Manipulation are:

  • Acid Reflux and Heartburn
  • All types of hernias
  • Headaches
  • Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Whiplash and other physical trauma
  • Shoulder Periarthritis and Capsulitis
  • Post-Surgical Pain and Scar tissue
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Liver disorders
  • Digestive disorder
Visceral Manipulation is a soft technique

FAQ of VM:

Who can do visceral manipulation?

VM was developed by French osteopath Jean-Pierre Barral in the 1980’s and has undergone extensive research and is still being refined continuously, as his knowledge of the body improves. Only specifically trained medical professionals can perform this form of treatment and you have to have a medical degree to learn how to do it. Visceral Manipulation is a post-graduate course and has various levels to complete.   

What about my other pain?

The body is an intricate and integrated machine, this means that your pain may not be caused by the area you feel it in, often the restriction is elsewhere and this could be an organ. If the adjustment of the organ restriction does not fully resolve the pain other techniques are used to release it.

Can I exercise after having VM?

Yes, depending on the organ and type of exercise your schedule may need to be adjusted for a short period.

However, as with all treatment the aim is to get you back to your normal or optimal activity level.

Can I have it after having surgery?

Yes, VM is extremely beneficial after surgery, in fact I would say it is essential due to the scar tissue build up.

However, you should only go for VM once your healing period is over and stitches are removed. This is usually at 6 weeks post-op.

What about pregnancy?

Currently, I do not treat pregnant woman and a general recommendation is not to receive VM until post-delivery.

If you have any further questions regarding Visceral Manipulation or treatment, please contact or phone (011) 888 3018 to make an appointment.

It is never too late to look after your body, maybe the answers are really within!