Visceral Manipulation

Releasing restrictions in the fascial system to accommodate movement

What is it?

Visceral manipulation is a gentle hands on technique developed by Jean Pierre Barral, a French Osteopath and Physiotherapist. The technique targets the fascial system around the organs and is applied in the skull, rib cage, abdominal and pelvic regions. The fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds and supports all structures in our body, including our organs. It is the fascia that connects our organs to each other, and to the bones of our spine, ribs and pelvis and even to certain deep postural muscles. When the muscles are active and moving the bones, the organs need to be able to move to accommodate this movement.

Causes of Restriction

There are the three main causes of restriction of the fascia of the organs:

Physical trauma – Physical trauma comes in the form of a physical impact anywhere on the body. These impacts result from falls, blows to the body, sporting injuries, motor vehicle accidents and repetitive strain injuries. 

Whiplash injuries are one of the most commonly treated injuries with this technique. During a whiplash injury the abdominal and thoracic structures are rapidly loaded on impact. For milliseconds at the time of impact the heavier internal organs such as the liver, heart, spleen and kidneys have a much higher relative weight, in proportion to the mass and acceleration of the colliding object. This changes the input into the ligaments that support these structures. Over time the body does its best to adapt and this adaptation can show up as changes in how the body is held and tight postural muscles, in which treatment and exercises targeting the muscles provides only temporary relief. In most traditional treatment approaches the neck is the focus of whiplash treatment. Many people get some good results from the traditional neck treatment approach but others do not and go on to develop more problems that are at first glance unrelated such as changes in appetite, heartburn and indigestion.

Surgery – The most relevant surgeries are abdominal, thoracic and pelvic surgeries. Even with the best surgeons and best technology any surgical procedure produces adhesions. Good technology and surgery can minimize these adhesions while complications such as infections requiring washouts, antibiotics, revision surgeries will result in more adhesion of the soft tissues.  Approximately nine soft tissue layers are cut through to enter the body and although some layers are stitched, unfortunately each delicate layer is not able to be stitched or otherwise returned to its previous form. This results in a potential sticking point as the body moves each day.

Infection – Infections change the inherent quality of the affected tissues. Infected soft tissues become inflamed initially, changing how they move. Once the infection is resolved the affected tissues tend to harden slightly making it harder for them to slide and glide across neighboring tissues.

Integrated Systems

According to Barral, 80% of musculoskeletal restrictions have a visceral component. Despite most healthcare professions approaching the body as separate parts and systems, the body is an integrated whole and functions as one during every moment of our day. Our organs must be able to move to accommodate the pressure changes of breathing, our heart breathing and the peristaltic action of our digestive tract. Most traditional anatomy education teaches one body system at a time and fails to help learners integrate these. Further study to understand the relationships between the various body systems, plus precise training of the hands is completed to apply visceral manipulation proficiently. Due to their soft and fluid nature, the viscera are much more sensitive to traumatic forces than the muscles and bones. The viscera are key to our survival and basic functioning. Our brain is great at recruiting neighboring muscles to hug and protect a struggling blood vessel, nerve or organ. If treatment of the muscular system is temporary at best, it may be time to look deeper.

The ISM approach used at Diane Lee and Associates fits well with visceral manipulation. A visceral problem can be picked up and treated just like a joint, muscle or nerve issue. Most people who’ve had several high impact accidents will have problems in all of these areas that
can be addressed.

Please wear clothes you can move freely in at your appointment. Some of the techniques require the pants and shirt to be adjusted or removed to expose the skin. Draping will be provided but please wear undergarments you are comfortable in. For ladies, please wear a bra without a wire and ensure the band and straps are not too tight.