What Is Visceral Manipulation?

a physician performs visceral manipulation on a patient

Developed by the French osteopath, Jean Pierre Barral D.O., visceral manipulation is a valuable treatment for musculoskeletal issues as well as functional problems involving the body’s deeper organ systems.

All organs glide on one another in the cramped cavities of the body such as the abdomen, chest or pelvis. The organ’s mobility is its ability to move and live in harmony with its neighbors.

Loss of the organ’s sliding capacity may result in internal tensions that manifest themselves not locally, but in the musculoskeletal system. Longstanding low back, thoracic and neck pain, sciatica, sacroiliac pain and tailbone pain often have a visceral origin.

Traditional approaches using physical therapy, injections and chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation are often unsuccessful or are met with only brief success before symptoms recur.

The Visceral Manipulation Solution

Individuals with these issues frequently go from practitioner to practitioner in frustration searching for solutions. The brilliant observation of Barral is that the source of the problem may be detected through listening, an osteopathic technique that permits the practitioner to determine where the body is holding the tension responsible for the symptoms. Locating the origin provides a means of treating the source of the problem successfully.

Every organ also has inherent movement or motility. Loss of this activity may result in functional issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, constipation or SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth). Performing visceral manipulation on individuals with these conditions stimulates the enteric nervous system of the gastrointestinal tract and is an important component of a comprehensive treatment approach for these problems.

The goal of all manipulation is to help restore balance and equilibrium to the body as a whole and the organ systems in particular. Even if one has a structural abnormality such as a ruptured disc, a torn meniscus or a stomach ulcer, the dynamic equilibrium of the region is often compromised, even before the injury or symptoms occur. This unstable state may be responsible for our getting injured in the first place. Examining an individual through a visceral lens and treating functional imbalance can accelerate healing and diminish symptoms.

Some of The Conditions We Treat With Visceral Manipulation

  • Headache
  • Vertigo
  • Tinnitus
  • Temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ)
  • Facial pain
  • Back or joint pain; neck, spine, shoulder, wrist, hip, knee
  • Coccydynnia (tailbone pain)
  • Repetitive strain injury (RSI)
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS)
  • Nerve pain or symptoms
  • Functional GI issues; GERD, Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation or diarrhea, SIBO.
  • Pelvic floor pain and symptoms
  • Regional pain syndrome
  • Chronic pain syndrome

In the treatment of chronic conditions, it is important that serious underlying medical conditions have already been explored and ruled out by the individual’s primary care physician or other specialist before commencing treatment focused on improving how the body functions.

Whenever an individual has a chronic medical problem there are invariably multiple issues, each affecting the other, creating symptoms. Adoption of a simplistic approach often leads to failure and frustration. Only through careful identification of all elements is a treatment plan stacked for success.

A program of therapeutic stretching is often added to the rehabilitation program with a goal of restoring musculoskeletal balance and is complementary to manipulative treatment.