Visceral Manipulation: The Organ Massage That Heals Pain, Digestion and Other Problems
Over the years, I’ve seen hundreds of healers ranging from conventional doctors to Ayurvedic practitioners to a Peruvian shaman. Some of the more unusual practitioners would do deep abdominal massage.
Almost immediately, I would notice improvements in areas of my body they didn’t touch at all, especially when the practitioner used deep, targeted strokes. To be perfectly honest, these were not always the most relaxing procedures in the moment, but soon after, I felt my body relax and reposition in ways I didn’t expect.
There was one Chinese medicine doctor in particular who used two fingers and went in deep, then used long gliding pressure strokes to really strip the connective tissue around my organs. At the time, I felt every inch of my insides. I joked that he rearranged my organs with his hands, and while he was working I felt my muscles in my upper and mid-back release, even though he was nowhere near my back muscles.
My whole body tensed, then the relaxation that followed melted me into the table. It’s something you have to experience to describe. Some people have an emotional response, likely from the release of bound-up stress hormones.
When I would leave appointments with that doctor, I sat taller. I felt taller. And, my body changed. He massaged my abdomen, but my shoulder moved differently from then on. I had a more comfortable flow when walking. If you’re wondering what was the mechanism behind the change, keep reading to learn about how the movement of your organs relates to your whole body.
Your organs are soft and need to move inside your body to do their jobs. Visceral mobility is how well your organs can contract and release and squish as needed. Overburdened or damaged organs can develop adhesions and scar tissue that makes them less pliable. When the fascia — the connective tissue and fluid around organs — becomes stiff, it limits their movement and pliability and hinders your organs’ function.
This carries through to the rest of your body, and there are two main ideas behind why. First there’s the logic that the entire body is innervated, so problems on the organ side of the nerve carry through the length of the nerve to muscles and limbs. The second idea is that stiff fascia around an organ formed because there was a problem, and that’s your body’s way of protecting vulnerable spots. Once the problem resolves, the fascia remains. Your whole body’s movement stems from your core, and pain and tightness from your organs sends the signal to limit movement from the parts of your body that will expose the vulnerable area.
Visceral mobility isn’t well researched, but my guess is, it’s a combination of the two. Your organs and systems do not exist in a vacuum. Your whole body is connected and constantly communicating in ways science hasn’t discovered yet.
What is visceral manipulation?
Visceral manipulation involves abdominal massage that combines pressing, deep strokes, and friction to strip away the adhesions. The goal is to restore the pliable, mobile state that helps your organs get the circulation, nutrients, and suppleness they need to function properly.
Benefits of visceral manipulationLike I said before, you have to experience it to believe it. There’s nothing like feeling your muscles and joints release and realign, all because someone worked on your abdominal cavity for a while.
Anecdotally, people report improvements in many areas, like:
Visceral manipulation isn’t well-researched. A lot of the research around it involves rat models, but results are worth paying attention to. Here are a few examples of things researchers observed about visceral manipulation so far:
First, you will lie face-up on a massage or exam table. Your practitioner can feel your viscera — your major internal organs located in the abdomen — by lightly pressing through your abdominal muscles.
Your practitioner’s manual poking, pressing and massage action does three things: