Jean Pierre Barral talking about Visceral Manipulation
The osteopath Jean-Pierre Barral was introduced to the concept of visceral manipulation while working as a physical therapist at the Lung Disease Hospital in Grenoble, France, where he met Georges Arnaud, a specialist in lung disease and cadaver dissection. With Arnaud, Barral studied the patterns of stress in the tissues of cadavers together with the biomechanics of living subjects. This introduced him to the visceral system, its potential to promote lines of tension within the body, and the notion that tissues have memory. Using his work with Arnaud as a foundation, Barral continued to investigate how the thickening of tissues in the body created areas of greater mechanical tension that, in turn, pulled on surrounding tissues. His discoveries led him to the theoretical and practical development of 'visceral listening techniques', whereby when 'listening', the therapist's hands remain totally passive, while sensing and evaluating the axis and amplitude of visceral motility. Working primarily with articular and structural manipulation, Barral began forming the basis for visceral manipulation during an unusual session with a patient he had been treating with spinal manipulations. On a return visit, Barral noted appreciable improvement in the patient's range of motion. The patient confirmed that he felt relief from his back pain after going to an "old man who pushed something in my abdomen", a statement which piqued Barral's interest in the relationship between the viscera and the spine. He subsequently began to explore stomach manipulations with several patients, with successful results, leading him to develop visceral manipulation. With the help of the radiologist Serge Cohen, Barral also documented changes in the viscera before and after manipulation, employing x-ray fluoroscopy and ultrasound to record changes in position and motion, as well as fluid exchange and evacuation . Cohen and Barral also conducted additional research with a team
Visceral Manipulation: The Organ Massage That Heals Pain, Digestion and Other Problems
An Overview of Visceral Manipulation
The purpose of visceral manipulation is to recreate, harmonize, and increase proprioceptive communication in the body, in order to enhance its internal mechanism for optimum health. Visceral manipulation is organ-specific fascial mobilization, and is based on the premise that free movement within the body is vital, and thus any restriction will adversely affect health. Visceral manipulation treats functional and structural imbalances throughout the body, with an aim to affect musculoskeletal, vascular, nervous, urogenital, respiratory, digestive, and lymphatic dysfunction. It evaluates and treats the dynamics of motion and suspension in relation to organs, membranes, fascia, and ligaments and increases proprioceptive communication within the body, thereby revitalizing it, and relieving symptoms of pain, dysfunction, and poor posture. Visceral manipulation relies on the palpation of normal and abnormal forces within the body, with the specific goal of encouraging normal tone and movements, both within and between the internal organs, their connective tissue, and other structures of the body where normal motion has been impaired. By using precise manual techniques, such as palpation of the superficial and deep fascia and the mobility and motility of individual organs, therapists can evaluate how abnormal forces interplay, overlap, and affect the normal body forces at work. The goal of visceral manipulation is to help the body return to normal function and thereby remove compensatory symptoms, whatever their source, leading to improved health and optimal body functioning.
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 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:
Visceral manipulation is used to locate and release dysfunctional patterns throughout the body that restrict movement and decrease vitality. It encourages the patient's own natural mechanisms to improve the functioning of organs, dissipate the negative effects of stress, enhance mobility of the musculoskeletal system through the connective tissue attachments, and influence general metabolism.
Therapists using visceral manipulation assess the dynamic functional actions as well as the somatic structures that perform individual activities. They also evaluate the quality of the structures (including the muscles, fascia, organs, and fluids) and their functions in relation to an overall harmonious pattern, with motion serving as the gauge for determining quality. Owing to the delicate and often highly reactive nature of the visceral tissues, it is suggested that a gentle, precisely directed force be used. As with other methods of manipulation that affect the body deeply, visceral manipulation works only to assist the self-healing forces already at work, and because of this, trained therapists who apply it appropriately will most likely benefit the body rather than adding further injury or disorganization.
Patients seek out visceral manipulation for a variety of disorders that affect the body's systems. These include: • Acute disorders: whiplash, seat-belt injuries, and chest or abdominal sports injuries. • Musculoskeletal disorders: somatic-visceral interactions, chronic spinal dysfunction, headaches and migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome, peripheral joint pain, and sciatica. • Pain related to post-operative scar tissue, post-infection scar tissue, and autonomic mechanisms. • Digestive disorders: bloating, constipation, nausea, acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and swallowing dysfunctions. • Women's and men's health issues: chronic pelvic pain, endometriosis, fibroids and cysts, dysmenorrhea, bladder incontinence, prostate dysfunction, referred testicular pain, and effects of menopause. • Pediatric issues: constipation, gastritis, persistent vomiting, vesicoureteral reflux, colic, torticollis. • Emotional issues: anxiety and depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Visceral manipulation returns physiologic motion to the tissues, thereby enhancing normal movement of the body, including the movement of the visceral structures in relation to each other and the motion within each structure. It also increases communication within the body through improved functioning of the nervous system, circulation, lymphatic, and respiratory systems by softening the fascia that surrounds each of these structures, thereby reducing pressure on them, as well as allowing better exchange of fluids. This improves the breakdown and removal of waste products, reduces inflammation and pain, and improves the delivery of hormones and chemicals to the cells. By releasing and/or resolving a restriction of the tissue, including adhesions or scars, normal circulation can resume in the body. The rate of tissue repair is increased, as normal nerve function and associated axoplasmic transportation is restored in the area being treated.
Visceral manipulation can also aid mood and sleep, partly through the effect that serotonin levels have on these elements, which is increased through massage applications, and the role that the digestive system plays in making this hormone. Spasms in muscles can be released, thereby reducing or eliminating pain, as well as increasing joint flexibility. Overall, visceral manipulation re-establishes the body's ability to adapt and restore itself to health, balance, and vitality.