The Therapeutic Value of Visceral Manipulation
The visceral system relies on the interconnected synchronicity between the motions of all the organs and structures of the body. At optimal health, this harmonious relationship remains stable despite the body's endless varieties of motion. But when one organ cannot move in harmony with its viscera due to abnormal tone, adhesions or displacement, it works against the body's other organs and muscular, membranous, fascial and osseous structures. This disharmony creates fixed, abnormal points of tension that the body is forced to move around. And that chronic irritation, in turn, paves the way for postural distortion, neuromuscular dysfunction, and disease processes.
Imagine an adhesion around the lungs. It would create a modified axis that demands abnormal accommodations from nearby body structures. For example, the adhesion could alter rib motion, which could then create imbalanced forces on the vertebral column and, with time, possibly develop a dysfunctional relationship with other structures. This scenario highlights just one of hundreds of possible ramifications of a small dysfunction - magnified by thousands of repetitions each day.
Thanks to the dedicated work of Jean-Pierre Barral, a Physiotherapist (RPT) and Osteopath (DO), healthcare practitioners today can use the rhythmic motions of the visceral system as important therapeutic tools.
Barral's clinical work with the viscera led to his development of a form of manual therapy that focuses on the internal organs, their environment and the potential influence on many structural and physiological dysfunctions. The term he coined for this therapy was Visceral Manipulation.
Visceral Manipulation relies on the palpation of normal and abnormal forces within the body. By using specific techniques, therapists can evaluate how abnormal forces interplay, overlap and affect the normal body forces at work. The goal is to help the body's normal forces remove abnormal effects,
whatever their sources. Those effects can be global, encompassing many areas of bodily function.
How Does Visceral Manipulation Help You?
Visceral Manipulation is used to locate and solve problems throughout the body. It encourages your own natural mechanisms to improve the functioning of your organs, dissipate the negative effects of stress, enhance mobility of the musculoskeletal system through the connective tissue attachments, and influence general metabolism. Today, a wide variety of healthcare professionals perform Visceral Manipulation.
How is Visceral Manipulation Performed?
Visceral Manipulation is based on the specific placement of soft manual forces to encourage the normal mobility, tone and motion of the viscera and their connective tissues. These gentle manipulations can potentially improve the functioning of individual organs, the systems the organs function within, and the structural integrity of the entire body.
Harmony and health exist when motion is free and excursion is full - when motion is not labored, overexcited, depressed, or conflicting with neighboring structures and their mobility. 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 somatic structures and their functions in relation to an overall harmonious pattern, with motion serving as the gauge for determining quality.
Due to the delicate and often highly reactive nature of the visceral tissues, gentle force precisely directed reaps the greatest results. As with other methods of manipulation that affect the body deeply, Visceral Manipulation works only to assist the forces already at work. Because of that, trained therapists can be sure of benefiting the body rather than adding further injury or disorganization.
How Did Visceral Manipulation Begin?
Jean-Pierre Barral first became interested in biomechanics while working as a registered physical therapist of the Lung Disease Hospital in Grenoble, France. That's where he met Dr. Arnaud, a recognized specialist in lung diseases and a master of cadaver dissection. Working with Dr. Arnaud, Barral followed patterns of stress in the tissues of cadavers and studied biomechanics in 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. All this was fundamental to his development of Visceral Manipulation. In 1974, Barral earned his diploma in osteopathic medicine from the European School of Osteopathy in Maidstone, England. Working primarily with articular and structural manipulation, he began forming the basis for Visceral Manipulation during an unusual session with a patient he'd been treating with spinal manipulations.
During the preliminary examination, Barral was surprised to find appreciable movement. The patient confirmed that he felt relief from his back pain after going to an "old man who pushed something in his abdomen."
This incident piqued Barral's interest in the relationship between the viscera and the spine. That's when he began exploring stomach manipulations with several patients, with successful results gradually leading him to develop Visceral Manipulation. Between 1975 and 1982, Barral taught spinal biomechanics at England's European School of Osteopathy. In collaboration with Dr. Jean-Paul Mathieu and Dr. Pierre Mercier, he published Articular Vertebrae Diagnosis.
Jean-Pierre Barral began teaching Visceral Manipulation in the United States in 1985. Since then he has trained a team of International Teachers that teach Visceral Manipulation seminars around the world. He has also authored numerous textbooks for healthcare professionals, including: Visceral Manipulation, Visceral Manipulation II, Urogenital Manipulation, The Thorax, Manual Thermal Evaluation, as well as Trauma: An Osteopathic Approach, Manual Therapy for the Peripheral Nerves, and Manual Therapy for the Cranial Nerves (the latter three were co-authored with Alain Croibier, D.O.). Jean-Pierre Barral has also authored a book for the general public, Understanding the Messages of Your Body, which discusses the link between our organs and our emotions.