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Visceral manipulation (VM) is a gentle manual therapy technique created by Jean-Pierre Barral, DO, that works specifically with organs and their ligamentous attachments and fascial connections throughout the body. At Aspen Integrative Medical Center in Flagstaff, AZ, Alexandra Mele, ND specializes in visceral manipulation to stimulate function in organs that become dysfunctional. This can happen via direct injury (such as a surgical procedure), indirect injury (such as a car accident) or by chronic tension patterns held in the body. Visceral manipulation uses gentle touch and pressure to nudge organs back to ease and function within the system and decrease stress in the body. Without proper position, ease of movement and function of our organs and organ systems over time this creates a tremendous impact on our health. If our organs are not functioning properly it is nearly impossible to achieve wellness, health, or simply to have energy. Just as CST provides relief through working with connectedness of the entire system, visceral manipulation does as well, but really works with the nervous system via the nervous network through the organ systems. We have major organs in each area of our body that can affect our condition whether they are related to that system or not. For example, many organs have nerves that connect to and innervate different unrelated areas of the body. So, we may have pain in that unrelated, distant area first rather than at the source. It is very common to have severe right shoulder pain when it is really our gallbladder that is the problem. This is called a referred pain pattern. Our organs need to be able to move smoothly and easily against one another to accommodate every day movements such as walking, breathing and flexing and extending our spine. With dysfunction comes the impaired ability to do any of these activities which are critical for life.
What are the health benefits of craniosacral therapy?
Benefits of visceral manipulation include:
- Increased energy
- Decreased pain
- Improved function of the gastrointestinal, respiratory, genitourinary, cardiovascular and nervous systems
- Some of these improvements can be noted on labwork and others are noticed through reduction in chronic or acute symptoms or overall energy.
What conditions is visceral manipulation used to treat?
Visceral manipulation is used to treat many conditions but the most common conditions backed by clinical research and experience include:
- Most GI disorders (GERD, SIBO, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, bloating, hepatitis etc.)
- Autoimmune GI disorders (IBD, autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cholangitis)
- Hx MVA, TBI
- Most GU disorders (chronic kidney disease, recurring UTI, SLE, kidney ptosis, horseshoe kidney, incontinence)
- Pelvic floor dysfunction
- Diastasis recti
- Women’s health conditions (hysterectomy, endometriosis, PCOS)
- Recent abdominal/pelvic/thoracic surgery or hx multiple surgeries
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Joint pain
- Chronic pain
What should I expect during my first visceral manipulation session?
Loose, comfortable clothing is preferred as the practitioner will be contacting skin below the breast line, above the pubic bone and on the abdomen and thorax. History will be taken to understand your condition along with a general assessment of the areas of tension in the body. The areas of tension may not be related to your main concern, but please remember the whole body is connected! Working on a different area may facilitate release and relief in the area of main concern. Gentle and direct pressure will be applied mostly to the abdomen, but may require the patient to straighten or lift the legs, pelvis and arms for short periods of time. Side-lying is needed for more direct techniques, but most techniques are done with the patient lying on their back on a treatment table. Often several different areas need to be released so the patient may be more mobile on the treatment table depending on what is the primary treatment area.
Treatment usually lasts 30 minutes.
Is there any pain or discomfort with treatment?
There should never be any pain or discomfort during treatment. If there is, the patient will let the practitioner know and this will be aided. Accommodations can be made for patient comfort including bolsters for knees or lower back if there is pre-existing conditions.
What can I expect after a visceral manipulation treatment?
Patients can expect to feel relaxed, lighter and most have decreased pain. Most patients may feel they have more ‘space’ and less restriction in their abdomen as they breathe in and out. Sometimes patients feel they need to drink more water or not do many strenuous activities directly after treatment. Emotional release can occur as we work on the physical body, so patients may feel they are able to process past events or feel the need to cry or release emotions in whatever way feels best to them.
How many treatments will I need?
Treatments are typically every 2-4 weeks depending on the severity and chronicity of the issue. Treatments can be used to maintain relief and occur once monthly as adjunctive therapy, just like massage or chiropractic care. Some conditions may only need several treatments to see benefit.
How will I know if treatment is working for me?
Patients should expect relief of pain after 1 to several sessions, a change in their pain pattern or condition or the ability to be treated less often with the same beneficial results.
Can visceral manipulation and craniosacral therapy be done in the same session?
Yes! Both modalities complement each other well. Typically visceral restrictions are worked on first, followed by craniosacral therapy.
The Barral Institute, https://www.barralinstitute.com/therapies/index.php