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Visceral Manipulation Therapy

Visceral manipulation therapy is a form of therapy based on gentle massage and manipulation of the viscera (AKA the main cavities of the body located within the cavities such as the intestines). It was developed by a French osteopath named Jean-Pierre Barral and so has strong links to osteopathy and is based on many of the underlying principles of osteopathy.

Osteopaths believe in a holistic interpretation of health that views the body not as various isolated parts, but as one whole that must work in unison. Their belief then is that a seemingly unrelated joint issue a limb or even an illness, might be caused by problems with the spine. In visceral manipulation the focus is instead on the organs and here manipulation is used to try and improve their function by releasing tension and irritations. The belief is that organs normally move to an extent as a result of pressures exerted by surrounding tissues, ligaments and joints, and that when this movement is interrupted the function of the organ is affected and the circulatory system and other connections may be blocked. Thus by massaging the area and restoring normal 'movement' the intention is to treat and prevent a range of problems.

This is a form of alternative medicine then that is not used by general practitioners, though it is more widely accepted than some forms of alternative medicine and as a form of massage therapy holds some obvious value and can be used to treat:

Joint pain

Range of motion

Back and joint pain

Recovery from muscle and joint injury

Headaches and migraines (through the relief of physical stress)

Improve mood (through the release of serotonin)

Release stress

Of course it can also just be a pleasant procedure in itself, like any form of massage. Visceral massage therapy may also be able to help improve virility, prevent infection and vascular impairment and aid digestion.

What to Expect

When attending a visceral manipulation session you may be sat in a massage chair or asked to lie on a table depending on the therapist and the location of your problems. Most visceral massage therapy focuses on the abdominal cavity so you can expect deep tissue massage used to find restrictions and blockages and then to help release the tension. This will usually last for up to 45 minutes.

Does Visceral Massage Therapy Work?

Visceral massage therapy will massage areas where you might be feeling discomfort with the intention of aiding the function of the organs. Whether this works of course depends largely on the nature of the problem and on the therapist. Of course massage for an area that is experiencing discomfort will almost always help to treat pain and this is something we all do naturally to some extent such as when you rub a poorly stomach. At the very least this can aid blood flow and help to provide some distraction for the pain. This can also warm the area which may prove soothing. Many doctors recommend visceral massage as a form of treatment and practitioners have a thorough understanding of the structures within the abdominal cavity.

However at the same time osteopathy is still an alternative form of medicine and the holistic view is not always entirely accepted. Some practitioners grant visceral massage therapy almost a 'magic' status and claim it can aid all manner of health conditions that in some cases are unlikely to be affected by manipulation of the ligaments and muscles in the abdomen.





Theodoros Manfredi

Article reviewed by Theodoros Manfredi, PhD. A licensed physician who has worked with children and families for over seven years.


Copyrighted material; do not reprint without permission.

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