Visceral Manipulation

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.

Life and motion are intertwined. Although we can have motion without life, we cannot have life without motion. Of particular importance are those motions – not ordinarily visible – that take place within the human body. They’re linked to many levels of activity, from cellular pulsations to rhythmic contractions of the heart, diaphragm, even the craniosacral system.

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.

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.