Visceral manipulation

Written by Dr. Jill Marquess, DC for the Brattleboro Reformer June 27 2014

As a chiropractor, my primary focus of care is to evaluate and treat joint restrictions and restore optimal joint alignment and movement. Joint restrictions and dysfunctional joint movement inhibit proper nerve function, leading eventually to joint degeneration and pain.

Previous to my chiropractic training, I spent many years doing Massage Therapy. As a massage therapist, I focus on releasing restrictions and balancing soft tissues (muscle, tendons fascia, ligaments) for optimal function, health and wellness. My newest endeavor has been studying Visceral Manipulation. VM focuses on releasing restrictions surrounding the organs in the abdominal and thoracic cavity. VM has become another tool in my treatment toolbox.

What are Viscera?

Viscera are the organs in the abdomen (belly) and chest (thorax) of the body.

Who Created Visceral Manipulation?

Jean-Pierre Barral, DO, a French Osteopath and Physical therapist is credited with originating visceral manipulation. Jean-Pierre writes: "Visceral Manipulation is a manual technique consisting of gentle, specifically placed manual forces that encourage normal mobility, tone and inherent tissue motion of the viscera, their connective tissue and other areas of the body where physiologic motion has been impaired." Jean-Pierre says that VM is about restoring healthy movement of our organs through gentle specific manipulation.

Why do Viscera need to be manipulated?

Infection, trauma, repetitive movement, emotional stress, and environmental toxins, and poor diet can cause inflammation in our tissues. Inflammation causes tissues to lose their elasticity. Lack of elasticity causes tissues to lose their normal healthy physiological movement patterns. By releasing and restoring healthy tissue movement, our bodies have a greater ability to heal and feel good.

What conditions might VM help?

VM is not just about treating conditions. It's about releasing fascial restrictions and re-establishing balanced visceral mobility and organ motility and health. Yet, there are some common conditions that respond well to VM.

For example: Gastrointestinal symptoms can improve as one treats the sphincters (circular muscular areas from one organ to another) of the digestive tract. We have the Ileocecal valve between the small and large intestine, the Cardiac sphincter between the esophagus and stomach, and the Pyloric sphincter between the Stomach and duodenum.

Resolving restrictions in motion of the sphincters can improve movement through the esophagus, stomach and intestines and support overall digestion and elimination.

Another example is right shoulder pain that doesn't resolve with traditional treatment. Sometimes release of restrictions around the liver can help resolve the problem. In addition, acid reflux symptoms have been eased with releasing esophageal-stomach restrictions.

What does a Visceral Manipulation Treatment look like?

A typical visceral treatment will vary depending on whom you see, but some basic foundational skills apply. The primary evaluation technique is "listening" ... both a global listening and a local listening. It's important to note that where symptoms are felt by the patient may not always be where the primary visceral restriction is found. As a chiropractor, I integrate VM into my practice as an added observational and treatment skill to meet the health and wellness needs of my patients.

If you are interested in learning more about Visceral Manipulation, you can visit the Barral Institute Website: It is a healing tool that can contribute extraordinary results for a wide variety of systemic conditions.

Dr. Jill Marquess is a Chiropractic Physician at Sojourns Community Health Center in Westminster. Her expertise lies in the integration of physical medicine techniques to relieve pain as well as encourage balance in the body: restoring, improving and maintaining overall health and vitality. Marquess is passionate about connecting with people and honoring the human experience, welcoming patients of all ages.

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