The history and therapeutic benefits of relieving pain through increased body communication
SOME FORMS OF COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE (CAM) HAVE BEEN AROUND FOR AGES. The use of manipulative therapy can be found as far back as 400 BCE, according to research published in the Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy. And spinal manipulation specifically has been utilized therapeutically by health care professionals since 1895, which is the year D.D. Palmer conducted the first-ever chiropractic session.
Now new health-enhancing remedies are beginning to emerge as innovative health care professionals are finding more and more natural ways to treat patients and increase their overall levels of health. One of the more recent remedies that is showing promising results is visceral manipulation.
Developed by French osteopath and physical therapist Jean-Pierre Barral in the 1970s, visceral manipulation is a therapeutic approach that involves performing fascial mobilization on specific visceral organs and other structures like muscles, fascia and ligaments in an effort to help the body restore its own physical health.
First a health care professional locates potential issues within a patient’s viscera, such as decreased motion or restrictive patterns. These issues may occur due surgery, illness or injury, each of which can result in the development of scars and adhesions that ultimately cause pain or dysfunction. If any of these types of issues are located, the health care practitioner then applies gentle force to the restricted or damaged area. This improves the body’s proprioceptive communication, thereby also relieving its pain and dysfunction.
The Barral Institute, of which Barral himself is the curriculum developer, indicates that visceral manipulation can be conducted by a variety of different health care professionals. This includes doctors of chiropractic, physical therapists, massage therapists, naturopathic physicians and other licensed bodyworkers, among others. The goal is to find the source of the problem within the patient’s viscera and address it versus focusing solely on treating the areas where he or she may be experiencing pain or dysfunction.
Research has found that this newer form of therapy provides a number of benefits.
For instance, in a 2013 study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, researchers noted that abdominal adhesions are one of the top complications that occur after abdominal surgery. However, currently, only one option exists for dealing with these adhesions, and that is to undergo an additional surgery. Yet, in this study, 30 rats with abdominal adhesions were placed into one of three groups. The first group underwent the additional surgery to remove the adhesion, the second group engaged in visceral manipulation, and the third group served as a control. The results were then evaluated by blinded investigators who, after analyzing the data, determined that not only did visceral manipulation help effectively deal with these lesions more so than the other two options (surgery or doing nothing), the therapeutic remedy also helped prevent the adhesions from forming in the first place.
Another study, this one published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2018, involved 28 subjects with nonspecific neck pain and cervical mobility issues. Some of the participants were treated with visceral manipulation and the rest received placebo treatments.
While there was no noticeable effect on cervical range of motion in either group, the subjects treated with just one session of actual visceral manipulation to the stomach and liver reported an immediate reduction in their levels of pain. Additionally, this positive effect was still present seven days post-treatment.
Visceral organs and emotional health
The Barral Institute adds that visceral manipulation can also offer emotional health benefits for those struggling with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Many health experts have noted a connection between certain visceral organs and emotion. For instance, one piece of research published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine shares how anger can impact the liver, how fear can have an effect on the kidneys, and that anxiety can influence the health of the heart and lungs.
By addressing these connections — both physically and emotionally — health care practitioners can help patients improve their levels of health. And they can do it naturally.
CHRISTINA DEBUSK is a freelance writer who specializes in content related to natural health and wellness, personal development, and small business marketing. She can be contacted through ChristinaMDeBusk.com.