When you hear the term physical therapy, one tends to think of muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons. However, the proper mobility and balance of the visceral system (our organs) must also be taken into account if we look at the body as a whole. We cannot forget the role that our organs (viscera) play in our optimal health and well-being. The bodily functions of digestion, detoxification, circulation, and respiration are just a few examples of how the visceral system plays a strong physiological role in our bodies.
So how do we ensure visceral balance – through Visceral therapy.
Visceral therapy (also known as visceral manipulation) is a gentle hands-on therapeutic technique that helps to promote the healthy movement within the organs and the surrounding tissues and structures. Visceral therapy considers both the movements and quality of the internal organs themselves and their influence on the musculoskeletal to help treat back, neck, shoulders, and legs conditions. The body functions as one unit, and therefore it is important to treat the body as such - looking at all the structures that may be acting as a barrier to one's recovery. Visceral therapy has been used successfully to treat conditions such as:
- Back and neck pain
- Chronic whiplash pain
- Irritable bowel pain, constipation, infantile colic
- Pain in pregnancy
- Post-natal pain and pelvic floor trauma
- Post-operative pain and surgical adhesions
- Jaw pain
- Upper respiratory tract issues
Let us look at an example of visceral dynamics to overall health. Consider the stomach and liver which are suspended by ligaments to the diaphragm (your breathing muscle!). When the diaphragm does not move effectively, it affects the ability of the structures that are attached to it to function effectively. Diaphragmatic dysfunction creates a shallow breathing pattern, which in turn affects the stomach and liver. If these dysfunctions carry on for the long-term, it can lead to heartburn, hiatus hernia, stomach aches or digestives problems and furthermore to chronic back pain. The organs share a communication pathway to and from the spinal cord with muscles. If one organ is stressed or imbalanced, it will send messages back to the spinal cord, thereby exciting the muscles that share that same path to the spinal cord. This explains why various intestinal problems such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Diverticulitis, Ulcers and Hernias have a direct impact on your back (both spine and muscles).
It is also worth mentioning that the internal organs are exposed and vulnerable to emotions and mental health. Ever notice that your heart beats faster when you’re scared? How about the experience of ‘butterflies’ in the stomach, or bowel inconsistencies due to stress from an upcoming interview/exam? Emotional trauma can also leave their marks on the viscera and affect the biomechanics around it. Ignoring these aspects would be ignoring what the human being is made of: a whole simple unit with its emotional and physical sides.
If you are interested in learning how Visceral therapy can help your condition, or if you would like to book a consultation, please feel free to contact us at Honsberger Physio+.
Jason Varghese, B.SC. KIN, CAT(C)
Certified Athletic Therapist + Certified Kinesiologist