Visceral Osteopathy involves treatments that many are unaware that Osteopaths provide. Many know osteopaths as those who “scrub” the spine, what is less known is that osteopathy also intervenes on visceral problems, such as gastroesophageal reflux, congestion of intestinal tract and many more. Since we’re very focused on gut health in our practice, let’s learn more about visceral osteopathy.
History Of Visceral Osteopathy
Looking back to the history of this treatment method, according to the founders of visceral osteopathy (Jacques Weischenck, Jean-Pierre Barral and Pierre Mercier), this treatment approach is focused on intra-abdominal organs and described with mechanical interactions.
In 2010 the World Health Organization (WHO) incorporated visceral techniques in the benchmarks for training in Osteopathy (WHO, 2010). In the past years, it has been estimated that, among all patients who receive osteopathic medicine treatment, the number of those patients receiving visceral treatments widely varies, 1-95 % (GOSC, 2011).
Some of the key concepts that we need to know when talking about visceral osteopathy are the concept of visceral mobility and visceral motility.
Mobility of an organ is considered as the movement that the organ can do based on its anatomical attachments, and Motility of an organ considered as the intrinsic rhythm of itself (Hebgen, 2010). These two kinds of movement seamlessly reconnect to one to the principles of osteopathy, the interaction between structure and function. Furthermore, is fundamental to keep into consideration the interaction between natural movements of the abdominal viscera and breathing patterns.
It is debated that these movements could be compared to the same way as an articulation moves (Barral et al. 2004). It is also claimed that dysfunction of the viscera, given the structural interdependence with the somatic system, can maintain, increase or even trigger musculoskeletal dysfunction such as lower back pain or gastrointestinal complaints such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) (Barral et al. 2004). As such, in some cases, the treatment of the viscera and somatic structures is necessary for a return to optimum function and health.
Insight Into The Research
In the scientific literature, a pilot randomized sham-controlled study conducted by Florance et al. (2012), investigating the effects of visceral osteopathic treatment on a patient with IBS, reported a significant decrease in IBS severity between the control and the intervention group, in the first seven days of treatment. In this study, the intervention consisted of direct and indirect techniques to the abdomen and colon.
An additional piece of research that can be highlighted is the one conduct by Tozzi et al. (2012). In this research, the authors analysed and compared the relationships between asymptomatic and symptomatic low back pain patients, and their association with kidneys mobility scores. Furthermore, the authors evaluated the effects of visceral osteopathic treatment on renal mobility and its relationship with lower back pain. The results reported a significant correlation between decreased kidney mobility and lower back pain. Additionally, visceral osteopathic treatment was shown to have a positive effect on kidney mobility and therefore affecting patients low back pain perception.
Visceral Osteopathy Explained
When an episode of back pain occurs, frequently we address this problem to the structures of the spine. However, it is common that these problems originate from situations involving the abdominal, thoracic and/or pelvic viscera.
Example: if a person suffers from issues in the intestine, he/she could complain of low back pain, if the “primary dysfunction” is the intestinal region, the osteopath by treating the intestine could obtain a remission of the lower back symptomatology.
This process can also work in the opposite way. If a patient complains of intestine discomfort, the “primary dysfunction” could be the lower back, therefore the osteopath by working on the vertebral column could achieve a remission of the intestine symptomology.
These results are possible thanks to the musculoskeletal and neurological connection of the viscera to the rest of the body and vice versa.
Types of Techniques Used
Most of the techniques used in visceral practice are functional techniques (Parsons et al. 2005). These techniques work by balancing tissue tensions (muscular, ligamentous, etc.) (Hebgen, 2010). Furthermore, the type of techniques and treatment plans will vary between patients, depending on their presentation.