Demystifying Visceral Manipulation

When looking at our extensive menu of service offerings, many of our clients inquire about Visceral Manipulation.  Hence, we’ve decided to publish this post on Visceral Manipulation to demystify the role this modality plays on overall health, with a specific focus on the organs, membranes, fascia and ligaments.

Visceral Manipulation (VM) is a gentle manual therapy technique that assesses the relationship between the body’s organs (e.g. bladder, liver, kidneys, etc) and others structures, like muscles, fascia, ligaments and joints.

Who Created this Modality?

Visceral Manipulation was developed by Jean Pierre Barral, a French Osteopath, Physical Therapist, and Founder of the Barral Institute.  Barral has been recognized as one of the world’s leading Osteopathic physicians. The techniques that he has developed are supported by clinical outcomes and medical research, something that Jean Pierre has diligently worked to ensure.

The Purpose of Visceral Manipulation: Uses and Benefits

According to the Barral Institute, “VM assists functional and structural imbalances throughout the body including musculoskeletal, vascular, nervous, urogenital, respiratory, digestive and lymphatic dysfunction. It evaluates and treats the dynamics of motion and suspension in relation to organs, membranes, fascia and ligaments. VM increases proprioceptive communication within the body, thereby revitalizing a person and relieving symptoms of pain, dysfunction, and poor posture.”

VM can be thought of as “organ mobilization” because  it helps to remove restrictions within and around the organs, allowing the body to improve organ function and alleviate tension patterns that may be causing pain in local or widespread areas of the body. At first, it may feel foreign to think of organ tissue being restricted but it makes more sense when we remember that the body was designed to protect and support these special structures, sometimes by any means necessary. If an organ or its support system is under threat, the body will often tense up the surrounding area in an attempt to protect the area. We should also remember than the tissues of the organ systems are subject to the same physical laws of restriction and compensation as the musculoskeletal system.

Another important factor to understand is that organs require healthy mobility, or movement, to be able to function properly. Adhesions and other restrictions which begin to limit an organ’s ability to fluidly glide against its surrounding structures can limit vital circulation and produce increased inflammation. Freedom of movement is essential for organs to function well and play their roles fully.

One of the main tenets of Visceral Manipulation is to improve the inherent ability for an organ to have motion; this is gained by gently releasing restrictions with very specific techniques.

Many musculoskeletal symptoms, such as shoulder pain, can arise from restrictions in organ systems. In the case of shoulder pain, the liver and/or the gallbladder could be potential sources of muscle or joint symptomatology. It has also been shown that congestion in the pelvic organs or malpositioned organs (like the uterus) can easily cause lower back pain and imbalance.

Tension patterns can build within and around the the organs for many reasons. Surgery, infections, poor posture, inflammation and emotional stress can all disrupt the normal pathways of fluid circulation and natural pressure gradients within the abdominal, thoracic and pelvic cavities.

Good Candidates for Visceral Manipulation 

If you feel like you have had chronic musculoskeletal/ joint symptoms that never fully resolve, it may be a good time to try Visceral Manipulation. VM has also been found beneficial for various disorders including:

  • Whiplash and seat belt injuries
  • Concussion
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Bloating and Constipation
  • Acid Reflux
  • Prostate Dysfunction
  • Chronic Pelvic Pain
  • Bladder Inconstinence
  • Post-Operative Scar Tissue
  • Constipation and Gastritis
  • Chronic Spinal Dysfunction
  • Sciatica
  • Peripheral Joint Pain

….and many more!  The full list can be found on the official Barral Institute site –

How to Prepare for a Session

For these sessions, it is recommended that you wear loose, comfortable clothing (ie, no jeans, bulky clothing or, for women, restrictive bras). Some of the mobilization techniques can be done over clothing, others are ideal performed skin-to-skin. Because access to different organs may require clients to move from a seated to lying positions, it is easiest and most comfortable for you to wear a limited amount of clothing during the session. We will respect your modesty at all times.

Visceral Manipulation combines very well with other supportive therapies such as Craniosacral, Lymphatic Drainage, Structural Massage, Chi Nei Tsang (an abdominal massage technique) or even energetic and emotional balancing techniques. Your therapist may incorporate these or other healing modalities into a VM session to enhance the work and assist your body in integrating the organ work.

Please let us know if you have any questions. If you feel ready to schedule an appointment with us, click here.

If you’d like to learn more about Visceral Manipulation and its potential benefits, please take a look at The Barral Institute’s website.