Greetings to my clients, colleagues and friends,
I just returned from a 4-day workshop on “Visceral Manipulation of the Abdomen.” ‘My, how thrilling,’ you say? It was! While I knew that the abdomen was more than the soft place between ribs and pelvis, I had no idea how elegant, intricate, and interconnected our viscera are to the rest of our musculoskeletal functioning (let alone to our endocrine and neurological functioning)! How, for example, a restriction in the mobility of the liver can cause pain in your right shoulder. Or how pain on the inside of your knee can be the result of impeded blood flow in your sigmoid colon.
I plan to use this venue to explore the viscera and to share some worthwhile information with you as I go about my learning. The first installment will be a general overview and a simple description of Visceral Manipulation.In future articles, I will focus on a single organ and its role in the living body.
To get it going, here’s a joke, told by my Visceral teacher’s 8-year-old son:
A: Hey, B, have you seen the new movie, “Constipation?”
B: No, I haven’t.
A: That’s because it hasn’t come out yet!
Have fun ‘digesting’ the information in this month’s newsletter!
In good health,
“Visceral Manipulation” is a technique of manual therapy developed by Jean-Pierre Barral, Physical Therapist and Osteopath. He discovered that restrictions around the viscera caused tension on surrounding structures, thereby affecting the body’s functioning. By manipulating and freeing the restrictions in the abdomen, the neuro-muscular-skeletal problems his patients came in with often resolved. According to the Barral Institute (www.barralinstitute.com), 90% of myofascial-skeletal restrictions have a visceral component.
Just as injury to our muscles and connective tissue can produce adhesions and scar tissue as a result of the healing process, so can restrictions develop in our viscera as a result of injury or infection. The object of “Visceral Manipulation” is to gentle and precisely release specific restrictions so the organs are restored to their healthy state of motion, allowing for optimal blood flow, chemical exchange, and digestion.
Inside our abdomens, behind ribs and belly button, there are 13 organs which are responsible for the autonomic/involuntary functioning of our bodies. (There are 22 organs altogether, when you include our thorax/chest cavity, and more yet when you include the contents of our skull.) Our lungs, heart, liver, gall bladder, kidneys, spleen, stomach, large and small intestines, appendix, adrenals, reproductive and eliminatory organs are all working, 24/7, to keep us alive and functioning well.
Our organs are packed inside us, sometimes tightly, suspended and connected via ligaments. The liver, for instance, is connected to the diaphragm, to the right kidney, to the stomach, to the colon, and to the abdominal wall. Within this suspensory ligamentous system, our organs need to be able to move–up and down, side to side, and rotationally. There are two kinds of motion: mobility, in which the organ moves to a certain degree in all of these planes of motion; and motility, which is an inherent motion within the organ itself. Motility is thought to be a kind of cellular memory of our embryological development; as our cells divided in a particular motion, our organs themselves “remember” that motion and continue to move accordingly–subtly, but palpably.
When I feel, for example, the underside of my liver beneath my ribs, I should be able to mobilize it up and down, forward and back, and side to side. (Don’t try this at home!) Liver motilityinvolves a motion that is outward, upward and back, then inward, downward and forward, in a cycle of 6-8 per minute. Mobility and motility operate independently of each other. Where motility is “stuck,” the skilled visceral therapist is able to restore this motion.
Sensing the organs, in all their layers, takes a great deal of patience and presence of mind, which is the artistry of this work. My extremely gifted teacher, Joan-Anne Zollers, was able to feel the mobility and motility of each structure independently, simply by placing her hand lightly on my abdomen. I hope one day to have the skill and knowledge to do the same.
Stay tuned for next month’s newsletter, featuring the “Organ of the Month”!
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Rolfworks is dedicated to the wellness of its clients through the practice and art of Structural Integration. Rolfworks regards each client as an individual with a physical and psychological history particular to them. Through the process of the 10-series, in a collaborative exchange between client and practitioner, and in the sanctity and confidentiality of its studio, Rolfworks aims to provide each client with their own unique transformative experience.
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