In Visceral Manipulation, we use the term “listening” to describe the finely tuned form of palpation utilized for evaluation and treatment. “Listening” is a good metaphor for this work. It can be easy to jump to a conclusion as to the source of a problem. Using these “listening” skills when palpating, may lead one in a different direction than expected. Between what the mind reasons and what one’s hands discover upon palpation, it is always best to trust the hands, for the tissues truly know where the source of the problem is.
Movement And Function
The concept is simple; movement is directly related to function. Every structure of the body has motion and needs motion to function properly. For the organs to function properly, they need to be able to glide freely in relationship to their neighboring structures.
The diaphragm completes approximately 22,000 movements a day, pulling and pushing the lungs and the abdominal viscera along with it each time. Besides its role in respiration, diaphragmatic motion serves to assist the surrounding organs by providing a pumping mechanism with each breath, aiding the flow of blood and other fluids needed for proper function.
If an organ is fixed to another structure, it will not be able to move freely as the diaphragm engages it with each respiration. This fixation becomes an artificial axis in the body by which all other tissues are affected. The movement in this area will be altered and decreased, and function of the affected organs will be compromised. Over time, a small restriction can become much greater due to the aggravation of the diaphragm’s repetitive motion.
The kidneys are a good example of the importance of movement. With each breath we take, the diaphragm pushes the kidneys about 1 inch, adding up to roughly 1/3 a mile per day. This movement aids the kidneys in processing the 1,700 liters of blood that is sent to it each day.
Symptoms And The Source
Musculoskeletal pain and tension are often secondary to a restriction of movement related to the viscera. The pathway connecting the restriction to the patients symptoms can be vascular, neurological, mechanical, or stem from an offset in the natural balance of pressures.
The list is unlimited, but here are a few examples to give an idea of how a patient’s symptoms can be due to a visceral restriction in an entirely different location:
- Right side neck and shoulder pain, due to a restriction of the liver via a neurological referred pain pattern.
- Pelvic pain originating from a restriction of the left kidney, which in turn slows the rate of venous return, creating pelvic congestion.
- Knee pain from an appendectomy years ago, that overtime has compromised the nerve flow to the articular capsule.
- Bladder prolapse from a thoracic surgery years ago, which disrupted the balance of pressures between the thorax and abdominopelvic regions.
Sometimes a chronic restriction will affect the stretch and pressure receptors of the tissues in such a way that the brain will not receive the proper messages and the central nervous system will “forget” the affected area. Our manipulations stimulate the local nervous system. Overtime this may recreate the normal afferent/efferent cycle and functioning.
Working with the cranium is an integral part of Visceral Manipulation. Traumatic injury can lead to restrictions of the brain, membranous attachments, cranial bones, their sutures and cranial nerves.
The brain is highly sensitive to any variation in pressure. It is richly supplied with arteries and veins, therefore intracranial pressure changes can have both vascular and cerebral consequences.
By gently interacting with the cranial pressure, fixations found through the “listening” evaluation, can be released.
It is believed that these manipulations, through their action on intracranial pressure, can influence the electromagnetic fields produced by the brain and its glial cells.
Working with the cranium is also a powerful way to integrate the treatment through the whole body.