Barral Visceral Manipulation

Pain is often related to dysfunction of an organ or tissue and its misalignment within the body. There are different types of manipulation of these tissues that can restore proper function and, within time, relieve pain and discomfort. Barral Visceral Manipulation is a technique developed to achieve just that: proper communication, proper position, and proper function.

When French osteopath and physical therapist Jean-Pierre Barral noticed that tensions in one area of the abdomen had cascading effects on other parts of the body, sometimes even far away from the origin of the problem, he used techniques to address the source. The result is his own method of visceral manipulation, which is a gentle technique to reset the position, orientation and function of the internal organs and tissues.

Each of the organs of the abdomen are connected and perfectly placed in the body. If something is not functioning properly or out of alignment, functional problems can occur. For example, if there is a fixation or scar tissue in or around the gallbladder, it affects the other organs and tissues to which it is connected. The liver, which creates bile that flows through the gallbladder, is affected, as is the small intestine where bile flows. There are also many tiny valves that can become dysfunctional and then release too much or too few digestive juices when needed. The results of these changes may be as obvious as poor digestion, constipation, heartburn, bloating, etc. or may be as nonspecific as fatigue.

The Organs and the Nervous System

When the body’s sympathetic nervous system is overactive, the body is in fight-or-flight mode. In this case, the body’s priority is safety, not healing, resting or digesting. When the body becomes locked in sympathetic mode, as it often does today due to modern stressors, it negatively affects the internal organs of the body and impairs the body’s natural ability to heal and regulate itself. The muscles, joints, and organs are connected to each other through the sympathetic nervous system. Therefore, someone who has chronic pain, such as a disc issue in their spine, may also be suffering from dysfunction in other areas of their body, like their digestive organs, joints, and other tissues.

Barral developed this technique working as a physiotherapist when he was working with lung diseases. While working in a cadaver lab, Barral discovered that lines of tension can be created in tissues when he compared stress patterns in the cadavers to movement patterns in his living patients. Barral realized that as tissues of the body grow thicker, either from adhesions, scar tissue, trigger points, or other areas of tension, pull on other tissues that result in pain. Combined with his realization that tissues have memory and can recall functional and dysfunctional patterns, Barral began to develop his signature visceral manipulation techniques. When Barral was treating a man with back pain, the patient reported that the pain disappeared when someone else put pressure on his abdomen. Barral began to discern the connection between abdominal organ misalignment and back pain. Working with other doctors, Barral was able to document changes to tissues and structure before and after he performed manipulations; using x-ray imaging and ultrasound to note how fluid shifted and drained and how tissues moved and responded as a result of his adjustments. He sought out engineers with infrared technology to further his research findings. Barral then began teaching his techniques to other practitioners around the world starting in 1985. Forever, a clinician, Barral continues to maintain a full practice, teach, and perform research.

A practitioner trained in Barral Visceral Manipulation is trained to have such sensitive palpation skills that they virtually “listen” to the tissues, detecting even small disturbances in position far below the surface of the skin and even behind other organs. Therapists also pay close attention to the rhythms they feel in the tissue, in addition to changes in tissue temperature, which can indicates various levels of function. This sort of sensitivity allows the practitioner to understand the organ’s function long before any overt observable disease arises. Holistic therapies such as visceral manipulation can detect very small changes in the organ; conventional testing methods, such as ultrasound, or an endoscopy, or other diagnostic imaging, are able to find problems on a macroscopic level, where overt disease has occurred and likely been in process for a long time. For example, a skilled practitioner may be able to understand that the gallbladder is not moving bile properly and help clients take steps to improve their digestion before gallstones may develop.

Barral Visceral Manipulation is Useful for the Following Types of Conditions:

  • Motor vehicle accident injuries, such as whiplash, seatbelt injuries, neck pain, head injuries, etc.
    • Few things are more disturbing to the body than a motor vehicle accident. People do not realize that not only are accidents physically painful, but the trauma of the incident is harmful to the adrenal glands, the body’s organs responsible for its stress response.
  • Concussion and other traumatic brain injuries.
    • More research tells us that simply resting is not always an adequate treatment for concussion and post-concussion syndrome. The nervous system is locked into overdrive after a concussion, and therapies should be very gentle and non-aggravating.
  • Sports injuries, such as falls, bumps, bruises, sprains and strains, and blunt trauma to the chest or abdomen.
    • Sports injuries can knock organs slightly out of place, which has a downstream effects on the healing of other injuries. If you’ve been jarred or jostled during training or during a game, you may want to be assessed by a Visceral Manipulation practitioner.
  • Digestive issues such as constipation, painful gas and/or bloating, acid reflux/GERD/chronic heartburn, swallowing issues such as pain or difficulty swallowing
    • Even small issues in the structure and position of digestive organs can cause big issues. Hiatal hernias, for example, are a main source of heartburn and can be large enough to cause discomfort but small enough to avoid detection through conventional imaging methods.
  • Women’s health conditions such as pelvic pain, endometriosis, painful periods, growths such as fibroids and cysts, bladder leakage, menopause symptoms.
    • There are many organs within the pelvic girdle, all positioned perfectly for proper function. A slightly twisted uterus can result in increased period pain, or tissues can be disrupted by endometriosis, which involves uterine tissue existing outside the uterus.
  • Men’s health conditions such as prostate-related dysfunction or testicular pain referring from another area of the body.
    • Sometimes, testicular pain or prostate pain can result from infection; other times, pain arises due to shifts in organ position or due to swelling. Visceral manipulation may be able to help the latter type of discomfort.
  • Headaches and migraines, and other chronic pain conditions of the head, neck and limbs, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
    • If you experience chronic pain due to inflammatory conditions, patients may look to more conservative methods before trying medications or surgery. The gentle effect of visceral manipulation makes it an excellent choice for headaches.
  • Back pain such as sciatica, upper and lower back pain, and pain resulting from scar tissue from surgeries or infections, for example.
    • Scar tissue is highly disruptive. It can irritate and pull on tissues in areas of the body further away from the scar and cause back pain. Visceral Manipulation can help mobilize the tissues again and restore proper motion and flexibility.
  • Children’s issues such as chronic constipation, vomiting and reflux, and colic in infants
    • Children respond very well to gentle therapies. More and more children are suffering from digestive concerns, some of which fail to respond to conventional techniques suitable for adults. Additionally, birth trauma can cause misalignment of abdominal tissues which need to be repositioned to function smoothly.
  • Visceral manipulation can even release trapped emotions and can benefit anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
    • Tissues remember emotions and trauma incredibly well, storing the memory long after sessions with a psychologist have ended. Visceral manipulation may help patients release their emotions on a physical level.

While Visceral Manipulation is not a controlled act and therefore does not require a license to perform, most therapists trained in Visceral Manipulation are licensed and regulated professionals. Many different practitioners can perform Visceral Manipulation, including osteopaths, chiropractors, medical doctors, naturopathic doctors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, physiotherapists, and others. Our clinic’s Visceral Manipulation therapist also has extensive training as an osteopathic practitioner.

What Does Visceral Manipulation Feel Like?

The process of Visceral Manipulation is very gentle. First, after an intake, the therapist will palpate your abdomen, applying a very gentle pressure as he or she examines the organs and their finer structures. This pressure is no firmer, and likely more gentle, than if your doctor is examining your abdomen. Then, once the therapist detects a problem, they will apply a specific movement to compress, mobilize, and elongate the tissues underneath the skin. Again, this is a very gentle maneuver. You may be surprised at how gentle and non-invasive this therapy can be. You should not be in pain after a treatment, but you should see some resolution of your symptoms within the first few visits. However, your therapist will communicate with you the best treatment schedule based on the nature and severity of your symptoms.

If you have health complaints that have not responded well, or at all, to stronger forms of treatment, a gentler approach may be more effective and just as powerful. If you’d like to try Barral Visceral Manipulation, you can schedule a complimentary consults with our therapist online, or at our clinic.