WHAT IS VISCERAL OSTEOPATHY?
While physiotherapists and osteopaths focus predominantly on muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons and bones, there is a part of osteopathy that focuses on visceral problems. This means the focus is on the quality and quantity of internal organ movement to therefore help with back, neck, shoulder issues, etc.
As I have mentioned in other articles, as an osteopath my goal is to view the body as a complete unit and not only focus on the area that is showing symptoms. This is why many times we will focus on an old injury affecting the hip, pelvis, foot… to improve a lower back pain. This is because many times the pain is only the tip of the iceberg so to speak, and our body is compensating for that pelvis, foot or hip issue therefore causing compensatory pains in other areas.
When it comes to visceral osteopathy, we apply a similar approach. For example, the stomach and liver are suspended from the diaphragm (breathing muscle) by ligaments, if the diaphragm isn’t moving correctly for any reason it can alter the liver and stomachs correct and natural mobility, therefore causing digestive symptoms (heartburn, reflux ,etc.).
If an alteration of this sort is occurring, it can have an effect on other areas also. For example, liver disorders are related to thoracic spine discomfort or pain and right shoulder pain. There is a reason for this which I will briefly explain.
Our internal organs receive orders from our nervous system through nerves that extend from the spine and directly from the brain. These nerves turn our organs ON (when we are digesting for example) and OFF (when we are not using the organs, or if the body needs full attention for an emergency for example). These nerves send impulses to control organs, but they also receive information from these organs that inform of their situation, position, suffering, etc. This nerve relation can cause a bombardment of impulses to a certain segment of the spine that then reacts by feeling irritated therefore causing pain externally. This can vary from muscle pain, to a deeper type of spinal pain, or even increased skin or bone sensitivity.
Due to this reason, we become interested in our patients habits, diet, organ symptoms or history of surgical procedures. This information can be very helpful or even crucial to our diagnosis and therefore affect the outcome of our treatment.
For example, a patient with lower back pain that had his/her appendix removed 10 years ago. After exploration of the joints and muscles involved we manually explore the scar tissue resulting from said surgery, and find movement restricted that causes back pain when touching and moving the area. This patient has slight muscle spasms and spinal limitations but, the main cause of the problem is the scar restriction caused by surgery. Improving that mobility is our main goal and symptoms improve dramatically.
The conclusion to all this is that the body has to be considered as a whole that works in perfect harmony, if any part isn’t working properly your body will let you know by causing symptoms, even if these aren’t at the source of your problem.