Stephanie James, Osteopath and Cranial Osteopath, recently attended a conference on Visceral Osteopathy. Today, Stephanie explains all about this less popular aspect of Osteopathy.

What is Visceral Osteopathy?

While Osteopaths predominantly work on the balance of muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons, Visceral Osteopaths also consider the movements and quality of internal organs (also called viscera: stomach, liver, intestines, lungs, etc..) to treat back, neck, shoulders, and legs problems.

In the Western world we like to distinguish the back from the front, the top from the bottom, often forgetting that the body acts as one simple unit. Osteopaths always look at the whole body in order to understand the source of the pain, in short they look beyond the symptomatic area omeprazole online.

For instance, an Osteopath could spend most of the time treating an old foot or pelvis issue when you actually present with a neck problem. This is simply because the neck is often the last point of compensation in the body – your eyes will always align with the horizon and as a result, if you have a tilted pelvis, you will tilt your head on your neck to compensate without being aware of it. This would of course result in neck pain!

When it comes to visceral osteopathy, Osteopaths apply the same approach. The stomach and liver are suspended by ligaments to the diaphragm. So when this latter is not moving effectively, it affects the structures that are attached to it.

A good example would be when you deal with stressful situations. Often in those cases you develop a shallow breathing pattern. If the diaphragm is not moving correctly, the stomach, liver, pancreas, intestines will be affected. In the long term, it could lead to heartburn, hiatus hernia, stomach aches or digestives problems.  And further down the line, it could also lead to chronic back pain.

How can it cause back pain?

The stomach, liver, intestines and other viscera are partly innervated by nerves that comes out from the spinal cord (housed in your spine). But the nerve traffic goes two ways: it goes to the stomach, but the stomach also sends back messages to the spinal cord (and brain) if it is not happy. If the pain is constant and chronic, the stomach will “bombard” the level of the spinal cord (through the greater splanchnic nerve ) of messages that could be interpreted as muscular pain in the  middle of your back by your brain.

That is why we are interested in your eating habits, food intolerance, history of possible IBS. It can have a direct impact on your back. The same applies for the issues with bowels, and any other viscera, including the gynaecological ones.

While Osteopaths would always look at the mechanical aspects of a lesion first, they need to contemplate other aspects of the body. If the patient is not responding to that first line of structural action, you need to take into account additional aspects of the patient’s health and address them. And often it results in positive changes for the patient

Lets see some examples…

I recently treated a 65 year old woman who suffered from a frozen shoulders 5 years ago. She had consulted many manual therapists who spent hours working directly on her shoulders in the past.  While she was able to use her right arm again by the time we met, she acknowledged never fully recovering the full range of movement (i.e. not able to brush or tie her hair properly).

The examination revealed a reduced mobility of her liver, an organ that can cause  restriction in the movement of the right shoulder. After 2 osteopathic treatments focused on the liver and the  movements of other internal organs, she was able to brush her hair without pain or discomfort.

So Visceral Osteopathy is an important part of what you do?

It is definitely an aspect we cannot ignore. All viscera have a strong physiological role in our health. We absorbs the vitamins in the intestines. The liver detoxifies the body. The pancreas produces the insulin that reduces the sugar level in our body, etc. Their good function is necessarily to the well being of the human being.

It is also worth mentioning that the internal organs are  exposed and vulnerable to emotions and mental health. Your heart beats faster when you’re scared. You can experience ‘butterflies’ in the stomach. Interview or exam stress can make your bowel movements more frequent. Emotional trauma can also leave their marks on the viscera and affect the biomechanics around it. Ignoring these aspects would be ignoring what the human being is made of: a whole simple unit with its emotional and physical sides.

That is why Osteopathy is considered a holistic therapy: we look and treat the person as a whole, not as parts of the whole.

For further information on how Visceral Osteopathy can help you, please contact us on 020 8332 6184, email us at or book online.