In her 70 years, Dee’s back had never bothered her, until one morning as she got out of bed she noticed a pull in her right lower spine. She tried stretching, but the pain just worsened. When it did not stop for several days, she made an appointment with an orthopedist. He took X-rays, but they did not show anything wrong. He prescribed anti-inflammatory medication. When the meds did not help after 2 weeks, she went back to the doctor. The MRI he ordered was also normal, so the doctor suggested Pilates. By now Dee was becoming quite anxious about her situation, and the pain was getting worse. She eventually made a Pilates appointment. The first Pilates visit went well. Dee was able to perform the basic introductory movements and she felt all right after the session. But the next week when she came in, she stated that she had almost canceled the appointment because she was in so much pain and she was very worried that she might never feel normal again.
Changing the Approach
I was the Pilates teacher she came to see. I am also a physical therapist trained in Visceral Manipulation. I asked Dee if she would like to try the approach of Visceral Manipulation and she agreed. I evaluated her and found restrictions in her lower abdomen where her small and large intestine intersect – an area called the cecum. After 20 minutes of gentle soft tissue work specifically releasing those restrictions, I asked Dee to stand. For the first time in months she could rise without pain. She remembered that she had had an inflammatory digestive issue about 4 months prior. The inflammation had created adhesions in her lower abdomen, and that’s where the problem began. Addressing the restrictions in the lower abdomen allowed her to resume a normal spinal position and her pain diminished significantly. She continued basic core exercises and remained pain-free. Her anxiety was alleviated and she was able to continue Pilates successfully.
A Better Result
What felt to Dee like a musculoskeletal problem actually stemmed from tightness and pulling in her abdominal organs. Her body was protecting her organs, causing her to hold her spine in a manner that generated lower back pain and muscle spasms. When the restrictions were released, her body was able to assume its normal position, the muscles relaxed, and she was able to move comfortably. Dee felt pain in her back, but her actual problem was abdominal adhesions. This is why treating Dee’s back did not change her symptoms. The visceral system has been notoriously ignored, but is often the primary cause of pain and dysfunction. This is why we at ALTA strive to consider every aspect of the body when we evaluate our patients.
What exactly is VM – Visceral Manipulation
Visceral Manipulation (VM) is a manual therapy developed by Jean-Pierre Barral, an Osteopath and Physical Therapist from France. The focus of VM is on the internal organs and their surrounding connective tissue and supportive structures. VM identifies decreased motion or altered function of the organs and through gentle, hands-on therapy, releases restrictions and promotes normal function. VM can also address the impact emotions may have on organ function and pain.