What is Visceral Mobilization?
Visceral mobilization involves identifying and mobilizing the organs. Like muscles, organs need to have a certain amount of mobility such as sliding and gliding to function properly. Physical therapists’ main focus is the organs of the digestive system, but other organs may also need mobilization.
Who Would Benefit From Visceral Mobilization?
Patients who have low back or pelvic pain often have visceral restrictions as well as restrictions in the joints of the spine and sacroiliac (SI) joint. As joints and muscles tighten or stiffen, this can also limit the mobility in the viscera. Like a tight muscle, the intestines for example can become “bound down” on one side or possibly even the same side as spinal stiffness. With visceral mobilization, the intestines can be released, similar to muscle release or massage to restore the mobility of the gut. Improved visceral mobility will also take stress off of fascia, bones, and joints. Additionally, patients who have taken pain medications and have become constipated may also benefit from visceral mobilization to improve gut motility.
Patients experiencing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), reflux, or digestive issues would benefit from visceral mobilization. There is a correlation between restrictions in viscera and IBS. If any portion of the digestive system is restricted anywhere between the esophagus all the way to the rectum, can limit or impede proper digestion and may lead to constipation, bloating, reflux, and diarrhea.
Additionally, female patients who have difficult or painful menstrual cycles often have visceral restrictions. For example, if the uterus is bound down or restricted on one side can result in increased cramping, bloating, and bleeding. Ovaries can also become restricted, contributing to discomfort or other problems. Visceral mobilization has also been found to help patients with fertility issues. Another example is with the uterus; if it is restricted or bound down it may impede proper implantation.
Patients who have had nearly any kind of abdominal surgery, whether it’s through a laparoscope or an open surgery can also benefit from visceral mobilization. As there is often scar tissue present even with a less invasive laparoscopy that can bind down the viscera, limiting digestion or contribute to loss of mobility throughout the spine, pelvis, and musculature. Patients may have compensations present due to the surgery that lead to restrictions in the viscera as well. Mobilization can help restore the proper sliding and gliding of the viscera resulting in reduced pain and an increase in movement.
Not all physical therapists are trained in visceral mobilization and manipulation. Evaluation for visceral mobility will include a careful review of symptoms and history, evaluation of mobility and strength throughout the trunk and spine, and palpation of viscera to determine if and where restrictions are present. Please contact Therapydia Beaverton with further questions or to schedule an evaluation with one of our physical therapists who is trained in visceral mobilization.