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Visceral Mobilization and the Lumbar Spine

“…visceral manual therapy can produce immediate hypoalgesia in somatic structures segmentally related to the organ being mobilized…”

This statement is taken from an article written by MCSweeney and colleagues published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies in 2012. The authors, who state that there is a lack of research that explains underlying mechanisms for visceral mobilization, aimed to determine if visceral mobilization could produce local and/or systemic effects towards hypoalgesia. The measurement of hypoalgesia, defined by the IASP as “diminished pain in response to a normally painful stimulus,” was assessed by use of a hand-held manual digital pressure algometer for pressure pain threshold (PPT). Sixteen asymptomatic subjects were recruited from an osteopathic school and were treated on separate occasions with a visceral mobilization of the sigmoid colon, a sham intervention of manual contact on the abdomen, and a control of no intervention. Six females (mean age 23.7) and ten males (mean age 27.7) completed the single-blinded, randomized study.

The visceral manipulation technique was administered in the supine position by contacting the left sigmoid colon and drawing it superomedially for one minute, and repeated at a frequency and duration determined by the therapist base on each individual’s tissue response. The sham treatment included one minute of light tough contact over the umbilical area, and no position of ease or tissue barrier was engaged. The algometer was placed 1 centimeter to the left of the L1 spinous process, a location known to correspond to the segmental level equal to the colon. A site on the hand was used as a distant area for comparison. The authors concluded that visceral mobilization of the sigmoid colon was found to produce analgesia in tissue that is related segmentally.

The clinical practice relevance was difficult to determine, however, this study used new techniques to determine that there is an immediate and measurable effect on the body. While therapists who treat with visceral mobilization and other soft tissue techniques know that the interventions have helped their patients, having further experimental and clinical validation of the value of these techniques is critical. If you are interested in learning more about fascial approaches to easing pain and improving function in your patients, check out the courses offered by faculty member Ramona Horton.

Ramona will be teaching her Mobilization of the Myofascial Layer: Pelvis and Lower Extremities course three times this year, with the next event in Nashua, NH June 3-5. Her Mobilization of Visceral Fascia: The Urinary System course is available three times as well, next in Kirkland, WA on June 24-26. If you're ready for the advanced course, and some wine tasting(!), check out Mobilization of Visceral Fascia: The Reproductive System of Men and Women on October 14-16 in Medford, OR.


McSweeney, T. P., Thomson, O. P., & Johnston, R. (2012). The immediate effects of sigmoid colon manipulation on pressure pain thresholds in the lumbar spine. Journal of bodywork and movement therapies, 16(4), 416-423.

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Upcoming Continuing Education Courses

Mobilization of Visceral Fascia: The Gastrointestinal System - Arlington, VA (RESCHEDULED)

Jul 10, 2020 - Jul 12, 2020
Location: Virginia Hospital Center

Mobilization of Visceral Fascia: The Gastrointestinal System

Jul 10, 2020 - Jul 12, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Postpartum Rehabilitation - Remote Course (SOLD OUT)

Jul 11, 2020 - Jul 12, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 1 Part 1 - Remote Course (SOLD OUT)

Jul 11, 2020 - Jul 12, 2020
Location: Short Form Remote Course

Athletes & Pelvic Rehabilitation - Remote Course

Jul 11, 2020 - Jul 12, 2020
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Bowel Pathology and Function - Remote Course (SOLD OUT)

Jul 11, 2020 - Jul 12, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Newark, NJ (Rescheduled)

Jul 12, 2020 - Jul 14, 2020
Location: Rutgers University - Doctoral Programs in Physical Therapy

Pregnancy Rehabilitation - Remote Course

Jul 16, 2020 - Jul 17, 2020
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Postpartum Rehabilitation - Foothill Ranch, CA (RESCHEDULED)

Jul 18, 2020 - Jul 19, 2020
Location: Intercore Physical Therapy

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Colorado Springs, CO (SOLD OUT)

Jul 18, 2020 - Jul 19, 2020
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Postpartum Rehabilitation - Remote Course

Jul 18, 2020 - Jul 19, 2020
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Pelvic Floor Level 1- Bangor, ME (Rescheduled)

Jul 18, 2020 - Jul 19, 2020
Location: Husson University

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Columbus, OH

Jul 18, 2020 - Jul 19, 2020
Location: Fitness Matters

Pelvic Floor Level 1 Part 1 - Remote Course (SOLD OUT)

Jul 21, 2020 - Jul 22, 2020
Location: Short Form Remote Course

Nutrition Perspectives for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist - Columbia, MO (Rescheduled)

Jul 24, 2020 - Jul 26, 2020
Location: University of Missouri-Smiley Lane Therapy Services

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Chicago, IL (RESCHEDULED)

Jul 25, 2020 - Jul 26, 2020
Location: Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Fayetteville, NC (SOLD OUT)

Jul 25, 2020 - Jul 26, 2020
Location: Methodist University School of Health Sciences

Nutrition Perspectives for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist - Remote Course

Jul 25, 2020 - Jul 26, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Glenwood Springs, CO (SOLD OUT)

Jul 25, 2020 - Jul 26, 2020
Location: Valley View Hospital

Pudendal Neuralgia and Nerve Entrapment - Maywood, IL (RESCHEDULED)

Jul 25, 2020 - Jul 26, 2020
Location: Loyola University Health System

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - Los Angeles, CA (RESCHEDULED)

Jul 25, 2020 - Jul 26, 2020
Location: Mount Saint Mary’s University

Manual Therapy for the Abdominal Wall - Remote Course

Jul 31, 2020
Location: Short Form Remote Course

Parkinson Disease and Pelvic Rehabilitation - Remote Course

Jul 31, 2020 - Aug 1, 2020
Location: Short Form Remote Course

Neurologic Conditions and Pelvic Floor Rehab - Washington, DC

Jul 31, 2020 - Aug 2, 2020
Location: George Washington University Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation Center

Restorative Yoga for Physical Therapists - Remote Course

Aug 1, 2020 - Aug 2, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Chicago, IL (SOLD OUT)

Aug 1, 2020 - Aug 2, 2020
Location: Midwestern Regional Medical Center

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Washington, DC (SOLD OUT)

Aug 1, 2020 - Aug 2, 2020
Location: The George Washington University

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - New York City, NY (RESCHEDULED)

Aug 2, 2020 - Aug 3, 2020
Location: Touro College

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Birmingham, AL (SOLD OUT)

Aug 8, 2020 - Aug 9, 2020
Location: Shelby Baptist Medical Center