abdominal massageEvery now and then we at Oregon City Acupuncture invite one of our favorite practitioners in our area to write a Guest  Blog.  This month we’d like to introduce Sarah Schlamp of MASSAGE SOLACE, 19142 Molalla Ave., Oregon City.

Visceral Manipulation.

Say what!?

My first introduction to visceral work came years ago when I was visiting my husband’s family in northern Canada. My 2 year old daughter had had constipation issues for most of her short life. Doctors weren’t too worried, because she could at least pass something 1-2 times a week. I’d tried everything I could think of. My mother-in-law told me about this woman in their community who she thought could help. I was a bit skeptical. The woman had no license of any kind and everyone simply referred to her as the woman with “the gift.” They told stories of how this gift had been passed down in her family line for generations and how she had started working on her dolls at the age of three. Hmmm.

I, too, had been dealing with some health issues: frequent bladder infections since the birth of my daughter. They seemed to believe this woman with “the gift” could help us both.

What did I have to lose? We went for a visit.

She was elderly. She wore a dress and had a thick German accent. Her name was Sally.

She started with my daughter. She felt around on my babies’ stomach and quickly declared that she had a twist in her intestine. She also felt her head: Had she bumped it recently? The bones were moved in such a way that her ear wasn’t draining properly.

Well, yes, actually she had bumped her head the day before on the slide at a park, and yes, I’d noticed her rubbing her ear.

My daughter was extremely shy at that age, so I didn’t really know if it was the discomfort of the work being done or the discomfort of having a stranger working on her. Either way, her sadness was rather short-lived.

When Sally worked on me, she said my uterus was sitting on my bladder wrong so that the bladder wasn’t draining properly or something like that. She proceeded to move it, which didn’t feel wonderful, and then told me not to lift anything heavier than 10 lbs for 6-8 wks. That was all. Come back in a week to make sure things were still in place. Thanks for coming.

Did it work?  Surprisingly, Yes! Did all our problems go away forever? No.

Fast forward a few years. I have my massage license and hear about classes that work with the abdomen. Am I interested? You bet!

Certainly there are different approaches to working with the structures of the abdomen. I’ve trained in several, but the one I’ve done the most training with is the Barral Institute. Jean Piere Barral is a French Osteopath who began working with structures of the body some 60+ years ago. This institution teaches a gentle approach of working with the structures of the body to help them function at their optimum. It’s a modality that works with restrictions in the body. Sometimes the fascia around an organ can thicken up. Have you ever injured a shoulder for example and then a few weeks later noticed it didn’t have as much range of motion? The same can be true for organs. Perhaps your liver has had to work really hard so the body sends extra fascia (connective tissue) around it to lend support. This can restrict the liver’s normal gentle movement which can then create tensions not only around the liver but also in surrounding areas. I’ve worked on several people with a chronic right shoulder and/or right arm pain that was relieved when we worked on the liver.

Here are a few commonly asked questions:

What is Visceral Manipulation? It’s a gentle technique that works to release restrictions in the body that can create tension locally and refer that tension to other places as well.

Does everyone need it? Not necessarily, though in class it was often repeated that: “everyone can use a liver lift”. It really depends on your issues. I had a client come in with severe upper back and low back pain, mostly on the right. Her other symptoms seem to point to the gastro-esophageal junction. I asked if she had any stomach issues and sure enough, she had GERD(Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). When we worked on that area, it was very tender. Within a couple of visits, her back pain was clearing up, and she’d noticed fewer symptoms from GERD.

How do I know if I need VM? Sometimes VM is indicated when a person has had surgeries in the past, but really, we just listen to the body and see where it’s being pulled. Often times the body will prioritize a restriction; when we work the area, whether it was local to the pain or not, it often helps relieve that pain.

How does VM differ from regular massage? It’s quite different. Instead of dressing down the client will usually stay fully clothed in soft cotton clothing (not spandex). Depending on the area that the body is prioritizing, the client may be sitting up, or laying down and may be moving around a bit.

If this massage technique interests you or sounds right for you, contact Sarah at 503-756-9365.