Visceral massage breaks up adhesions

It is well known that when we are opened up for surgery, air gets in causing the fascia to become sticky, potentially creating adhesions between different organs or between organs and the body wall. This can compromise organ function and body movement. Visceral massage can break up these adhesions.

Our organs are all encased in fascial bags that are suspended from the back-body. In four-legged animals the organs literally hang down from their back.

Because humans are upright gravity also plays a roll, so the fascial bags that are hanging down sit on top of each other, but they should be quite free to move as we move. So, when we twist or bend or reach, our organs move around to accommodate the motion.

Our liver, stomach and kidneys move up and down significantly with each breath. When we twist, our heart lifts up, and the lungs drop back behind to allow the ribcage to rotate.

Surgery isn’t the only thing which can cause visceral adhesions.  If we don’t move enough in all ranges of motion, organs that don't regularly get that slide and glide happening between their surfaces can adhere. Falls, car accidents or other body impacts can create adhesions. Or as I found out the hard way, too much icing can cause an adhesion problem.

Organ adhesions are problematic because if the organs are not free to move as they are meant to, liquids may not flow as they should, nerves may be strangled, blood flow and range-of motion may be impaired, and uneven tension through the system may create pain.

And of course, the function of the organs involved may be impaired, which can lead to other issues, such as inadequate digestion, detoxification, reproductive and immune function.

The body will tend to hug the adhesion in order to keep as much freedom in the area as possible, which can alter posture and function significantly.

For example, if the cecum (start of the ascending colon) is adhered to the parietal peritoneum (the fascia on the inside wall of the abdominal cavity), one might stand and sit slightly side-bent right in order to keep some slack in the area.  This might be the root cause of back, neck, or shoulder pain.

Organs that are stuck have to work extra hard to do their jobs and they get tired. When we feel fatigue, our organs are telling us that they are fatigued. This can be a significant stress on the body, and can lead to cortisol issues and adrenal fatigue too.

Organ adhesions can also create significant problems far away from where the adhesion is located, because of the extended fascial connections within the body.

For example, head issues (headaches, dizziness, brain fog, concentration problems, vision issues, numbness, ringing in the ears etc.) can be directly caused by the stomach being stuck to the parietal peritoneum (inner body-wall of the abdominal cavity), or the descending colon, or small intestine, or, or …

The fascia that holds the food pipe (esophagus) runs from the stomach all the way up the front of the spine to the top of the mouth, where it attaches to the sphenoid, the all important bone in the middle of our head in which the pituitary gland sits.

So the sphenoid bone can be pulled down and to the left due to an esophagus or stomach adhesion, creating head issues.

Visceral adhesions can alter the blood flow, nerve supply and mechanics not only of the abdominal cavity, but also of the legs, arms, neck and head.

Surgeons realize that adhesions are a problematic side-effect of surgery, but they also know that going in again to cut the adhesions just leads to more adhesions later.

During the previous Fascia Congress in Amsterdam, a Squamish BC massage therapist named Susan Chapelle told Dr. Geoffrey Bove, a basic scientist from Boston,  that she was able to use visceral massage to break up adhesions non-invasively.

Doubting her, Dr. Bove said he would create such adhesions in rats and asked her to prove her abilities to him.  Needless to say, she did, and they presented their paper at the Vancouver Fascia Research Congress in March.

Visceral massage therapists have known they can do this for many years, but not many in the medical community are aware yet that this kind of treatment is available and effective.

Yesterday I learned that my pancreas was quite stuck to my spleen and was not really moving. Before and after treatment, my therapist did the typical  thoracic-outlet syndrome (TOS) test. Usually I lose blood flow at about 60-70 degrees of arm abduction (out to the side).

After the treatment, the blood flow to my left arm improved significantly.  So if scalene, first rib and pec minor treatment don't work for TOS, perhaps look at the viscera.

If you have a health problem, and you feel you have tried "everything", consider visceral massage. More frequently than one might expect, the root cause of a body problem is structural or has a structural component, and visceral adhesions are a structural cause that is frequently missed.

Please do keep the comments coming on my blog. If you want to share this article, go to the blog post and scroll to the bottom and click on the “share this” icon. If you want to search for other posts by title or by topic, go to

Related tips
Organs and Ice
Posture, leg-length discrepancies, musculoskeletal pain, and organ function
It’s all in your head – I mean neck!
Shall I rearrange your face?

Geoffrey M. Bove, PhD, Susan L. Chapelle, RMT Visceral mobilization can lyse and prevent peritoneal adhesions in a rat model. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2012 Jan;16(1):76-82. Epub 2011 Apr 9.

Copyright 2012 Vreni Gurd


  1. Sue Billington said,

    May 6, 2012 @ 10:42 am

    Thank you, Vreni for this informative article on adhesions. Your explanation is easy to understand and makes allot of sense. As always I look forward to you new postings.

  2. Becca said,

    May 6, 2012 @ 10:47 am

    I live in the San Diego area and am wondering if visceral massage is the same as myofascial release. After reading this article I would like to find a visceral masseuse but have never heard that term down here so don’t know where to look. However I do know of some myofascial (sorry – I don’t know how to spell this word and spell check doesn’t seem to either) release practitioners.

  3. Vreni said,

    May 6, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

    Hi Becca,

    Not all myofascial release therapists look at the viscera – it depends on their training. Try googling Viseral Manipulation and San Diego and see what comes up. Or go to the Barral Institute and check the “look for a practictioner” page. Look first to the ones that have taken the most courses in visceral manipulation. Talk to your friends and other therapists and ask them if they have heard of anyone good. I’m certain there are excellent practitioners in San Diego. The therapists that have taken craniosacral might be very helpful too, depending on the nature of your issues.

  4. Liz said,

    May 17, 2012 @ 2:11 am

    Another great article, thank you. I recently discovered my new massage therapist does visceral and fascial release — I didn’t even know what that was — and she’s done wonders for me. I’ve had long-term back and hip issues completely resolved in just a couple of sessions. More people need to know about this treatment option.

  5. Liz said,

    August 13, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

    I LOVE visceral massage! I didn’t even know such a thing existed until I went for a massage and the therapist started by standing at my feet with her hands on my ankles, eyes closed. I knew something was going to be different.

    Jodi has helped clear up long-standing pain in as little as a single session, resolved pain no one else could identify the source of, taught me how to work on the more superficial sites between visits, and all with minimal invasiveness. Amazing. I’ve learned TONS about how my body systems work together and what I can do to support my own healing. I’ll never go to a “regular” massage therapist again.

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    April 9, 2016 @ 11:39 am

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