Visceral Manipulation Therapy History

Visceral Manipulation methods have been part of the medicinal cultures in Europe and Asia since prerecorded times. Manual manipulation of the internal organs has long been a component of some therapeutic systems in Oriental medicine. So it’s no surprise that practitioners in many parts of the world have incorporated manipulations designed to work with the internal organs and their functions.

Visceral Manipulation (VM) was developed by world-renowned French Osteopath and Physical Therapist Jean-Pierre Barral. Barral was the first man who, thanks to his osteopathic and physiotherapeutic activities in a clinic for airways diseases, had the opportunity of clinically evaluating visceral manipulation. He collected data for decades and developed the psychosomatics of inner organs.

Barral first became interested in biomechanics while working as a registered physical therapist at the Lung Disease Hospital in Grenoble, France. That’s where he met Dr. Arnaud, a recognized specialist in lung diseases and a master of cadaver dissection. Working with Dr. Arnaud, Barral followed patterns of stress in the tissues of cadavers and studied biomechanics in living subjects. This introduced him to the visceral system, its potential to promote lines of tension within the body, and the notion that tissues have memory. All this was fundamental to his development of Visceral Manipulation.

In 1974, Barral earned his diploma in osteopathic medicine from the European School of Osteopathy in Maidstone, England. Working primarily with articular and structural manipulation, he began forming the basis for Visceral Manipulation during an unusual session with a patient he’d been treating with spinal manipulations. During the preliminary examination, Barral was surprised to find appreciable movement. The patient confirmed that he felt relief from his back pain after going to an “old man who pushed something in his abdomen.”

This incident piqued Barral’s interest in the relationship between the viscera and the spine. That’s when he began exploring stomach manipulations with several patients, with successful results gradually leading him to develop Visceral Manipulation.

Between 1975 and 1982, Barral taught spinal biomechanics at England’s European School of Osteopathy. In collaboration with Dr. Jean-Paul Mathieu and Dr. Pierre Mercier, he published Articular Vertebrae Diagnosis.

Jean-Pierre Barral began teaching Visceral Manipulation in the United States in 1985. Since then he has trained a team of International Teachers that teach Visceral Manipulation seminars around the world. He has also authored numerous textbooks and continues to research and develop manual therapy techniques while maintaining a full clinical practice in Lyon, France.