I’ve been approved as a Teaching Assistant for Visceral Manipulation II!

After attending the Visceral Manipulation II class, held in London last weekend, for the second time, I have been approved as a Teaching Assistant for this level. I decided to take the class again, 3 years after I initially completed it, so that I could pick up the pieces of information and depth of anatomical knowledge that I missed the first time round due to the sheer volume of new material thrown at you on this course.

It was a real shock to hear the news announced at the end of the class!

As a Teaching Assistant on Visceral Manipulation classes with the Barral Institute, your function is to assist the course participants in gaining and improving their hands-on skills. It is entirely voluntary but you do effectively get to attend the course again and further your knowledge and precision as a therapist. This is the reason I am now reducing my follow up appointments to 30 minutes, as your precision increases, treatment takes less time and it makes sessions more financially accessible in these straitened times. I have also been inspired by the wisdom of Jean Pierre Barral, who developed Visceral Manipulation. His recommendation is that you introduce a minimal change into the body by helping to release one restriction, maybe two and then let the body’s “intelligence” and natural healing skills do the rest.

Causes of Backache

People who come to see me are often complaining of backache and at some point during their first session will usually ask me, “why is my back so sore?” Unless there is an obvious cause to their pain, for example, they’ve had a fall or hurt it whilst lifting something awkward or heavy, the answer is often, “well it could be for many different reasons”. The human spine is a miracle of engineering, it is made up of 33 bones although the 5 bones of the sacrum and the 4 that make up the coccyx right at the bottom of your back are fused to make two larger bones. Each individual bone (called a vertebrae) is separated from it’s neighbours by a tough, flexible shock absorber called a disc. At the back, each spinal bone overlaps with the next to form two joints (one on the left and one on the right). These joints are called “facet joints” and allow a small amount of movement at each level of the spine.

When you add all these small movements together, you get a huge range of movement that allows us to bend, stretch and twist our spines in all directions.     

The joints of the spine are supported by ligaments, the discs, muscles, fascia and the whole back is full of nerves, blood and lymph vessels, any or all of which are capable of causing back pain and discomfort. Add to that, the potential of any of the abdominal organs to cause sensitivity in the back  – it’s well known that when there are problems with the kidneys, one of the symptoms may be backache but other visceral organs can also be a source of back pain and it’s easy to see why there could be many possible reasons for their backache.

When you look at the human spine, it’s obvious that it evolved for movement – it wouldn’t have so many moving parts otherwise. Unfortunately for many people, their lives don’t allow them to move their spines properly for extended periods of time – we spend long hours sat, static at a computer screen, in the car or on the bus, sat in front of the TV and the truth is that this is harmful to our backs. It makes the whole spine increasingly vulnerable to injury as the years go by, muscles that aren’t being used to their full capacity get weaker, your body is incredibly efficient and will break down cells that are unused and send their resources elsewhere in the body where they will be made use of.

Hours sat relatively still is very stressful for all the structures in the back. Sitting upright at a desk for hours at a time without much movement is hard work. Muscles work best when they contract then relax, in this way, blood – which carries the oxygen and other nutrition that the muscle cells need to work properly – is pumped through the muscle and carries away waste from the cells. Static muscle work – which is what we’re doing when we hold one position for a long time – demands that the muscles contract and hold still but don’t allow for the relaxation part in order to allow blood to move freely through the area. The net result is that we’re asking the muscles to work really hard and then restricting their food supply and gradually, the quality of that muscle tissue deteriorates, it becomes hard and tough, not elastic and springy. As a quick test, just prod the muscle across the top of your shoulder with your fingertips, the chances are that it feels hard and probaby a bit sore. A muscle in good condition would feel soft and give under your prodding fingers – like a good piece of steak.

Poor quality muscle, does not react and contract as quickly as good quality muscle. One of the functions of muscle is to contract and protect our joints from harm, if you trip and fall on a pavement and your muscles don’t react quickly enough, you are likely to suffer a  more serious injury.  As the condition of muscles gets worse, they weaken and get tired more easily, so we tend to lose our upright position and start to slump. When the muscles are no longer supporting our spines, the ligaments that are supposed to protect the joints from moving too far start to take on the strain of holding us up. They become over stretched and make us even more vulnerable to injury

The answer I give people is that most backache is caused by a combination of problems; there may be stiffness at one or more joints; poor quality muscles; overstretched ligaments; irritation of delicate nerve tissue; reduced blood supply through the area; tightness in other structures such as in the abdomen that are affecting the spines’ ability to move properly; damage to the discs between the bones of the spine and a hundred other reasons.

Using a combination of the skills I have to offer, I can help to discover which structures are part of the problem, why they have become painful and how we can work together to ease the strain that is causing your back to ache.