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The Mind-Gut Link

The Mind-Gut link and the massage therapist’s role in therapy using visceral massage techniques.

by Greg Morling

Visceral Manipulation has come to prominence in the last three decades in the West mainly due to the books by French osteopath Jean-Pierre Barral. However, visceral massage and visceral manipulation has its origins in Eastern medicine with the Taoist Chi Nei Tsang (translated as; transformation of old energy stored in the viscera). Chi Nei Tsang believes that this stored energy may include undigested emotional charges and traumas seated in the past which are waiting to be processed. This relationship between the physical digestive process via the organs and the presence of emotional energy is also witnessed in the TCM approach where the central principle is the classification of five major organ systems that are each associated with particular emotions; the liver and gallbladder are associated with anger, the heart and small intestine are associated with joy, the spleen and stomach are associated with over-thinking or procrastination, the lungs and large intestine are associated with grief, and the kidneys and bladder are associated with fear.

Barral’s writings briefly mention the relationship between the TCM approach in relation to visceral massage by citing Oriental health practitioners who recognize that energy flows through the body and reaches its zenith in specific organs and/or acupuncture channels. Alison Harvey, one of Barral’s students, does take this relationship a little further in her book, ‘A Pathway to Health’ by outlining similar relationships between the organs and emotions. It should be noted that there is some disparity between what Harvey believes are the emotions linked to particular organs as opposed to the assertions made by the Taoist and other TCM practitioners. For example, in the Taoist Emotions Creation Cycle the stomach is linked to fairness, openness and trust, but Harvey cites the stomach from Barral’s research as extroversion, focus on the future and poor self-esteem. It is quite possible that a new way of explaining this relationship between the organs of the body and emotions (as expounded by both Oriental Medicine and by Jean -Pierre Barral) can now be found in the scientific research undertaken by the scientist, Bud Craig in the USA.

Dr Craig painstaking stained thousands of nerve fibres and tracked their paths to the brain from the viscera of the body. He found that from the scientific perspective the insula cortex of the brain receives information from all the organs. Each piece of information is like a pixel-and the insula organises these pixels to form an overall image. This image is important because it represents a map of our feelings. So, if the insula creates an image of the body then it must also create feelings and ideas. Craig’s work may well go a very long way to explaining the relationship between the visceral system (gut) and our feelings.

What is becoming apparent is that visceral massage could have a scientific basis and contribute to both psychological and biomechanical well-being. I have performed visceral massage over many years to relieve conditions as diverse as constipation, lower back pain and anxiety.

In the Mostly Massage visceral massage workshop we address quite specific techniques that I believe are best performed by the experienced massage therapist addressing both physical and psychosomatic issues. Visceral massage also assists in the natural detox process of the body which has led to reports from massage practitioners of reduced visceral pain and even weight loss following this visceral massage treatment. Check the web site; for a 2-day course near you. Phone Greg for details on 0409600300 or contact [email protected]

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