Connection Between Abdominal and Musculoskeletal Discomforts and How To Treat Them

Brought to you by Creative Healing for Youth in Pain

Sabine Combrié, PT, CST-T
November 21, 2022 / 5 mins read

As the school year goes on and life gets busy for everyone, are we taking the time to sit and eat quietly? Do we always use good posture when we sit at the table, embracing the best lower back position, with a relaxed abdomen and soft diaphragmatic muscle?

Taking time to eat without rushing -- while maintaining proper posture, optimizing the most relaxed condition as possible, and using the diaphragmatic muscle more efficiently -- will make a difference in avoiding abdominal bloating and tightness, and therefore, musculoskeletal discomfort. Any abdominal tightness, stress, or discomfort will impact the rest of the body.

On the other hand, maintaining good lower back posture -- as well as hip and ribcage mobility -- will also help to avoid abdominal discomfort. One part of the body is always helping another!

In my many years as a physical therapist, I have helped patients focus on well-balanced posture. With craniosacral therapy, we focus on posture correction, as well as optimal fascia and autonomic nervous system balance.

Recently, I attended a four-day seminar on visceral manipulation -- a gentle, hands-on manual therapy used to enhance the flow of fluids and energy of internal organs (the viscera). This has provided me with new tools to better understand and more effectively treat symptoms that I often see with my patients: lower back pain, hip tightness, and difficulties using diaphragmatic breathing due to either a medical condition such as asthma, or stress.

When we think about visceral manipulation, the first thing that comes to mind is treating abdominal symptoms such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), abdominal bloating, and/or abdominal tightness. Visceral manipulation can ease these symptoms and will help to maintain better harmony between the abdominal organs.

Working around the mid/lower trunk area and helping the ligaments, muscles, and joints become more mobile -- while helping attachments of the abdominal organs to the musculoskeletal system -- makes a huge impact in the effectiveness of treatment.

I also noticed that when patients have lower or mid-back pain and hip tightness, they may have difficulty using their lower ribcage efficiently to breathe. Releasing abdominal tension helps the ribcage to be more mobile, enhances thoracic spine mobility, and allows the parasympathetic system to express itself better. The patient feels more relaxed, and gains more freedom and flexibility in the hips -- as well as proper back posture.

In my practice, I have always tried to treat the body as a whole. Including visceral manipulation in my toolset complements other techniques that I have been using and has helped me to treat my patients from a deeper and wider perspective. When people say that the “gut is the second brain of the body,” it makes even more sense to me now.