This systematic review and meta-analysis assessed the effectiveness of visceral osteopathy in improving pain intensity, disability and physical function in patients with low-back pain (LBP).

MEDLINE (Pubmed), PEDro, SCOPUS, Cochrane Library and Web of Science databases were searched from inception to February 2022. PICO search strategy was used to identify randomized clinical trials applying visceral techniques in patients with LBP. Eligible studies and data extraction were conducted independently by two reviewers. Quality of the studies was assessed with the Physiotherapy Evidence Database scale, and the risk of bias with Cochrane Collaboration tool. Meta-analyses were conducted using random effects models according to heterogeneity assessed with I2 coefficient. Data on outcomes of interest were extracted by a researcher using RevMan 5.4 software.

Five studies were included in the systematic review involving 268 patients with LBP. The methodological quality of the included ranged from high to low and the risk of bias was high. Visceral osteopathy techniques have shown no improvements in pain intensity (Standardized mean difference (SMD) = -0.53; 95% CI; -1.09, 0.03; I2: 78%), disability (SMD = -0.08; 95% CI; -0.44, 0.27; I2: 0%) and physical function (SMD = -0.26; 95% CI; -0.62, 0.10; I2: 0%) in patients with LBP.

The authors concluded that this systematic review and meta-analysis showed a lack of high-quality studies showing the effectiveness of visceral osteopathy in pain, disability, and physical function in patients with LBP.

Visceral osteopathy (or visceral manipulation) is an expansion of the general principles of osteopathy and involves the manual manipulation by a therapist of internal organs, blood vessels and nerves (the viscera) from outside the body.

Visceral osteopathy was developed by Jean-Piere Barral, a registered Osteopath and Physical Therapist who serves as Director (and faculty) of the Department of Osteopathic Manipulation in Paris, France. He stated that through his clinical work with thousands of patients, he created this modality based on organ-specific fascial mobilization. And through work in a dissection lab, he was able to experiment with visceral manipulation techniques and see the internal effects of the manipulations.[1]  According to its proponents, visceral manipulation is based on the specific placement of soft manual forces looking to encourage the normal mobility, tone and motion of the viscera and their connective tissues. These gentle manipulations may potentially improve the functioning of individual organs, the systems the organs function within, and the structural integrity of the entire body.[2] Visceral osteopathy comprises of several different manual techniques firstly for diagnosing a health problem and secondly for treating it.

Several studies have assessed the diagnostic reliability of the techniques involved. The totality of this evidence fails to show that they are sufficiently reliable to be od practical use.[3] Other studies have tested whether the therapeutic techniques used in visceral osteopathy are effective in curing disease or alleviating symptoms. The totality of this evidence fails to show that visceral osteopathy works for any condition.[4] 

The treatment itself seems to be safe, yet the risks of visceral osteopathy are nevertheless considerable: if a patient suffers from symptoms related to her inner organs, the therapist is likely to misdiagnose them and subsequently mistreat them. If the symptoms are due to a serious disease, this would amount to medical neglect and could, in extreme cases, cost the patient’s life.

My bottom line: if you see visceral osteopathy being employed anywhere, turn araound and seek proper healthcare whatever your illness might be.


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[3] Guillaud A, Darbois N, Monvoisin R, Pinsault N (2018) Reliability of diagnosis and clinical efficacy of visceral osteopathy: a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med 18:65

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One Response to Visceral osteopathy for low-back pain? No thanks!

  • LOL…This would be right up there with seeking out Chiropractic “Care.”
    You must have quite the library. Thanks for keeping us all in the loop on what these crazy quacks are up to.

    They say Jellyfish have survived roughly 650 million years, despite not having a brain.
    This gives me hope.

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