Strain and Counterstrain for the Viscera

Abdominal Fascia

Abdominal Fascia

Have you ever heard of fascia?

The medical term for the body’s internal organs is ‘viscera.’ The medical term for the connective tissue of the body is ‘fascia.’ Fascia holds the body together. It attaches everything to everything in the human body and is part of muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and even covers the nervous system.

Fascia envelops all of our organs and anchors them to each other or to the abdominal wall internally. Fascia gives our body stability, however, it must also glide and yield to our every movement. If the ability of fascia to stretch or elongate is lost, the end result is pain, loss of mobility and even the potential for organ dysfunction.

How Fascia Becomes Tight

This concept leads us to several questions. How does fascia become tight? Can it only become restricted following surgical procedures? What type of pain is experienced when the fascia that anchors our organs is restricted?

The potential for fascia to become scarred or restricted following a surgical procedure does exist and is well documented in the medical literature. What is also documented in the literature, but is much less widely known, is the fact that fascia is CONTRACTILE.  We know this from an explosion of research on fascia that has emerged out of Europe over the past ten years. [Reference: Fascia is able to contract in a smooth muscle like manner and influence musculoskeletal mechanics – Schleip, Klinger. See Research Articles.]

How Fascia Contracts

Myofibroblast (click to enlarge)

How is this possible? The answer is that fascia contains myofibroblasts.These smooth muscle cells are embedded in the fascia and are attached to an extensive “lattice like” network of collagen fibers that allows fascia to contract in a uniform manner.

What this means is that when fascia contracts it can cause pain and restriction just like muscles do. Even more interesting is that when fascia contracts it is capable of stimulating muscle stretch receptors (muscle spindles) and present clinically as chronic musculoskeletal pain.

In other words, the pain from contracted fascia can look like a common case of back or hip pain that does not respond to traditional treatments like massage or exercise.

The Counterstrain Treatment

SCS for the pubovesical ligament of the bladder

How does Counterstrain work on these deep fascial structures? The treatment is very similar to the sequence described under the musculoskeletal Counterstrain page. The only difference is that we are manipulating the involved organ to “shorten” the anchoring fascia of the organ instead of manipulating the involved joint as we do with musculoskeletal Counterstrain. A detailed knowledge of visceral anatomy and its anchoring system is an essential part of Visceral Counterstrain.

Visceral Counterstrain Can Impact Organ Function

The final question to address is whether visceral Counterstrain can directly impact the function of the organs themselves. The answer is yes it can, because the visceral fascia is innervated (fed by) the same autonomic nerves that lead to the organs themselves.

Irritation of these autonomic nerves can cause minor organ complaints such as urinary urgency,chronic constipation or unknown abdominal pain. Visceral Counterstrain is only recommended for organ complaints that have first been thoroughly evaluated by a physician for organ disease.

Strain and Counterstrain for Visceral Fascia Developed by Brian Tuckey

Strain and Counterstrain for the visceral fascia is currently used by physicians and physical therapists throughout the United States. The technique was developed over an eleven year period from 1999 to 2010 by Brian Tuckey PT, OCS, JSCCI, the director of Tuckey and Associates Physical Therapy.

If you feel you may have the symptoms of visceral fascia dysfunction, feel free to set up a detailed evaluation with one of the trained Strain and Counterstrain practitioners at Tuckey and Associates Physical Therapy or use the Jones Institute website to find a trained practitioner in your state.

If you are a licensed medical professional and are interested in training in Visceral Strain and Counterstrain, feel free to visit the teaching link for Mr. Tuckey’s lecture schedule.

For additional uses of Strain and Counterstrain please see:
Fascial Counterstrain for the Nervous System
Strain and Counterstrain for the Musculoskeletal System
Strain and Counterstrain for the Lymphatic System
Strain and Counterstrain for the Dural/Cranial System