Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Osteopathy

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Osteopathy

JUSTINE GAPIHAN, DOMP

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

IBS is a digestive disorder. Typical symptoms may include abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea and bloating. The cause is currently unknown and there is no medical cure for it. It’s thought to be partially due to abnormal function of the muscular walls of the large intestine. Different factors including emotional stress, infection and types of foods could worsen the symptoms.

For some patients suffering from IBS, it could be very painful and annoying. Different forms of IBS are possible: the mild form, which people can have without getting any treatment, and more severe forms, which can cause strong symptoms and distress.

What are the mechanisms that trigger IBS?

The gut has its own “brain”, called the enteric nervous system (ENS). The vagus nerve is the connection between the brain and the ENS. The vagus nerve goes through the side of the neck and may be compressed by tight muscles. You can easily imagine that the right signals won’t get to your digestive system, disturbing its mobility. Stress hormones, which stimulate the neurons in the gut can cause diarrhea by over-stimulation.

How can osteopathy help patients suffering from IBS?

Osteopathy works with the whole body: the nervous and circulatory systems, spine, digestive organs, thoracic and pelvic diaphragms to balance the nervous activity in the intestine, improve lymphatic circulation and relieve musculoskeletal pain.

For patients who have suffered from IBS for a while, the intestine may be palpably congested and hard. There may be adhesions and areas of tension in the mesentery (the large fan-shaped ligament which holds the large bowel in place). Visceral osteopathy can help by manipulating the bowel and the mesentery through the abdominal wall. Stretching and giving more mobility to the mesentery helps to improve the blood and nerve supply to the gut as well.

Visceral osteopathy is only part of the treatment. In fact, mobilising the spine can help to improve the function of the nerves which supply the intestine and this can lead to calming the nerves and relaxation of the smooth muscle of the gut.

Previously we talked about the stress that made IBS symptoms worse. Osteopathic treatment has effects on this factor as well, especially with the mobilisation of the spine that can calm down the sympathetic nerves (responsible for the stress response). A cranial approach will help improve function as well.

Osteopathy’s goal is to restore homeostasis.

Don’t suffer anymore. Please come in and let’s try osteopathy to relieve your pain! 

Justine Gapihan is on osteopathic manual practitioner who treats a variety of complaints. From sprains and strains to digestive issues, postural strain and more. She has experience treating infants and children. You can learn more about Justine on her practitioner profile.