Visceral Manipulation Report: Listening for the Answers

A Case Study by Jean Zollars, MA

Terry was a 47 year-old school secretary and mother of three who lives three hours away from Albuquerque.  She came to my office with the following complaints:

  • Pain down the back of her leg, low back, buttocks and groin
  • Neck tightness
  • Numbness and tingling in the posterior aspect of her left leg and left 4th and 5th fingers
  • Occasional dizziness
  • Frequent nausea
  • Decreased concentration and memory problems
  • Constipation
  • Urinary frequency
  • Night sweats
  • Inability to work, as she could not sit without pain
  • Difficulty turning over, sitting up from lying down, and dressing

Terry did not recall any events that caused the onset of her pain.  An MRI diagnosed a herniated disc at the level of  L5-S1.  She’d been hospitalized for eight days on bedrest and traction.  Then she received physical therapy, primarily exercises that gave her some relief.  A neurosurgeon recommended surgery, which she rejected as a treatment option.

Her past medical history included:

  • Ruptured disc C5-C6 (left) 5 – 10 years earlier
  • Car accident
  • Tubal ligation in 1994 with severe allergic reaction to the anesthetic ( her heart stopped twice)
  • Fall from a horse, which tore her sternum from the ribcage
  • Falls on her tailbone, once three years prior and a fractured tailbone at 13-14 years old
  • Fall on ice that caused her to hit the back of her head

Terry limped into my office.  It was difficult for her to bear weight on her left foot because of the hip and leg pain.  She also had quite a bit of muscle spasm in her back, left buttock and left leg.

At first I was reluctant to work with her because of the diagnosis and acuity of her because of the diagnosis and acuity of her condition.  However, I decided to gently “listen” to what presented in her body.

Course of Therapy

At the beginning I did little direct work on her inflamed sciatic nerve, though I used positioning techniques to help reduce the spasm.  Because Terry lived so far away I could only see her two to three days in a row every two weeks.  After the first month she also worked she also worked with a Feldenkrais/Somatic therapist who helped with movement and body awareness.

Each time Terry came in I did general listening, manual thermal evaluation, local listening, and then followed what I found.  At the beginning we worked with liver and pericardial tensions.  Some of the tension in this area had to do with held emotional tensions around her father, who had died.  I used techniques from the Advanced Visceral Manipulation II workshop to release and balance these tensions.

Following that we worked with dural tensions in the cervical spine and cranium.  The pelvis and sacrum began to change as the listening guided me to the left side of the uterus and the scarring from the tubal ligation.  As the tension in her uterosacral ligaments released, her sacrum began to free up.

This area also carried a lot of emotional tension and trauma.  Again, I used AVMII techniques to release and balance these tensions.  It was then easy to gently mobilize and balance the bladder.

Freeing up her left kidney was important because of its relationship to the urogenital system.  After two months, the listening took me to the left sciatic nerve.  At that time I began to work more with the neural and dural tension, both in the sciatic nerves and the spine, using techniques I learned in the Visceral Approach to Trauma and Whiplash workshop.

A month later the listening brought me to her coccyx, which was very flexed forward.  Releasing the sacrococcygeal ligaments and dura mater helped free up her sacrum and left hip.

Therapeutic Results

Five months later I was working on Terry once every three weeks to help keep her body and mind in balance.  At that point she said she wondered if her disc really had been ruptured because she felt so much better.  After just two months of treatment (11 sessions) she had gone back to work full-time.

Terry was now walking and moving about easily without pain.  Her posture was more symmetrical.  Her spinal and lower-extremity range of motion had improved considerably.  When her stress increased she still had some pain in her left buttocks and occasionally in her mid-thoracic region.  But she no longer had numbness in her left leg or hand.  Urinary frequency had also decreased.  Constipation was less of a problem.  She no longer experienced dizziness or nausea.  She’d been counseled about changing her dietary habits and still got into trouble when she ate poorly.  However, she made big leaps in internal awareness and emotional balance.

She told me that one of her biggest benefits had been letting go of the difficult attachments with her father.  Her relationship with her husband had also gone through significant changes in the process.


Because Visceral Manipulation is often used for more chronic conditions rather than symptoms like acute inflammation and spasm, I didn’t expect Terry to improve as dramatically as she did.

The listening technique was extremely reliable.  I found Terry’s body to be very intelligent , guiding me to work gently and indirectly in more inflamed areas.  The process also solidified my belief in the importance of clearing up old, chronic restrictions that can predispose a body to be out of balance.  Though Terry required additional guidance on nutritional awareness, lifestyle changes and movement education, Visceral Manipulation and listening to the tissues was clearly a vital part of her treatment and recovery.

Author: Jean Anne Zollars, Certified Upledger Visceral Manipulation Instructor

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