How Digestion Affects Your Movement

It’s true! Movement dysfunction can come from adhesions in your abdomen. I touched on this briefly when I introduced THRIVE, but I want to dive deeper into the idea of digestion today and how adhesions in your abdomen could be limiting some parts of your performance/injury recovery. As far as digestion, I am talking about the food that you eat and how it affects your viscera (aka internal organs that are the main players in digestion). So that hip you’ve been mobilizing for a while a it’s just not getting any better?!? You could have a restriction in your abdomen that is creating chronic tightness of the muscles surrounding your hip. And by only mobilizing your hip you’re just putting a temporary band-aide on the problem, rather than fixing it. Let’s fix it.

Let’s start by summarizing the requirements for ideal human movement:

  1. Mobile fascia/tissue – this includes skin, muscles, connective tissue (aka fascia), nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, bones & viscera (our focus for this post).
  2. Mobile joints – this includes the boney connections & joint capsule (very intertwined with the above)
  3. Motor control – this includes awareness of movement, your brain’s connection to movement & moving in ideal postures that the body was meant to do.
  4. Strength -this includes joint stability and your muscles ability to move

Normal, healthy viscera has….

  • A functional joint, which is the space between structures and the surrounding fascia to allow for movement. This is the focus of visceral manipulation, which is getting the viscera to be mobile and free of adhesions. (Visceral Functional Mobilization IPA 2013)
  • Good visceral motility, which is the movement within the viscera…..this may be directly influenced by mobilizing the abdomen but is not the focus of this post.
  • Efficient visceral mobility allows for: better bowel movements & transition times, 70% of our immunity health, decrease strain on our musculoskeletal system (muscles, fascia, bones & joints) and reduced nerve tension. (Visceral Functional Mobilization IPA 2013) Yes please!!

What causes poor visceral mobility? to name a few…

  • Inflammatory diet and/food intolerances: when food enters the body and it’s either not welcomed by the body, the inflammation will cause decreased movement of the organs from the inside and their functional joint with the surrounding tissues.
  • Internal casues: GERD, ulcers, hernias, Crohn’s disease, gluten intolerance, celiac disease, diverticulitis,
  • Mechanical causes: poor posture, poor breathing, whiplash, surgery, pregnancy, postpartum dysfunction, trauma.
  • Psychological causes: stress & anxiety
This image shows adhesions in the viscera, where the intestines are stuck where they should be moving.
This image shows adhesions in the viscera, where the intestines are stuck where they should be moving.

How can poor visceral mobility present in your body?

  • Limited joint mobility/impingement
  • Limited soft tissue mobility
  • Headaches
  • Pain in any area of the body
  • Belching or gas
  • Sciatica
  • Low back pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Infertility
  • Circulatory problems
  • Groin pain
  • Genital pain

How does visceral mobility affect your movement?

Since it’s all connected, it can limit your joint/tissue mobility and not allow you to get into positions that you need to move in a healthy way! Thus leading to inefficient movement, injury and pain. Visceral mobilization can potentially help the other systems of the body (i.e. musculoskeletal) because of the fascial connections. Research has shown that there is a significant relationship between viscera and somatic dysfunction (defined as “impaired or altered function of related components of the somatic (body framework) system: skeletal, arthrodial, and myofascial structures, and related vascular, lymphatic, and neural elements”).    (Visceral Functional Mobilization IPA 2013). The founder of visceral manipulation, Jean-Pierre Barral D.O. states that:

“VM {visceral manipulation} assists functional and structural imbalances throughout the body including musculoskeletal, vascular, nervous, urogenital, respiratory, digestive and lymphatic dysfunction. It evaluates and treats the dynamics of motion and suspension in relation to organs, membranes, fascia and ligaments. VM increases proprioceptive communication within the body, thereby revitalizing a person and relieving symptoms of pain, dysfunction, and poor posture.”

Which is why this could be the missing link in why you’re not reaching your fitness,

What can I do to start improving this?

Step 1 is to take away what is irritating your guts, so learning what your body likes and what it doesn’t like. Karen Rylander of Go Primal is a great resource for this, or another nutrition professional that can take you through a solid nutrition program. If you don’t get rid of the cause, you will never get rid of the affects! It also takes times to heal your digestive system, so making sure you give it time to heal. Some people can actually reintroduce foods that once irritated them after going through a period of healing (consuming things like bone broth & fermented foods).

Step 2 is to start with some self visceral mobilizing. The image above is a great way to begin and then you can progress to the gut smash (using the ball below). These will assist in getting rid of any old adhesions you may have. Just like any mobility, you can overdo it! So take it slow and pay attention to how your body responds. If you want some more hands on learning with this stuff you can check out my THRIVE Education Series Videos or join me for a THRIVE workshop in Denver. If you’ve tried the above and are not making progress, or you have things going on that you’d prefer to have someone work on you, schedule an evaluation with myself here or another healthcare professional near you that is trained in visceral mobilization. It will seriously blow your mind how effective this stuff can be. I was able to heal my back pain with the help of a visceral specialist, and now the self-care tools out there give everyone a chance to start doing their own treatment. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!


*Please be aware that this information not intended to replace medical care. If something feels sketchy while you’re doing it, don’t do it! Reach out to myself ( or another healthcare professional regarding your participation in these activities. Always be aware of your pain level, numbness, tingling and/or pulse as you are cruising around with the mobility tools. These indicate a need to change position or avoid that area. Don’t roll over open wounds, recent surgery, pregnant bellies or acute injuries. And never work on your gut pre workout.


Dean Hazama, MPT, FMTF, FAAOMPT; Functional Manual Therapy, Institute of Physical Art 2013 

Jean-Pierre Barral Visceral Manipulation II Revised Edition 2004

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