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Osteopathy and Digestive Health

Optimal nutrition and good digestive health go hand-in-hand, and both are crucial for us to thrive well into healthy old age. In this article, Marianne Carpenter from Bath Spa Osteopathy will explain how osteopaths can help treat some of the most common digestive problems. 

What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a holistic approach to healthcare that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of musculoskeletal disorders. Unlike other forms of medicine, osteopathy emphasises the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Through hands-on manual therapy techniques such as manipulation, stretching, and massage, osteopaths work to restore balance and function to the body. This non-invasive treatment method is an established and popular treatment for back pain, sciatica, and joint problems. Fewer people are aware of how effective visceral osteopathy can be for the relief of some very common digestive issues. 

Visceral Osteopathy treats Digestive Problems

Visceral osteopathy is a safe and effective treatment for digestive problems. These include irritable bowel syndrome, bloating and gas, acid reflux (heartburn) and chronic constipation. There is a growing body of research to support the use of visceral osteopathy as a more natural alternative to taking medications to treat these common digestive complaints.

Osteopaths use gentle hands-on techniques to find and release areas of restriction throughout the body, improving how the digestive system functions. When working with a patient with digestive issues, this will include assessing and treating the following areas:

  1. Restoring a balanced nerve supply to the digestive system, by removing any compression or restrictions occurring along the course of these nerves.  These include the vagus nerve and the spinal sympathetic outflow.
  1. Addressing any mobility issues or adhesions affecting the viscera. These organs include the stomach, liver, small and large intestine. Restrictions can be treated and released using special visceral osteopathy techniques. 
  1. Postural and musculoskeletal corrective work to ensure your whole body is symmetrical, strong, and flexible. This ensures you are able to adopt positions which are optimal for gut health and digestive motility. Treatment will include advice about seated posture and movement. 

Visceral Osteopathy for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

IBS is a common gastrointestinal disorder affecting up to one third of the UK population. Symptoms include bloating, pain or discomfort that is often temporarily improved by passing stools. The National Library of Medicine states that “visceral osteopathy effectively reduces the symptoms of IBS and improves patients’ quality of life”.

Visceral Osteopathy for Acid Reflux and Heartburn

Reflux occurs when stomach acid escapes from the stomach and travels back up the oesophagus (food pipe). Symptoms include heartburn, indigestion, chest pain, a sour taste in the mouth and even a persistent dry cough. It’s often worse after a spicy or heavy meal and when you are lying down. Stomach acid is normally stopped from moving upwards by an elastic ‘sphincter’ made by the muscular diaphragm just above the stomach. Visceral osteopathic treatment focusses on restoring the balance across this diaphragm, and on the function of the phrenic nerve supplying it. 

About our Visceral Osteopath

Marianne Carpenter is an award-winning general and visceral osteopath at Bath Spa Osteopathy who frequently works with patients with digestive issues. She completed post-graduate research at Keele Medical School then lectured in anatomy at Swansea Medical School for several years. You can book in for your osteopathic assessment and treatment here:


“Marianne has helped me with my energy levels, my posture and my digestive system. I experience less pain, bloating and fatigue so I am able to do so much more than I used to” – Peg B.

“Marianne has done a great job with my neck and back and has also treated both my children as babies and recently (now age 3 and 4) for digestive issues too. Highly recommended” – Jaime A.

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