Digestive Disorders

Andrea Mohrle, MSPT, JSCC Release! Manual Therapy
Olympia, Washington


Many people are plagued by digestive disorders. Abdominal pain, cramping, constipation, diarrhea, reflux or heartburn, gas and bloating are common symptoms associated with a dysfunctional digestive system. There are numerous underlying causes for these symptoms, which include the following: poor diet, food sensitivities, adverse reactions to medication, and neurological dysfunction. This last one is often the least understood and therefore the least likely to be addressed with effective treatments. Because organs contain and are supported by fascia, which has the ability to contract or shorten, they can spasm in response to injury. This spasm is created with the intent of protecting the structure it surrounds from damage. Physical trauma, pain, and chemical toxicity (often due to an inflammatory diet) are examples of means of injury to the digestive tract. This can affect the function of the system itself as well as put strain on the support structures, which contributes to digestive dysfunction. It can also cause symptoms that are usually associated with the musculoskeletal system. For example, an esophageal spasm can cause pain in the upper back and shoulders in addition to reflux-type symptoms. Intestinal spasms can cause mid- to lower back pain and limit trunk movement in addition to abdominal pain and cramping. Colon dysfunction is notorious for causing low back and pelvic pain (SI joints) with or without sciatica, as well as constipation or diarrhea. Spasms in any of the arteries that supply digestive organs can reduce blood flow to that part of the system, which will decrease the ability of that organ to function optimally. Veins respond to such spasms by draining less efficiently (imagine a slow draining sink). This can cause a backlog of blood, which will also interfere with optimal function of the organ affected. Nerves in spasm respond by over-stimulating the effector site or organ. Spasms in each of these support structures can also put a physical strain on the organ, which can affect its ability to function properly. This reflexive protective spasm is not the same as disease within the digestive organs, although it may cause similar symptoms. It is therefore advisable to get a medical evaluation to rule out a possible disease process before seeking alternative treatment. If there is no detectible pathology, it is likely that your digestive symptoms and back pain may be caused by soft tissue spasms (neurological dysfunction) within the digestive tract and its support structures.


Fascial Counterstrain addresses this type of neurological dysfunction. Following a thorough evaluation, body positioning, compressions, and specific tissue glides are used by the practitioner to manually shorten the structure in spasm, thus releasing the neurological reflex which prevents it from relaxing on its own. This eliminates the spasm and its associated effects on the organ involved. Once all of the spasms within the digestive system and its associated structures have been removed, it is free to resume optimal function. In the absence of disease or continued chemical irritation, this will result in significant improvements to the digestive process and associated symptoms.