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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Understanding the Messages of Our Joints: Mary Peterson describes new insights on addressing joint pain

Jan 02, 2015 01:03PM ● By By Mary Peterson

About 20,000 times a day, we breathe. Each time we do, the respiratory diaphragm moves about 10 centimeters and the abdominal and thoracic organs suspended by ligaments from the musculoskeletal system move harmoniously with it. That is, unless a restriction changes the dynamics and alters the pattern. Perhaps a scar from an appendix operation years ago, combined with current stressors like hormonal changes, lack of sleep, nutritional depletion, environmental toxins, emotional stressors and dehydration affect organ movement, resulting in hip or back pain.

In his new book, Understanding the Messages of Your Joints: For the Prevention and Care of Joint Pain, author Jean-Pierre Barral, DO, details the interrelationship between our joints and internal organ movement patterns. For example, the liver refers pain to the right shoulder and might result in lack of movement which then creates stiffness in the joint. By working with a therapist trained in visceral manipulation, the liver mobility can be restored, which in turn frees up the shoulder.

In some cases, the intervention of a natural medicine physician, along with visceral therapy, is the key to recovery. A poor diet causes joints to “seize up, thicken synovial fluid and stiffen capsules and ligaments,” according to Barral. Infections weaken the ligaments. Hormonal imbalances are implicated in not only joint dysfunction, but also muscle and tendon problems.

For years, the body may store up tension, but when the cumulative load becomes too heavy, pain results and often affects the joints. A visceral therapist first listens to a patient’s health history to appreciate the traumas that have accumulated over the years. Even if the conscious mind has forgotten an event or illness, the body’s “hard drive” has stored away the memory. Then, with a light touch, the therapist listens with their hand, which is drawn to areas of physical and emotional tension that may be distant to the joints being affected, and treatment is given to restore movement patterns. In concluding the session, suggestions are given to help the client participate in their own well-being. By subtle manipulation of the skeletal system and abdominal organs, balance and harmony can return to the body.

For more information, contact Mary Peterson, MS Ed, a physical therapist specializing in visceral manipulation, cranial therapy and myofascial release techniques for the past 25 years. She can be reached at 480-998-1646 or visit

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