About Vascular Manipulation
[VASCULAR: relating to the vessels of the body that conduct fluids…arteries, veins, lymph vessels]
Vascular Manipulation is an Osteopath-developed technique of gentle assessment and treatment of the vessels and the structures that surround them.
Rarely are therapists trained to think about blood supply, let alone how to assess and treat the vessels, yet it is often a vital element in the success of treating pain and dysfunction in the body.
more on the vascular system
The state of circulation in the body is of utmost importance to the health and well-being of EVERYTHING in the body. The Vascular System provides nutrition to every cell (trillions of them!) in the body; and equally, if not more important, removes the waste products (metabolites) from those trillions of cells; and provides disease and infection-fighting capabilities…the Immune System.
There are about 100, 000km of arteries, and 250, 000 km of veins in the body. According to renowned osteopath, Andrew Taylor Still, “the artery reigns supreme…” [meaning that in the body’s hierarchical system, the blood vessels are absolutely vital for the functioning and health of the organism, and the body will do all it can to protect the blood supply]. Without adequate blood supply, tissues fail. Human cells require abundant oxygen and other nutrients, and for the waste products (metabolites) to be removed to maintain health and proper functioning. The blood also carries the 50 or so hormones produced by the body; regulates body temperature, pH and mineral salt levels etc; and the lymphatic system is dependent on the blood circulatory system.
The hierarchy of circulation is firstly for the brain, then kidneys, digestive system, and lastly the limbs [in other words, the organs have top priority, and circulation to limbs and superficial structures will be reduced if an area of greater importance is in need].
Blood and lymphatic circulation is vital for the health of the vital organs, as well as the more superficial structures such as joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons. If there is restriction somewhere in the chain, localised supply will be affected detrimentally, causing pain, and premature degeneration.
why do vessels need treatment?
Apart from disease processes, the main cause of compromise to vessels is restriction in the tissues that surround them. The hundreds of thousands of kilometers of vessels which range in diameter from thumb-size to microscopic, have to wend their way between and through connective tissues, muscles, organs and tightly-packed body compartments. If there is any area along their tortuous route that is tight and restricted/swollen/inflamed/out of alignment, this will affect their ability to transport the vital fluids. Results of this can be pain and swelling in the area blood is not getting to and from; poor health of the tissues; and also pain in the vessels themselves. Two examples of this are varicose veins and haemorrhoids. Both of these conditions are swelling of the veins. Here, the veins in the legs and pelvis are being ‘backlogged’ with blood that is not able to flow upstream to the heart freely. The passage of the veins through the pelvic, abdominal and chest cavities is not free enough to allow easy circulation back to the heart (just think of a garden hose when there is a kink or it is under a car tyre and how that slows the flow). Restrictions in the pelvic, abdominal and thoracic cavities can come from: infections and surgeries in those areas causing scar tissue; poor posture; and general digestive system problems. These two examples highlight the fact that most often the symptom and the cause are in different places in the body, so it is vital for the therapist to have the skills to find and treat the right thing.
The vessels have elastic walls to be able to expand and contract both length-ways and in diameter. Through trauma such as a direct impact for example, the vessel walls can develop thickenings which adversely affect their elasticity. Vascular Manipulation aims to the mobility and elasticity of these areas.