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Back Pain May Be Connected to New Organs

Submitted by: Margaret "Mags" Matthews

Heart, lungs, brain, liver, intestines, mesentery, interstitium? Researchers have recently classified 2 new organs, though they have been in our bodies this whole time. Previously thought as separate bits of connective tissue and organ lining tissue, the mesentery and instertitium are now each known to be a continuous structure providing newly distinct functions that have wide ranging effects on  the human body including the intestinal, vascular, endocrine, cardiovascular and immunological systems.


What are these organs and what do they do? The mesentery is the organ that connects the intestines to the body, attaching in front of the spine. It’s a double fold of abdominal peritoneum, the tissue that lines the abdominal walls. The mesentery carries lymphatic fluid, blood, nutrients, and waste to and from the intestines and the rest of the body. The interstitium is a network of fluid filled compartments outside of cells that lie beneath the skin and in the respiratory, urinary, and digestive systems.  Interstitial fluid makes up lymph fluid, transporting white blood cells, the cells that fight off infection in the immune system, and may also have a role in spreading cancer. The interstitium may also behave as a shock absorber, protecting other organs, muscles, and blood vessels from damage as they and the body move. Medical students and researchers are continuing to study how these organs work.


As a physical therapist, I’m interested in how the mesentery and interstitium affect movement; the movement of organs within the body, and well as the movement of our entire body through space. Every organ is connected through our tissues and can affect normal function when not moving well. Inflammatory process such as healing from surgery, irritated GI tract, or acute injury may result in scar tissue and adhesions that limit motion. I’ve treated tissue around the bladder for hip arthritis, and treating the abdomen may be a significant component of therapy for back pain and sciatica patients.  


People with back issues may also have limited organ motility, constipation, and gut distress. Treating around the abdominal organs may help with back pain and motion.  I always check what is going on at the abdomen. I assess what the mobility and tension is like through the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and organs.


A number of medical and wellness professionals work with visceral mobility through specialized abdominal massage and specific movements including and not limited to osteopathic physicians, doctors, chiropractors, and physical and manual therapists. Check with your medical physician or physical therapist if they have this specialty, and if it’s right for you.  

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