CST is great for headaches, especially long-term headaches that no longer respond well to other medical approaches. I work with the membranes around the spine and brain. Injuries can create tiny stuck areas in this membrane that pull on the surrounding membranes. That pulling is passed along until it reaches a weak spot that screams.
Tight shrink wrap can squish the brain or clamp down on blood flow deep in the brain. By finding stuck spots and teasing them apart, I can relieve the pulling and improve blood flow.
Or maybe your neck muscles have trigger points, which are tiny areas (the size of a lentil) that are tight and don’t let go. Blood vessels get to the brain by weaving between neck muscles. Tense neck muscles squeeze down on blood vessels, making it harder for blood to reach the brain or backing up the fluid flow from the brain to the body.
Or maybe some twisting reduces blood flow in the cavernous sinuses in your brain or in the glial (lymphatic) network in your brain. Brains need plumbers, too!
CST can help reduce headaches. And it’s very relaxing. You’ll snore. Extra points if you drool.
In our culture, we almost never listen to our bodies because our brains are in charge. In the CST world, we believe our bodies know things and will nudge us to get our attention. If we ignore the nudge, it gets louder. Pain is a nudge. Our bodies are saying, “Stop ignoring me. I’ve got something important to tell you.”
I can listen to your body rhythms and let your body speak its truth while your brain is off on vacation for a bit.
True story: a woman came in with a finger so swollen she could hardly bend it. This was interfering with her computer use at work and was painful. We listened to the subtle rhythms in her finger, and the woman started remembering that months earlier, she had canceled a trip to her favorite vacation spot to take care of a work crisis. Her finger was rebelling against that bad decision.
True story: a woman had low back pain for years. The rhythms in her low back were not happy, and during the work, she started feeling that her back was a tight spring. The spring was very old and had protected her when she was a child in a bad situation. She told the spring how much she valued its protection and asked what job upgrade it wanted now that the danger was past. Her back pain went away.
More weird stuff:
Energy cysts. We believe that remnants of trauma can be stored in our bodies and attached to connective tissue (we don’t know why). Let’s say a ball hits you. Sometimes, not all the energy of that impact gets dissipated as movement or heat or whatever. Sometimes, a little bit of energy can stay in the tissue. The body surrounds the foreign energy, shrinks it, and stores it somewhere. Now it has to work around the ball of chaos. We find that when connective tissue starts unwinding, it can release that stored energy and let your body work how it wants to, without the roadblock.
I didn’t believe it, either, when I first heard about it. I thought the teachers were pulling my leg. But it’s real: we can find energy cysts, and when they release, they emit a burst of heat, or cold, or buzzing, or coughing, or a sort of wasabi-like whoosh.
True story: A guy came to me with a painful knee after a bicycle accident. He said he had to bike with one leg because the other leg hurt too much to use force. I worked on his knee’s connective tissue, releasing many strong energy cysts. The next day, his knee felt better, and he could ride with both legs.
We can get as weird as you want. If you want to call in saints or angels or ancestors or guardian spirits to help with the work, I’m fine with that. If you want to meditate on the table or do shamanic journeying, you’ll find that the “cranio trance” will help.
There’s just something cool and life-on-the-border about CST. It can be a powerful way to heal.
CranioSacral Therapy was developed by the osteopathic physician Dr. John Upledger beginning in the early 1970s. His early focus was on the connective tissue membrane wrapping the spinal cord (meninges) and brain (dura mater). Thus the name CranioSacral, or Head-Tailbone.
It all started in 1971 when Dr. Upledger was asked to assist in surgery to remove a calcium deposit on the meningeal membrane around a patient’s spinal cord. He had one job: to steady the membrane so the surgeon could scrape off the deposit. The surgeon yelled at him throughout the surgery because he wasn’t keeping the membrane from moving back and forth.
Dr. Upledger started studying this movement and discovered it was normal. The pumping action came from the production and draining of cerebrospinal fluid, which flows beneath the meninges and dura mater. His research also showed that CS fluid moves the bones of the skull because it creates higher pressure when produced and a lower pressure when drained. This movement is very slight but can be felt by trained hands.
Accidents, immobility, dehydration, and emotional trauma can create areas where bits of connective tissue stick together. This can reduce the amount the bones can move, putting pressure on the brain or spinal nerves. Result? Unhappy brain or spinal nerves. CranioSacral Therapy works to unlatch stuck areas and gently return the movement to normal.
That’s the basis of the work: un-latching problems one velcro loop at a time.
We work gently because that’s the best way to get results. Connective tissue (fascia) is like cling wrap in that it’s a little stretchy but mostly not. It doesn’t like being aggressively pushed around but will unhook when gently worked. Gentle work also doesn’t trigger the body’s guarding reflexes.
What would indicate CranioSacral therapy? The cause of your pain doesn’t show up on X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs, and the pain doesn’t respond well to painkillers or aggressive types of therapy. Because guess what? Connective tissue problems don’t appear on X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs, bwaa haa haa!
And here’s another cool scientific fact: our brains have the consistency of custard. If the connective tissue wrapping around our brain gets tight, it squishes our brain, and we develop anxiety or depression.
Or check this out: the pituitary sits in a little depression (the Turkish saddle) in the sphenoid bone. If stuck connective tissue makes that bone wobble like a car with a bent axle, the pituitary won’t gently rock back and forth the way a normal pituitary does but will whirl around in a circle. It won’t be happy, and the body’s fight-or-flight response will probably kick in…and stay on.
CST works with connective tissue to find out where the stuck spots are and to release them. The brain can fluff back up, the sphenoid can rock gently back and forth, and the pituitary can calm down.
CST is a wonderful way to help reduce anxiety and other problems. As my old boss, Bill Nye, used to say, “It’s science!”
CranioSacral Therapy (CST) can help reduce headache, jaw, and neck/back pain. It can help reduce dizziness and balance difficulties. It can help reduce anxiety and depression. It can help return sleep to more normal patterns. It can help reduce seizures and the need for high doses of medication. It can help reduce the severity of flare-ups of autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.
It’s a great technique for babies to help reduce colic and developmental delays caused by birth difficulties.
It’s fantastic for anyone who has had whiplash due to a car accident because it’s so gentle. Recent or ancient accidents, it’ll help both.
It’s an interesting field trip if you’re a hot mess because I’ll follow the wisdom of your body instead of imposing my ideas on the treatment plan.
And if you’re nice, CranioSacral Therapy may change the oil in your car. (No, just kidding. It won’t do your laundry, either.)
It’s hard to explain how CranioSacral therapy works exactly. There are so many facets to it. Briefly, CST works on connective tissue (fascia), which wraps all your nerve cells, muscle cells, and groups of nerves or muscles. If you want more scientific info, here is the link for the nerd explanation. (I say that with kindness since I’m a total nerd.)