“CranioSacral Therapy (CST) is a gentle, hands-on approach that releases tensions deep in the body to relieve pain and dysfunction and improve whole-body health and performance. It was pioneered and developed by Osteopathic Physician John E. Upledger after years of clinical testing and research at Michigan State University where he served as professor of biomechanics. It was in 1970, during a neck surgery in which he was assisting, that osteopathic physician John E. Upledger first observed the rhythmic movement of what would soon be identified as the craniosacral system. None of his colleagues nor any of the medical texts at the time could explain this discovery, however. His curiosity piqued, Dr. Upledger began searching for the answer. He started with the research of Dr. William Sutherland, the father of cranial osteopathy. For some 20 years beginning in the early 1900s, Sutherland had explored the concept that the bones of the skull were structured to allow for movement. For decades after, this theory remained at odds with the beliefs of the scientific and medical communities. Dr. Upledger believed, however, that if Sutherland’s theory of cranial movement was in fact true, this would help explain, and make feasible, the existence of the rhythm he had encountered in surgery. It was at this point that Dr. Upledger set out to scientifically confirm the existence of cranial bone motion. From 1975 to 1983 he served as clinical researcher and Professor of Biomechanics at Michigan State University, where he supervised a team of anatomists, physiologists, biophysicists and bioengineers in research and testing. The results not only confirmed Sutherland’s theory, but led to the clarification of the mechanisms behind this motion- the craniosacral system. Dr. Upledger’s continued work in the field ultimately resulted in his development of CranioSacral Therapy” -Taken from the Upledger Institute website- www.upledger.com
The craniosacral system is loosely defined as the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Craniosacral Therapy and Myofascial Release are to me, the same work. After all, we know that fascia is continuous from head to toe. It surrounds and envelopes every cell in the body including those in the craniosacral system.
On a personal note, I was fortunate enough to get exposed to Myofascial Release and CST very early in my Physical Therapy career. My first job was actually in the pediatric field and I worked on infants from birth to age 3 with neurological impairments. My two sons were age 2 and 4 when I first started training in this work. So, along with my clients, there were the perfect “guinea pigs” for trying out this new technique. I was recently privileged to be present during the birth of my first grandchild. Witnessing first hand the pressures on the head, neck and spine during a typical hospital delivery validates the research studies that I have read over the years of the importance of treating the craniosacral system of an infant as early as possible. My daughter-in-law gave me permission to treat Nathan as soon as the nursing staff finished their work on him. Two years ago, HOPT Physical Therapist Erin Arnold, allowed three of us to come into the delivery room as she was in the final stages of birthing her first child, Emerson. Erin knew the importance of treating the craniosacral system in a newborn as early as possible so we were there to treat Emerson when she came into the world. If you have any doubts of the importance or influence of the craniosacral system, you won’t when you feel it on a newborn. Nathan’s cranial system felt pretty clear almost immediately after his birth. However, he had a small compression pattern of the right side of his head and neck. The base of his skull was very tightened down and his right shoulder was tighter then his left. The next day, his head looked almost perfect and he was nursing effortlessly. Was it the treatment or would he have corrected those restrictions on his own? I can’t say definitively but I can say what I felt as I worked on him. I felt the restriction on his right side let go and a relaxation of his nervous system. Erin expresses the same sentiment in regard to using Craniosacral Therapy and Myofascial Release on Emerson immediately after birth. “Emerson has never had nursing or sleeping issues and she’s a really happy child”. Erin feels that she can predict the onset of an ear infection just by noticing a shift in Emerson’s temporal bones. If she can treat Emerson at that time, she will avoid the onset of infection. However if she’s busy and doesn’t get to it right away, it will progress to a runny nose and then a full blown ear infection within 3-5 days. The shift of the cranial bones does not allow the ear canal to drain properly which creates the environment for infection to set in.
Craniosacral Therapy is effective for treating a variety of conditions throughout the life cycle. Our body has developed many strategies for maintaining balance and fighting off illness and disease. Often, the stressors that we are subjected to can overwhelm the body’s natural ability to compensate and correct these every day stressors. Addressing the restrictions of the fascial system can help the body restore it’s natural balance. A skilled therapist is trained to feel and release restrictions anywhere in the body. We are also trained to teach our clients how to recognize these restriction patterns and techniques for home treatment. A self help craniosacral technique can be found on our website: www.handsonpt.net, under “Resources” and Exercise Tips”.
Jody Hendryx, PT, LMT