Craniosacral Therapy for Pain Relief
Craniosacral therapy is one treatment that has been effective in relieving pain for some individuals. Chronic headaches, TMJ (Temporo-Mandibular Joint) and back pain, in particular, tend to be lessened by this therapy, which is a gentle, hands-on approach to releasing restrictions in the craniosacral system. This system includes the cranium, sacrum, dural tube (a fibrous membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord and which folds in on itself to form membranes which separate and cradle parts of the brain). Another feature of this system is the cerebrospinal fluid that circulates within the spinal cord and brain. This fluid has a rhythm and pulse of its own that can be detected at the cranial bones and throughout the body.
Also key to craniosacral therapy is the connection between muscles and bones, a netting of connective tissue known as the fascia. Injury or trauma, or even the guarding that occurs when we experience pain, can cause the fascia to be constricted, twisted or tense. The imbalance can affect the whole system, similar to the effect of a snag in a delicate fabric. By restoring the balance of this system, one improves the functioning of the central nervous system and the overall physical and emotional well-being of the patient.
According to Dr. Catherine Jones, a naturopathic physician, licensed acupuncturist and faculty member at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, a practitioner begins by making an assessment of the patient’s body by feeling the rhythms and noting temperature, pulse and blood flow changes, and where restrictions exist. “You might feel coldness or tension and the imbalance will be obvious to the trained practitioner,” says Dr. Jones. Then the practitioner will exert a very gentle pressure, so subtle it may be undetectable to an observer. A first-time patient may feel that very little is happening, although, Dr. Jones points out, there can be dramatic results after only one treatment. Through very slight movements, the practitioner is able to facilitate the release of restrictions and subtle misalignments, allowing the bones and joints to expand and contract properly. Often pain causes the body to assume a pattern that is difficult to correct – we tend to “guard” against the pain by protecting it with tensed muscles, causing misalignments, spasms, decrease in blood flow to the area and pain. Craniosacral therapy can break that pattern of pain.
Craniosacral therapy is dependent both on the ability of the practitioner to detect restrictions and help them to release and on the patient’s ability to relax and allow the process to take place. “Modern medicine has accustomed us to heeding the signals of machines and technology, and we’ve forgotten how to pick up the body’s signals by using our own senses,” Dr. Jones states. “Craniosacral is about listening to the body and picking up on subtle messages. It’s about learning to pay attention and facilitate change.”
Writer: Bastyr Staff Writer
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