The wonders of CranioSacral Therapy
CranioSacral Therapy is a hands-on, light touch therapy carried out over clothes. It involved gently touching different parts of the body and the head to ‘listen with your hands’ and discover what is out of balance in the client’s body. It’s a very subtle therapy, and the therapist has to be highly respectful of the client’s body, because the body is the home of all the answers to its own stresses and its own healing.
When Dr John Upledger, an American osteopathic doctor, realised the workings of the body’s cranio-sacral system he was, so to speak, looking the other way. I say ‘looking the other way’ because at the time he was engaged in assisting a colleague, a neurosurgeon, in a delicate operation. The surgeon was removing a calcium plaque the size of a 20 pence piece from the patient’s meningeal membrane in his neck.
The meningeal membranes are a 3-layered system of protection and nourishment that line the brain and the spinal cord. Each layer of the 3-layered system is separated from the other by a fluid called the cranio-sacral fluid. That fluid is produced in and re-absorbed by the 3-layered system and the action of production and re-absorption is what creates the cranio-sacral rhythm.
The cranio-sacral rhythm is fascinating. It has about 10 cycles per minute of production/re-absorption. It does not synchronise with breathing or with the heart rate. It is the third physiological rhythm of the body. During the operation, Dr Upledger was meant to assist the neurosurgeon by holding the meningeal layers still so that the surgeon could cut off the calcium plaque cleanly and safely. They achieved their task. But they had to ‘go with the rhythm’ to get their result.
With the live meningeal membranes in his hands, Dr Upledger had recognised the presence of the cranio-sacral rhythm. Dr John Upledger worked for many years to develop the cranio-sacral practice. What is really fascinating about cranio-sacral therapy is that the cranio-sacral practice constantly shows us that the body is an integrated whole, and touching one part of the system can have effects and impact on another part of the bodily system.
Consider, for example, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). What might an irritable bowel have to do with the meningeal membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord? Well, it’s all to do with the Vagus system. The Vagus nerve is a cranial nerve that exits from the very top of the spinal cord before it travels down through the body to serve different organs. And what a traveller!
Vagus means ‘wandering’, and this amazing nerve ‘energises’ among other things the back of the throat, the oesophagus, the heart, the liver, the stomach and the intestines (bowel). If the Vagus nerve is compressed at the point that it exits the skull, say for instance by tight, tense neck muscles, that compression can have an impact on the nerve as it travels throughout your body. So your heart rhythm or your digestive and bowel function could be connected to what’s happening to the Vagus nerve at the point at which it is ‘leaving home’.
In cranio-sacral therapy practice we use very light touch to be drawn towards and to release areas of compression in your body. Who would have thought that cranio-sacral therapy might be helpful in easing the pain and discomfort of IBS?
To know more, contact Bernadette Kirwan our expert in Cranio-Sacral therapy.
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