CranioSacral Therapy

© Dane Roubos, D.C.

Chiropractic is one of the more popular “alternative” therapies available, and a growing percentage of our population has experienced its benefits.  While the majority of chiropractic patients are satisfied with their results, many do not achieve the outcome they had hoped for.

CranioSacral Therapy Is Great for Sensitive People
Many of those with long-standing (chronic) problems experience the frustration of needing repeated visits to keep their symptoms at a manageable level.  Still others just do not like being adjusted in the fashion common to the majority of chiropractors, in which a short, quick thrust is given.  I have often found CranioSacral Therapy to be a great help for clients with these concerns.  This is particularly true when physical trauma or emotional stress is part of the picture.

CranioSacral Therapy has been popularized and widely taught by Dr. John Upledger, an osteopath who researched the technique while teaching at the University of Michigan.  It is a very slow and gentle hands-on approach to releasing chronic tension and restrictions in the body’s tissues.

Benefits of CranioSacral Therapy
CranioSacral Therapy works primarily with the connective tissue (fascia) that surrounds every muscle, nerve, bone, joint, blood vessel and organ in the body, including the brain and spinal cord.  It uses a very light touch, sustained for a period of time, to release tight connective tissue around joints in the cranial bones and other joints of the body.  This allows for greater freedom of movement and improved function.

Proficient CST practitioners can locate hidden sources of mechanical or energetic blockages that usually accompany chronic pain or other long-standing symptoms.  It is common to find the actual root of the problem some distance away from the site of pain.

One of CST’s many benefits is a deep sense of peace and relaxation.  Since stress is considered to be a significant factor in many illnesses, this benefit alone can be a powerful healing force.  In addition, many people have trouble relaxing, and experiencing it in this way can help them learn to do it themselves.

CranioSacral Therapy can be very effective when dealing with residuals of recent or past injuries.  In addition to the physical damage and scar tissue formation, it appears the body often stores some “memory” of the trauma in its tissues.  Later on, this usually manifests as chronic tension, as if the body is stuck in the state it was in after the injury.  It’s as though the body is still trying to protect itself from further harm.  This problem can also contribute to a wide variety of other symptoms, which are difficult to treat effectively with the usual chiropractic modalities.

I began to use CranioSacral Therapy seriously after attending Upledger’s second seminar.  I started with two rather difficult cases, both suffering from chronic problems after auto accidents.  I had worked with them both for a few months prior to this, using the best techniques I had developed over fifteen years of practice.  This consisted mainly of chiropractic adjustments and some excellent myofascial (muscle and fascia) techniques which are usually effective for this type of injury.

While both had improved significantly since starting treatment, they had reached a plateau and it was time to try something else.  Both clients responded well to my shift to CST, noting immediate benefits.  One went on to complete resolution, and the other improved significantly beyond her previous level.  I was sufficiently impressed to make this a regular part of my sessions.

During CranioSacral Therapy, it’s not unusual for a client to find a part of their body beginning to move around gently without their conscious intent.  It’s an amazing experience to feel your body moving of its own accord.  Some practitioners refer to this process as “unwinding.”  It is thought that the inner wisdom of the body engages the affected areas and allows them to move in such a way as to release some of the trauma stored in the tissues.  People often feel as if a weight has been lifted off after these experiences.

Case Examples
Another client had sustained a mild brain injury after a “whiplash” from a rear-end collision.  One of her complaints was difficulty with visual tracking.  She had trouble reading text on a computer screen because it was hard for her to follow a line all the way across and come back to pick up the next line below.  Over a few sessions of “unwinding” with a focus on her brain stem, she experienced a 50% improvement in this problem.  Some specific cranial work also cleared up the chronic pain she had in her left eye.

People who aren’t comfortable with the usual chiropractic adjustments can do very well with CranioSacral Therapy.  A sixty-two year-old woman was referred to me for chronic neck, arm and low back pain after an auto injury.  After a bad experience with another chiropractor, she was fearful of being hurt by the adjustments and could not relax into them.  Using the gentle approach of CST, we were able to double the range of motion her neck and dramatically reduce her pain level.

She also experienced some interesting and ultimately beneficial “side effects” which she attributed to the treatment.  She had difficulty expressing her honest feelings to people and usually put her needs aside to accommodate others.  While she always felt better and very relaxed after our sessions, she would often feel angry and irritable the next day.

She thought she was beginning to let out some of the feelings she had kept inside over the years.  She began to let people know how she felt, and to stand up for herself more.  People began to comment that she seemed “stronger” and treated her with greater respect.

It Takes Time
If CranioSacral Therapy has a downside, it’s the time it takes to do a thorough session.  While small parts of it can be a useful part of a 20 minute chiropractic visit, longer sessions are usually needed to get to the depth required for effective and lasting results.

This usually takes from 10-30 minutes, depending on the client’s needs and the therapist’s skill. Most doctors are not willing to spend that kind of time. To me, the extra benefit is well worth the time. I weave CST into most of my client visits (along with other therapies), which are usually 60 minutes in length.

Finding a Practitioner
If you feel drawn to explore CranioSacral Therapy, there are a few therapists in the Ashland area.  As with any techniques or profession, you will encounter a wide range of skill levels among CST practitioners, from beginning to advanced.

To increase the likelihood of success, I would recommend that you start with someone who has completed at least the first three or four Upledger seminars, which include training in SomatoEmotional Release.  Therapists with this experience are more likely to be able to assist you in releasing residuals from old traumas, if and when that is appropriate.

To locate therapists in your area, visit the International Association of Health Care Practitioners.  Select CranioSacral Therapy in the Modality section and enter your zip code (or the first 3 digits of your zip to extend the range of your search).

© 1999 by Dane Roubos, D.C.
Published in Twin Cities Wellness
Mpls-St. Paul, MN
March issue, 1999