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Treatment Techniques

Craniosacral Therapy (CST)

The underlying principle of Craniosacral Therapy and its predecessor Cranial Osteopathy is that the cranial bones can become stuck along their suture lines, resulting in imbalanced flow of the cerebral spinal fluid and other associated dysfunctions. Treatment consists of very gentle, very subtle “adjustments” of the bones in the cranial vault to free up those restrictions to restore proper function. In addition, there is hydraulic pumping of the Cerebral Spinal Fluid between the Cranial cavity and the Sacrum.

The single biggest argument posited by the AMA for decades against Osteopaths and Chiropractors has been that everyone KNOWS that the cranial bones fuse into a solid ball and anyone who says otherwise is an obvious quack. Well, anatomy was never taught this way in either Europe or Asia. It was ONLY in the United States. Secondly, very detailed tests conducted at the University of Michigan in the 1980’s conclusively proved that the cranial bones do NOT fuse together. It is my understanding that medical schools in the United States are now teaching that the bones don’t fuse after all, but they still do not teach the significance of that.

In brief, the movement of the CSF generates an internal “rhythm” that can be felt by trained practitioners. The two main ones (both at a 3-5 second cycle) are out and back from the body’s mid-line based on the “paired” bones and from the head toward the feet and back based on the “single” bones. Paired would be arms, legs, ribs, parietal and temporal bones in the cranium. Single would be spine, sternum, frontal and occipital bones.

Because of the interconnectedness of the entire body, very slight misalignments anywhere can cause major dysfunction elsewhere. A perfect example would be falling from one’s bike as a child, landing on the tailbone, causing the tailbone to be bent out of position. This is extremely common and only rarely identified and addressed. That misaligned tailbone can, among other things, directly cause TMJ problems.

The two pieces of CST treatment work that I find to be almost universally needed are called the Cranial Base Release and the Sphenoid Adjustment. The Cranial Base Release addresses a stuck O-A joint at the base of the skull. I have found this to be needed for virtually every person I have worked on in the last two years.

Cranial Base Release

The normal/typical way it is done is with the person supine on the table. The head and neck are rested on the finger tips as shown in the photo below. The finger tips are at the very base of the skull under the Occipital Ridge. Weight of the head and gravity are all that are needed for the release to occur. As the release occurs, the back of the head will drop toward the table into the practitioner’s hands and the chin will rise toward the ceiling.

Cranial Base Release Cranial Base Release Cranial Base Release

It is typically done on a table but can also be done either sitting or standing behind the person being worked on. One hand applies gentle pressure against the forehead. This pressure substitutes for gravity. There are two ways to position the hand at the base of the skull. One is with the palm facing downward. The other is with the palm facing up. Use whichever is more comfortable for the position at the time. One advantage of standing behind a sitting person and using the palm down hand position is that it is easier to stabilize the head and neck if necessary if the individual goes into a spontaneous unwinding.


Cranial Base Release Cranial Base Release

Sphenoid Adjustment

SphenoidThe Sphenoid is a butterfly (or bat) shaped bone behind the eyes. It has a section (the Vomer) that rests along the upper side of the hard palette, and articulates with the Occipital bone at the base of the skull. The hydraulic action of the cerebral spinal fluid causes the sphenoid to rock toward the feet and back. In more cases than not, I find this to be stuck or erratic. The significance is that the rocking motion of the sphenoid pumps the pituitary gland, which is the primary, and controlling, gland in the body. An improperly rocking sphenoid can have a direct bearing on endocrine system function. This is another thing not taught in medical schools in the United States.

Adjustment technique is to draw the thumbs down toward the table until a resistance is felt. Pressure is then maintained until it releases, which will feel like the thumbs are being pulled back toward the ceiling. This is the manual, physical manipulation way of doing it. It can also be done purely energetically by focusing intention on sense of movement.

Cranial Vault Hold – Unified Rhythm

There is no question about the ability of energy to physically move bones with nothing more than light, passive touch. In effect, the body being worked on in some fashion keys in to the vibratory frequencies emitted by the therapist’s hands and then literally adjusts itself. One of the real beauties of this approach is that it is totally non-invasive and therefore not only extremely gentle but also very safe to do.

After our last road trip in 2005, I got thinking. If energy moves bones in a way that allows the skeleton to adjust itself (and I know it does because I have seen and felt the results in the high dozens if not hundreds of times now), then why not the cranial bones as well? After all, that’s what the skull is made of – bones. Specifically, there are the bilateral parietal and temporal bones and the single frontal, occipital, and sphenoid bones.

I have been incorporating pieces of Craniosacral Therapy in my treatment sessions all along, but basically doing them as taught except for doing as many of them as I can purely energetically instead of with an actual physical manipulation.

In thinking about CST and general energy work through the skeletal structure, I began to feel/believe that there was no conceptual reason why the cranial bones wouldn’t do the same thing. In other words, instead of having to assess and treat all of the various restrictions individually, it should be possible to come up with some kind of hand hold or position that would also allow all of the various cranial adjustments to just take place on their own.

While I obviously can’t yet “prove” that my theory is valid, I no longer have any personal doubt in my own mind. My normal treatment routine had been to first entrain and then shift into a Cranial Base Release, followed by a Sphenoid adjustment. In doing those techniques, I was also assessing the cranial rhythm for energetic balance. About six months ago, while working on someone and just as I was about to change hand positions, I felt the cranial rhythm in a way that I had never before experienced it and the way I think it is MEANT to be felt.

Specifically, instead of feeling for the lateral, side to side, rhythm of the paired bones and the proximal-distal rhythm of the single bones separately, I now believe that in the big picture, a better way of assessing and working with the rhythm is to view it as three dimensional, to view it, not as across flat planes, but as a unified, combined rhythm. It is somewhat like air being blown into and then let out of a balloon in a controlled fashion (and I am NOT calling any of my family air heads here).

The basic hand hold is to cradle the skull with the fingers on the Gall Bladder 20s and occipital ridge while the thumbs rest against the side of the face, along the parietal-temporal suture line. Tips of the thumbs are approximately at the corners of the eyes depending on length of practitioner’s thumbs and size of client’s head. And that is it. Simply hold this position until that unified rhythm kicks in.


Cranial Vault Hold – Unified Rhythm Cranial Vault Hold – Unified Rhythm

I am finding that this consistently does a cranial base release and sphenoid adjustment, as well as other cranial and neck adjustments. I have done a LOT of neck work in the last four years and this one technique has been by far the most effective of anything I have ever tried in releasing neck tension.

Emily RoseA variation on the Unified Cranial Vault Hold is what we have named the Emily Rose.  Fingers of the right hand: pointer finger GB20, middle finger center of the spine at occipital ridge, rings finger GB20.  Fingers of the left hand: pointer and ring on the GB14's, middle on the third eye.  Then simply hold and see what happens.  We call this the "Emily Rose" because it seems very effective in inducing a total neck unwinding.

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