..The Intuitive Times


Holistic Cranial-Sacral Therapy

by Fadel Behman, Ph.D.

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The Roots - Dr. A.T. Still's Contribution:

Cranio-Sacral Therapy has its roots in the work of Andrew Taylor Still, M.D. (1828-1917). The third of nine children, his father was a Methodist preacher and physician and also acted as a mentor for his son. At the age of 25, Andrew married with two children, moved with his family to Kansas. In 1861, during the American Civil War, he enlisted as a hospital steward where he saw the horrors of war. During this time, an epidemic of spinal meningitis swept through the country and killed 2 of his three children - the third died later of pneumonia. Still's inability to help his family, together with what he witnessed in the Civil War, brought about a recognition that there must be a better way of treating the sick and dying. His new insights were based on nature and natural laws. Andrew was fascinated by the anatomy of animals and the function of machines. This led him later to delve deeper into anatomy and physiology and the relationship of form and function that would be the foundation of his new system of healthcare called Osteopathy.

As time progressed, A.T. Still grew to reject the common practices of doctors of his day, such as frequent amputations and the overuse of drugs. There was considerable opposition to what he was proposing. Even his family was embarrassed that he questioned the conventional medical wisdom of the day and the Church felt his methods of hands-on healing were sacrilegious. Hoping for a better reception elsewhere, in 1874, he moved his family to Missouri. By 1885, at the age of 57, word started to spread about Dr. A.T. Still's drugless, manual medicine, now called Osteopathy, which had helped many apparently hopeless cases. Going back to anatomy and physiology, be believed by correcting structural imbalances in the musculoskeletal system, that most diseases could be cured by restoring blood flow and nerve force back into the person.

As his success grew, Andrew realized he needed to train people in his methodology and so, in 1892, at the age of 64, he started the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, MO. The first graduating class of 21 students included 5 women and 16 men, including three of Still's own children. In 1917, at the age of 89, the "old doctor" passed away, leaving behind him a legacy of over 3,000 osteopathic physicians at that time.

In the United States, A.T. Still was the first to identify the human immune system and develop a system to stimulate it naturally. He was the first to openly accept women and minorities into his schools of Osteopathy, believed that the body was holistic and that a disease process in one part of the body could affect another part, and predicted that the United States could have a major drug problem if physicians did not stop over-prescribing addictive drugs.

The Beginnings - The Contribution of William Garner Sutherland, D.O.:

William Garner Sutherland, D.O. (1873-1954) is credited as the originator of cranial osteopathy, commonly known nowadays as Cranio-Sacral Therapy. Sutherland was born in Wisconsin; his father was a blacksmith and his mother a homemaker. He was the third of four children and as a child, had a curious and insightful mind. He was very interested in how things worked and at a young age, took a job as a newspaper reporter. Sutherland would often comment that this gave him a critical eye toward information without prejudice or emotion. In 1898, at the age of 25, Sutherland enrolled in A.T. Still's School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, MO. While he was there, he became fascinated with the idea of form and function. As he looked at a disarticulated skull, the temporal bones appeared to him as gills of a fish.

When Sutherland asked Still if the head had motion available, Still replied, "It has to, to be able to accommodate for movement." Sutherland realized that if the bones of the skull were designed for motion, then restrictions would inhibit health, which would lead eventually to pain and disease. Using Still's osteopathic model, Sutherland pursued his interest in testing his ideas on skull motion by performing experiments on himself. After many trials and errors over a period of years, he was inspired and confident enough to use these techniques on his patients.

In 1927, Dr. Sutherland married Adah Strand, who was a tremendous support to him and encouraged him to get this important work out to his colleagues. By the mid 1930's, Sutherland noticed bones "breathed." Even at that time, what Sutherland talked about was subtle, and because of this, people again criticized his work, however, his clinical results, were so dramatic that he continued to move forward with his work.

The Cranio-Sacral System is a physiological system within the body which, together with the cardio-vascular and respiratory systems, is one of the three fundamental life-giving systems. Dr William Sutherland who first identified the Cranio-Sacral System considered it to be the most fundamental of all systems. He described it as the Primary Respiratory Mechanism suggesting that it was more primary even than respiration. It is a system which is at the very core of our being, believed by Sutherland to be the very source of life.

Sutherland's cranial work was not only effective with various cases of pain that had failed to respond to osteopathic treatment, but was also helpful in restoring good metabolic function and assisting recovery from endogenous depression and respiratory disorders.

Dr Sutherland started teaching Cranial Osteopathy in 1940. By the mid 1940's, Sutherland starts utilizing lighter and more delicate forces in his work and has the awareness when fluids are inhibited, this can have an effect on the central nervous system and consequently on membranes and bones of the skull all the way to the sacrum. By 1946, Sutherland's work had now attracted such a following that an organization was begun known as the Cranial Academy, which promoted continued research in the field of osteopathy.

Despite Dr Sutherland's experiments including work with the human energy field and the use of very light touch, sometimes working off the body, Cranial Osteopathy was to develop very much as an extension of osteopathy, albeit with light contact, where the bones are seen as all important and the practitioner focuses on restoring to proper mobility the joints or sutures between the bones that make up the cranium. Some of his words which explain the essence of his work. "The professional task is in a large respect a finger-task; that of locating etiological factors beneath, as well as throughout all bodily tissues; being as problematic as is the 'searching for a needle in a haystack' and requiring fingers with brain cells in their tips.fingers capable of feeling, seeing, thinking. Fingers should be like detectives, skilful in the art of finding things hidden."

In 1954, at the age of 81, William Sutherland died, leaving a legacy of important work for people to discover for many years to come.

The Contributions of Dr John E. Upledger:

A new direction emerges In the early 1970s Dr John E. Upledger discovered for himself, in a most tangible way, the cranio-sacral rhythm or cranial rhythmic impulse. This impulse was evident in causing a section of cervical dural tube, which he was attempting to stabilise during a delicate surgical procedure, to move with a frequency that was neither cardiac nor respiratory.

Furthermore the rhythmic movement was so persistent as to prevent Dr. Upledger from being able to keep the dural tube still. His curiosity aroused, he went on to learn about the pioneering work of Dr W.G. Sutherland who formulated Cranial Osteopathy. Impressed by the effectiveness of Cranial Osteopathy, and following his 1975 appointment as a clinician researcher and Professor of Biomechanics at Michigan State University, Dr Upledger employed extensive research facilities to help understand how the phenomena that Dr Sutherland had discovered actually worked.

The formulation of CranioSacral Therapy:

Dr Upledger's research and his consideration of how cranial suture restrictions tend to be maintained by structures outside the head caused him to deduce that it is within the body's membranes or fascia that the astonishing effects of Cranial Osteopathy are explained. It is interesting that A.T. Still also regarded the fascia as being of primary importance. So now back to that tadpole-shaped envelope that contains the brain and spinal cord. Why is it so important? Apart from the obvious (that it contains and protects some rather vital equipment) it is from within this dural membrane that the cranio-sacral rhythm is generated. Also the dural membrane is centrally placed within the whole of the fascial system in such a way that it can influence, and be affected by, the condition of any and every other part of the body.

All-important membranes - The term fascia is the collective name for the membrane material that would remain if our hair, blood vessels, viscera, bones, nerves, muscle fibres and fluids to be removed. It includes our ligaments and all the membranous sheaths that surround and connect all our organs, bones and muscles. The tendency of restriction in one part of the body to transmit dysfunction to other parts is accounted for by the characteristics of fascial material and the construction of the whole fascial system. So fundamental are these aspects to a proper understanding of CranioSacral Therapy that they are worth going into in some detail.

First let's take a simplified look at the components of fascia. There are three basic components. Variations in their proportions account for the huge range of qualities and functions that fascia exhibit. They are collagen - a fibrous material that provides tensile strength; elastin which when tension is removed causes fascia to return to its original dimensions, thereby providing 'elastic memory;' and ground substance which, as it were, fills in the spaces. Ground substance is wet and proteinous, and provides passage for dissolved nutrients and waste compounds. Fascia also contains sensory and motor nerves and has blood supply. It is capable of contraction. From the electrical perspective relaxed fascia carries negative electrical potential that supports healthy tissue metabolism. When under stretch the potential changes to positive. Fascia that is under continual tension will therefore suffer local metabolic deterioration and begin to lose some of its qualities.

Second we should consider the all-pervasive design of the fascial system. In the embryo, fascia forms from a single fold at a very early stage of development. Rather than being lots of different structures that have grown together, fascia is a single structure, holding together in functional relationship every part of the body. We can travel from any point on, or in the body to any other without leaving fascia. In fact, it is so pervasive that it not only connects every cell but actually penetrates right into the nuclei, providing a framework for the chromosomes.

Notwithstanding the distinction between Cranial Osteopathy and CranioSacral Therapy, in the reality of everyday practice the distinctions have become blurred as more and more practitioners are drawn into the fascial system in pursuit of the needs of the whole person. It really does seem as if the fascia are holding the centre ground.

On the one hand the more structural practitioners who like to focus on the neuromusculo-skeletal system may care to remember, as A.T. Still did, that the fascia hold it all together. And on the other hand those who have more of an affinity for fluids and energy would agree that fluids need containers and pipes. Likewise energy needs storage places and pathways. The condition of those containers, pipes and pathways has a profound influence. The fascia provide all of these.

To summarise, fascia holds, connects, allows movement, helps the body remember what shape it's meant to be, contracts, feels, contains the body's fluids (blood, lymph and csf) and transmits load and strain throughout the body.

Weird connections - Now we can begin to understand the extraordinary effects of Dr Sutherland's work, how, for instance, the freeing up of the membranes inside the head by applying gentle pressure and/or traction to the cranial bones could lead to improved pituitary (and therefore endocrine) function, resolving many problems including hormone-related and metabolic illnesses.

Dr Upledger found that many restrictions in the cranium often have causes outside the head. CranioSacral Therapy practitioners are used to the emergence of bizarre cause-and-effect connections: the appendicectomy scar that leads to chronic migraines, the compressed lumbo-sacral joint to endogenous depression, the restricted upper neck to digestive disorders or to hyperactivity, the unbalanced pelvis that may lead to eyesight problems.

Often the question is asked "What is CranioSacral Therapy useful for?" The straight answer is "just about any health problem." But we want clear answers. "I have such-and-such a problem. What will fix it?" It is at this point that it helps to think clearly about how pain and illness really tend to occur. I find the most helpful starting point is to remember that we have our own self-healing mechanisms.

To the core of healing

As long as we are breathing, as long as our fluids are circulating, old structure is being demolished and removed while new material is being imported and built into new body parts. Our electrical and chemical systems are constantly informing each other of, and responding to, the latest developments and needs. In addition to these routine processes of renewal and repair there are exceptional items that need taking care of from time-to-time. Some of these exceptional items we will be aware of, like a minor cut or insect bite. Others will escape our attention provided we are healthy.

One of the qualities of good health is the ability of our self-healing mechanism to take care of an endless list of minor insults and repairs without the need to divert our attention. Provided we don't overload our systems we have the flexibility to accommodate a whole variety of stressors. It is only when our system loses flexibility that we start running the risk of deteriorating health when problems that should be temporary tend to hang on or become chronic, or we may become very sensitive to substances or energetic influences that would not trouble a healthy person. (We call some of these sensitivities allergies.)

What sort of things happen to us that reduce our flexibility to renew and repair routinely? This is where the qualities and functions of the fascial system really start to account for themselves. Fascia has great flexibility and is fundamentally influential in all of our body processes. If fascia in one part of the body loses its flexibility due to mechanical inhibition or a toxic or malnourished environment it may affect any other part or system.

Causes of mechanical inhibition include physical injury of any kind, surgery and occupational and postural strain. Injuries that can cause retained fascial restriction will include those that happen around birth. Other causes can be old or current inflammation, whether or not infection is or was involved. Inflammation tends to cause normally free-sliding fascial layers, such as the dural layers around the spinal cord, to bind together. With all of these causes resultant dysfunctions may not appear until years, sometimes decades, later.

The body tells its story . . .
So the CranioSacral Therapy practitioner is concerned about evaluating and helping to restore the flexibility of the whole fascial system. It is here that the cranio-sacral rhythm becomes a really useful tool. For while the skilled practitioner gains a fair impression of fascial mobility through light contact with the surface with the ability to project into deep tissue, working with the cranio-sacral rhythm brings greater accuracy in locating fascial restrictions. Evaluating the cranio-sacral rhythm also helps determine the involvement of the spinal nerves.

An extraordinary phenomenon that is the very essence of Cranio-Sacral Therapy is the responsiveness of fascia to very subtle influences. Place hands very lightly on a clothed person lying supine on your treatment table and nothing may happen. Apply one or two grammes of pressure and all sorts of movements may start, where your hands are or anywhere else. Emotion may start to surface, and held-in emotion is yet another cause of reduced fascial flexibility. Even without a single gramme of imposed pressure or traction, the mere alteration of thought or attention can facilitate fascial movement. It is as if the attitude and intention of the practitioner create an atmosphere where the fascia (at last!) feels secure enough to risk the idea of starting to let go.. . . and reveals its solutions.

This is an appropriate point to consider further the idea that the elastic nature of fascia enables it to carry the memory or intelligence of exactly how the body would like to be arranged to enjoy the greatest ease. Fascia under tension is always trying to pull the body back to this state of greatest ease. One of Dr Upledger's great insights is that the body knows in full detail and with total accuracy exactly what it needs to do, and what assistance it needs, to return to this state of ease.

The good Cranio-Sacral Therapy practitioner learns to respect this fascial wisdom in preference to anyone's ability to diagnose and intervene from the outside. By listening and feeling the fascial wisdom expressing itself we are taken to the deeper causes of pain and dysfunction instead of being distracted and delayed by symptoms and their apparent causes.

The most helpful answer to the question "What is CranioSacral Therapy useful for?" would therefore be "Any condition where the self-healing mechanism can be supported through improved fascial flexibility," and that covers the majority of conditions that involve pain, restriction, lowered energy, increased susceptibility to infection, and poor circulation or breathing. CranioSacral Therapy also helps many people with specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyscalclia and clumsiness, our co-ordination and proprioceptive mechanisms being easily upset by imbalance of the cranial fascia and bones. Early evaluation and treatment of newborns is recommended, as colic, feeding difficulties and hyperactivity will often be quickly and easily reduced or eliminated. Strains introduced before, during or shortly after the birth process can also be quickly and easily eliminated that may otherwise be retained through adulthood with consequences of chronic dysfunction that would take much more time and perseverance to release from a less fluid and flexible mature person.

The Cranio-Sacral System

The Cranio-Sacral System can be identified through it's inherent rhythmic motion. Just as the cardiovascular system is manifested in the rhythmic pulsation of the arteries, and the respiratory system is evident through the rhythmic rise and fall of respiration, so the Cranio-Sacral System has an inherent rhythmic motion which can be felt as a subtle tide-like motion gently ebbing and flowing and manifesting in all the body tissues.

Anatomical components

The anatomical structures which make up the Cranio-Sacral System have been clearly recognised for many years. However the integrated function of these structures as a primary physiological mechanism is only recently becoming recognized.

The Cranio-Sacral System consists primarily of the Membranes (or Meninges) which surround the Central Nervous System; the Bones of the Cranium 8 Sacrum which attach to these Membranes; the Fascia, which radiates out from the Membranes to all parts of the body; and the Cerebro-Spinal Fluid, a pure and vital fluid produced within the Central Nervous System and contained primarily within the Membranes surrounding and enveloping the brain and spinal cord. In a broader sense the Cranio-Sacral System can be said to encompass every part of our being since it influences and is influenced by every structure and every part of our being.

Fluency of Cranio-Sacral Motion is a reflection of healthy function

The fluency of Cranio-Sacral motion in each part of the body is a reflection of the healthy function of that part of the body. Restricted mobility is an indication of reduced health and vitality in that region - leading to (or caused by) disease and dysfunction. A free and unrestricted rhythmic motion is an indication of a healthy, unimpeded vitality in that region.

The Cranio -Sacral Therapist's role therefore is to identify areas of restricted mobility and to enable the body to release any such restrictions in order to encourage free and fluent Cranio-Sacral motion. This restoration of unhindered tissue mobility and free flow of body fluids and vitality will in turn enable the elimination of disease, the restoration of health and the maintenance of optimum function.

Restrictions to Cranio-Sacral motion may arise from a number of different causes - from physical injury,
infection, inflammation, structural imbalance, muscular strain, emotional tension or disease and dysfunction of any kind. These restrictions may arise in any of the body tissues - the bones, the soft tissues, the nervous system, the organs, the fluids or in the subtle energy systems.

A two-way process of reciprocal interaction

Injuries or restrictions to the peripheral structures of the body will inevitably reflect into the core of the system leading to imbalances and asymmetries within the Cranio-Sacral System. Restrictions at the core of the system will similarly reflect out to cause peripheral symptoms.

Peripheral manifestations of imbalance may be alleviated by more superficial forms of therapy. But it is because Cranio-Sacral Therapy penetrates to the very core and alters patterns at the deepest level of our being that it brings about more profound, significant and lasting changes - as well as eliminating the more superficial symptoms.

The Cranio-Sacral System reflects the accumulation of all our life experience, recent or long past, physical or psycho-emotional. Interaction with the Cranio-Sacral System stimulates a natural reorganisation of the system enabling the release of these accumulated patterns of injury and tension and bringing our whole being into a more balanced and orderly state in which it can function at it's optimum level.

Cranio-Sacral Therapy -What is it?

Cranio-Sacral Therapy is an exceptionally gentle yet extremely powerful form of treatment which can be helpful to most people and in most conditions - from minor aches and pains to severe and persistent chronic health problems. It is a profound healing process which can influence the deeply held patterns of disease - both physical and psychological - which accumulate throughout life as a result of injury and illness and become held into the body tissues, leading to ill-health and dysfunction. It has the potential to transform these patterns of restriction and resistance in our lives at a very fundamental level, thereby eliminating disease and restoring health.

How does it work?

Cranio-Sacral Therapy involves a very gentle touch of the practitioners hands, both for diagnosis and for treatment. This light contact may be taken up on the cranium, the sacrum or any other part of the body as appropriate. Through this light touch the practitioner is able to pick up subtle patterns of motion within the body - rhythms, pulls, pulsations - emanating from deep within the core structures of the body. These movements are a reflection of Cranio-Sacral motion which is expressed in all tissues throughout the body.

Every condition affecting a person influences this movement, creating asymmetries or restrictions to Cranio-Sacral motion. The Cranio-Sacral Therapist can therefore diagnose every condition through the corresponding patterns of resistance within the Cranio-Sacral system. By responding appropriately to these patterns - in other words by gently allowing the subtle movements deep within the body to unwind themselves - the Cranio-Sacral Therapist can enable and facilitate the release of Cranio-Sacral restrictions. Release at these profound regulatory levels in turn enables the release of disease conditions throughout the body.

What does it involve?

Cranio-Sacral Therapy is most often carried out with the client lying down, fully clothed in a quiet and peaceful environment. Treatment is usually experienced as a very profound relaxation which may pervade the whole person, physically, mentally and emotionally, often accompanied by a feeling of lightness and ease. The gentle approach of Cranio-Sacral Therapy is entirely non-invasive. The subtle interaction of two systems - brought together by this light contact - stimulates and enhances self-healing mechanisms within the body to respond, release and open up to a more balanced healthy state.

What can it treat?

Cranio-Sacral Therapy is primarily concerned with creating and maintaining a healthy, balanced state on all levels. This underlying state of well-being enables the body's own healing mechanisms to operate at optimum level, and therefore enables the body to eliminate disease and restore health.

Cranio-Sacral Therapy works on many different levels and influences many different structures within the body. It influences the musculo-skeletal system, the nervous system, the cardiovascular-vascular system, the immune system, the organs, the connective tissues, the fluids and the energy systems of the body. It therefore has widespread and profound effects on conditions affecting all of these systems. Because it treats the whole person it can influence all conditions affecting the whole person or any part of the person. Cranio-Sacral Therapy therefore has a very wide range of applications.

It is suitable for all ages from newborn babies to the elderly, including all ages and stages in between. It is particularly valuable in babies and children since the establishment of healthy patterns at an early age sets patterns for the whole future of that individual, both in their health and in their abilities. It is also particularly renowned for its profound influence on the effects of Birth Trauma - the effects of which may range from learning difficulties, hyperactivity and ear-infections to epilepsy and cerebral palsy.

Cranio-Sacral Therapy is also particularly valuable in solving and resolving difficult and persistent conditions. The following are just a few examples of the many conditions that might benefit from Cranio-Sacral treatment:

-Headache, Migraine, Period Pains.
-Asthma, Sinusitis, Bronchitis, Cystitis.
-Frozen Shoulder, Arthritis, Sciatica, Chronic/c Sprained Ankle, Joint Disorders.
-Digestive Problems, Whiplash Injuries, Spinal Curvatures.
- Back Pain, Neck Pain, Persistent pain anywhere in the body.
-Tension, Anxiety, Insomnia, Visual Disturbances.
- Lack of Energy.
- Problems during and after Pregnancy, Depression, Post-Operative Effects, Adhesions.
-Baby Care, Colic, Pyloric Stenosis, Feeding Difficulties.
- Ear Infections, Glue Ear, Tonsillitis, ENT Problems.
-Compression of the skull due to a difficult birth, with its many after effects.
- Learning Difficulties, Dyslexia, Squint, Lazy Eye.
- Hyperactivity, Autism, Epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy.
-Behavioural Disorders, Tantrums, Obsessional Behaviour.
-Dental and TMJ Problems.
-Head Injuries, and their subtle influence on personality and mental state.
-Meningitis and its chronic consequences.
-Post Viral Syndrome, Glandular Fever, Fatigue.
-The after effects of any chronic illness or debilitating disease.

Holistic Cranio-Sacral Therapy

In the early and mid 1990s Dr. Fadel Behman, a former Medical Physicist in Radiation Oncology, discovered that the long term effects of cranio-sacral therapy depends upon understanding the root causes of the accumulated energy blocks restricting the flow of energy in the fascial system.

To find the subconscious ways by which we interfere with the flow of subtle energy within the physical body, Dr. Behman developed a new approach of spiritual counselling to apply during the cranio-sacral treatments. This added spiritual dimension to cranio-sacral treatments helps to uncover the root causes of subtle energy blocks and restrictions of the life energy flow in the body. Dr. Behman includes issues like the meaning and purpose of life; how we relate to other human beings; subtle attitudes and intentions that govern our behaviour; and what is our relation to the whole of life and the whole of creation.

The higher self and the soul aspects of being are the most subtle and core forces that influence thinking and feeling, and in turn can liberate the subtle energy flow in the physical body. Clients/patients receiving cranio-sacral treatments may feel the energy blocks being released during the treatment, they might remember the causal trauma as an emotion, a feeling, an image or a thought. This is the right time for the holistic cranio-sacral therapist to counsel and guide the client to change their thinking and feeling pattern towards that trauma, this new consciousness is the tool to prevent future energy blocks of the same type.

This timely spiritual counselling about the root cause of the energy block is the key spiritual benefit from holistic cranio-sacral therapy. Other spiritual benefits of peace, harmony and self-motivation for long term behavioural change arise from the deep relaxed state of the client being treated.

Dr. Fadel Behman, is a former Medical Physicist in Radiation Oncology and an Interfaith Minister in Montreal Quebec.

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