Can Craniosacral Therapy Help With Headaches?

//Can Craniosacral Therapy Help With Headaches?

Can Craniosacral Therapy Help With Headaches?

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Patricia Alomar, M.S., P.T.: Chronic headaches affect millions of people each year, and are one of the most common complaints expressed by our patients at Kaplan Center. An individual can experience headache for any number of reasons, including stress, stationary positioning in front of a computer, and muscle tightness causing decreased range of motion in the neck and head. Other contributing factors could include improper alignment of the jaw, hormonal factors, a car accident, a change in vision, or some other disease process.

Craniosacral therapy – an osteopathic technique – is a very effective, light-touch therapy that supports the body’s own healing resources. The craniosacral system, which extends from the cranium to the sacrum and coccyx, houses the central nervous system (CNS). Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is formed in the brain and flows within the dural membrane (one of the 3 protective layers of the CNS), covering our bones, joints, and the sutures that interconnect those bones, in a rhythmic rise-and-fall of fluid volume and pressure. Acting as a “shock absorber,” the CSF delivers nutrients and washes away waste products from the metabolic processes.

Our bodies have many different rhythms and are constantly in motion. In the same way that we refer to a “resting heart rate” or our “resting respiratory rate,” our cranial rhythmic impluse (flow of the cerebrospinal fluid) usually manifests between 6-12 cycles per minute. Through gentle palpation, a trained craniosacral therapist can use this rhythm as both an evaluative and therapeutic tool.

Tension in the membranes can disrupt the cranial rhythm. Therapists are trained to feel and monitor changes in the body by placing their hands in the areas that are the source of dysfunction, and following the body’s cues as it works to release the tensions that are causing pain. Nerve endings in our skin send messages to the brain that stimulate a response either to pain or pleasure. A therapist’s gentle, non-invasive touch in a painful area allows the body to respond and relax, whereas firm touch activates neuromuscular tension and stress patterns, preventing the ability to effect this very deep core system. Using the gentle method, therapists are therefore able to feel changes in different anatomical structures in the body, bones, soft tissue, membranes, and fluids.

During a treatment session it is possible to feel a variety of sensations, such as heat, cold, pulsing and/or vibration, but patients don’t necessarily have to feel any of these in order for the technique to be effective. Almost always, a deep sense of relaxation is felt. Focusing on what you are feeling within your body during a treatment is extremely helpful. Symptoms can momentarily increase and then resolve just as quickly. Patients might experience remembering an unpleasant or traumatic event in their life, or they might feel sensations in another part of their body which is not being touched. All of these are indications that tension within the body is returning to a state of homeostasis, a term reflecting balance within the system.

The effects of the treatment are not necessarily felt right away and typically several treatments may be needed to effect significant change. The patient could feel very relaxed, fatigued, looser in their body’s movements, or they could notice an improved ease of breathing, or even be slightly disoriented – all of which indicate that the body is experiencing a new normal and needs time to adjust to it. The goal with craniosacral therapy is that this gradual re-adjustment will help decrease some of the symptoms of headache.

A self-help technique using a Still Point Inducer (SPI) can be tried at home. The SPI can be made by tying two tennis balls tightly in a sock so they cannot shift around. These are then placed on the back of the head with a rolled up towel for support under the neck, or by lying on the floor with the SPI under the head in line with the ears. Just ten minutes is enough to help with headache pain and the method can be repeated several times during the day.

If you suffer from recurring headaches or migraine, craniosacral therapy can be a safe and effective alternative to prescription medication. Its gentle touch can help release the emotional and physical imbalances that have been stored in the body’s membranes and connective tissue, enabling the central nervous system to perform optimally.

– Patricia Alomar, M.S., P.T.

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About the Author:

Patricia Alomar, M.S., P.T.
Patricia Alomar, PT has extensive experience helping people of all ages address their chronic pain, injuries, and disabilities. In working with patients, Pat utilizes a wide range of orthopedic and osteopathic techniques, such as visceral manipulation, strain/counterstrain, trigger-point dry needling, and craniosacral therapy. To read Patricia's complete bio, click here.

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