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Craniosacral Fascial Therapy

Craniosacral Fascial Therapy is a gentle healing modality that provides patients with a freely moving brain, spinal cord, and fascial web, all of which are critical to peak health. Craniosacral Fascial Therapy was founded by Dr. Barry Gillespie, who merged concepts from craniosacral therapy and myofascial release therapy, in the early 1980s. Marcus is trained in the Foundations course, which covers adults and children, age 1 and up. Marcus offers this therapy as a stand-alone therapy session and as part of his integrative massage therapy.

What is an Appointment Like?

Each person is different and each appointment is different as parts of the fascial system release and unwind. A session is typically done clothed and lying on a massage table, although there may be times where you are seated or even standing. Craniosacral Therapy hand positions are used to assess and address fascial strain, and parts of the body such as an arm or leg may be held and supported as it moves, stretches and unwinds. You may have memories or emotions arise. You are encouraged to express and feel. Breathing deeply assists in all parts of the realignment process as well as in staying and being present. If a parent is present with a child, the parent may support the child in a number of ways, such as holding hands or placing a hand on a part of the body that needs attention. Sessions are typically an hour and may also be done in a series of days or as an intensive (such as 2 sessions per day for 3 days).

The Science: The Craniosacral Fascial System

The cerebrospinal fluid is the lifeblood of the craniosacral fascial system, an integration of the craniosacral and connective tissue components. This fluid starts its journey in the choroid plexus of the ventricles, gently fluctuates through the craniosacral system, and flows within the cranial and spinal nerve sheaths out into the billions of fine collagen tubules of the body’s fascial component. Researchers have confirmed this unified craniosacral fascial system by discovering cerebrospinal fluid in the collagen tubules with surprisingly no ordinary ground substance, blood, or lymph present.

The lymphatic system returns this fluid to the venous system and onto the liver, heart, and lungs. Oxygenated blood then flows from the heart, through the aorta and carotid arteries, to the blood brain barrier of the choroid plexus. Blood exudates filter through the tight endothelial cell wall junctions and astrocytes of the capillaries to form the cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles, thus completing the cycle.

Since the body systems are healthy for almost all neonates, the most important factors for a well-functioning craniosacral fascial system are the brain gently expanding and contracting or “breathing” to pump the fluid, and the entire fascial web being open for the fluid to flow unimpeded. An unrestricted fascial system is mandatory in health for the proper cellular exchange of nutrients and waste products. As an example, birth trauma can adversely affect the infant’s brain motion. We believe that the quality of the cerebrospinal fluid flow in the craniosacral fascial system can be the key to unlock the answer to many pediatric illnesses.

The distinct quality of the fascial web is that it can hold all of the following fetal and birth traumas for a lifetime: a confined fetal position for months, a multiple birth that creates a premium for space, a breech birth, the cranium wedged and engaged in the pelvis for an extended period of time, a long labor, a twisting compressive ride through the birth canal, a forceps delivery, a vacuum-assisted delivery, a caesarian section, a wrapped umbilical cord around the body, a knotted umbilical cord, and an initial breathing delay. Birth may be the most challenging human life experience.

Neonatal craniosacral fascial therapy can help the tiny body release the tissue tightness of these traumas individually, like peeling the layers of an onion, to help restore normal neurophysiology and prevent a lifetime of suffering. Emotions may surface for children and adults in their mind-body connection, but the only concern for newborns can be the physical aspect of the gestation and birth. Fortunately, they have a very tiny onion.

The craniosacral fascial system may be significantly more compromised in adults because of a lifetime of remembered and forgotten traumas and the toxic lifestyle factors of the Western culture. Restriction of craniosacral motion, blockage of cranial and spinal nerve sheaths, a tight fascial web, a clogged lymph system, a diseased liver, a congested heart, impaired lungs, and/or narrow hardened arteries can diminish the function of the entire system. Thus, a quicker and better therapeutic result would be anticipated with newborns.

The Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy’s Four Core Principles

Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy features four core principles, identified and developed over the course of Dr. Barry Gillespie’s study and practice of this therapy.

1. The Body Knows Best How to Heal Itself

The human body is an extraordinary self-healing bioenergetic organism. This No. 1 rule originates from Dr. Andrew Still’s primary osteopathic principles, discovered in the 1800s. Dr. Barry Gillespie desperately and unsuccessfully tried to fix TMJ and headache patients in the 1970s. Come 1980, he learned that he had to start going deeper into himself to let go of his ego, scientific mind and his own baggage. He found that he had to be clear and present in the moment. His primary job became to merely facilitate the patient’s healing.

2. The Body Can Remember and Hold Every Physical and Emotional Trauma Back to Conception in Its Space-Time Continuum

The second and other succeeding rules are derivative of the first rule. Dr. Barry Gillespie worked with John Barnes in his office for 10 years, learning chiefly that the fascia remembers everything—even all our traumas.

A forgotten aspect of the fascia is that it can store all the emotional baggage from our mother’s womb. As a vital part of our mother, we felt all her fear, anger and other emotions while in utero, and then we stored all our reactions to these emotions. It can be an adventure to access and release these emotions, stored for years or decades.

Almost all among the 800 research fussy babies initially cried in therapy. Krissy and Mike Myers and I believed that they were releasing physical trauma and fetal emotional trauma. We believed this complete release helped all them become happy babies. The primary question we pondered at the time was whether this therapy at birth would make them happier children and adults.

For a patient with a shoulder injury, for example, upper-body birth trauma may have predisposed her or him to have a more complex shoulder injury. Most people with the same injury would heal quickly, but this patient may not be correcting completely due to the unresolved, underlying birth trauma.

3. The Body Will Address and Heal Each Layer of Trauma in Its Own Space and Time

If a Gillespie Approach therapist plans a session to stretch and release the shoulder fascia, based on the previous example, the body may or may not be ready to release stored emotions at this time, according to Dr. Barry Gillespie. When the body will be ready for release cannot be predetermined.

When a patient presents, it is impossible for the therapist to know how the session will go, how many layers of trauma she or he is holding, and how many visits are needed. The therapist’s role is to simply hold the body and listen. The therapist must ask the body what layer of the onion it is ready to process now? If the body begins to “talk” by allowing the therapist to feel craniosacral fascial strain, she or he can then facilitate the patient’s healing of this onion layer.

During the session, the patient will lay supine, sit on the table or stand and then touch the painful area(s). When the patient connects the dots as the Gillespie Approach therapist’s third and fourth hands, the therapist can more easily access the patient’s top onion layer.

Ultimately, after a number of sessions, the goal is to get to the birth traumas that later manifested as a range of health conditions. The Gillespie Approach is designed to arrive at the root cause of these health conditions and help the body release craniosacral fascial strain and traumas.

The average person may have untold layers of birth trauma connected to delivery, labor and time in the womb. The time you spent in utero perhaps was the most challenging of your entire life. The strains you endured might have been buried for years or decades in space and time but must emerge and be addressed for authentic healing to occur.

The Gillespie Approach philosophy is contrary to standard manual therapy. Textbook-style approaches for health conditions generally come from the ego and rational mind. When Gillespie Approach therapists return to rule No. 1 and accept that the body knows best how to heal itself, all educational degrees, knowledge and experience fall by the wayside in allowing the body to take charge of the healing process. The goal is to just listen, allow and help the body to self-correct, according to Dr. Barry Gillespie.

4. The Optimal Time for the Gillespie Approach Is at the Golden Hour of Birth

The best time for the Gillespie Approach to be administered is during the first hour after a child is born. At this time, the trauma is the freshest. Additionally, the craniosacral fascial system is not yet locked into soft tissue adaptation and compensation. Because newborns are still acclimating to their new world of oxygen, very little drama presents. Stretching and releasing their fascia is not on the Gillespie Approach therapist’s radar. With newborns, the therapist’s job is to fully listen to their bodies with our philosophy of Infant-Driven Movement, or IDM. Since they have a clear memory of their recent traumas, newborns innately know best how to heal themselves, according to Dr. Barry Gillespie.

Ideally, every newborn would be checked with the Baby Brain Score (BBS) immediate following the APGAR score. If the baby shows signs of tightness, Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy would be administered right then and there and as needed throughout the baby’s first day alive.

The goal is for the newborn’s family to leave the hospital with a calm, relaxed baby who can breathe well, nurse well, digest well, poop well and nap well.