Craniosacral Therapy and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

There can be many symptoms of PTSD. Here are 7 main symptoms:

1. Insomnia can result when the joints of the head and neck become jammed due to extreme backward or forward bending of the head during a traumatic occurrence. CST is used to release these pressures and improve the efficiency of fluid outflow at the base of the skull.

2. Hypervigilance is a state of heightened awareness in which any surprise or unexpected noise causes an excessive response that the PTSD person cannot control. This also contributes to insomnia.

3. Intrusive thoughts continually interrupt a PTSD victim’s ability to concentrate, and may even prove intellectually disabling. CST and its offshoots are used to balance fluids and release restrictions on the right and left sides of the cranium, thus enhancing the circulation of both blood and cerebrospinal fluid. As a result, nutritional supplies to brain cells are improved and toxic waste products are removed. The brain areas that help control conscious thoughts are also revitalized and become more effective.

4. Flashbacks involve the mental re-experiencing of the horrific events that caused the PTSD initially. Each time they occur, they are just as terrifying to the person as the original experience. Unlike normal memories, they do not mellow with each recall, nor can the person experiencing them describe them in words. While this kind of response can be considered appropriate at the time of the original traumatic event, it certainly is not appropriate 10 years later in a different and probably safe setting.

5. Panic attacks mark the beginning of PTSD, but they fade and discontinue as hypervigilance, intrusive thoughts and flashbacks are successfully treated.

6. Long-term fear results in a PTSD patient faced with a short-lived, scary episode. On the other hand, the non-PTSD person might well react with momentary fear to the same episode. This long-term fear becomes chronic anxiety. As with panic attacks, this too wanes as the CST takes effect.

7. Depression and suicidal thoughts are common in PTSD-afflicted individuals.

Below is an article by Mark Levine

They say it feels like a heart of darkness. The events of the last few years, perhaps beginning with 9/11 and culminating most recently with tsunami and hurricanes of biblical proportions, rumors of global viral pandemics and ongoing intensification of 21st century violence, have served to spur renewed interest in the long term nature and healing of trauma.

For example, some 30 years after the Viet Nam war, many of its veterans remain dazed, drug addled and depressed, anxious and unable to sleep, still lost in the violent nightmare so clearly depicted in the film Apocalypse Now Redux.

Their suffering is symptomatic of an increasingly recognized psychosomatic syndrome called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Survivors, and we as witnesses of the worst of our brave new world, both near and vicarious, also suffer PTSD.

The news routinely carries reports of trauma: Car accidents, disasters, random and premeditated violence claim and maim many lives. Most of us numb to such reports, but those who survive such misfortune suffer most from a dreadful sense of constant alarm.

Imagine being anxious 24 / 7. The body will simply not allow the mind to relax, and vice versa, in case ʻitʼ happens again, and traditional therapeutic approaches are usually of little help.

Part of the problem involves our old notions of a body-mind split: In our currently crumbling health care system, if you are physically injured there is excellent emergency medical aid and physical therapy available. If you are mentally or emotionally dysfunctional as a result of trauma, anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drugs are usually prescribed, and referrals are sometimes made for talk therapy with a psychologist or psychotherapist.

Unfortunately this divided approach leaves most PTSD victims feeling alienated, unable to digest their experience. They often become convinced that healing is not possible because neither approach addresses the soul angst which trauma leaves in the centre of ones consciousness. Neither physical nor mental approaches alone allow a trauma survivor to both recognize and communicate to someone else the depth of such an existential crisis.

Body centred approaches to the treatment of trauma have arisen out of a more realistic model of human experience which recognizes that body and mind are not split, and that the body stores and involuntarily recycles reflex reactions to trauma. Approaches based on this model have had tremendous success in helping PTSD victims regain their equilibrium.

A large-scale treatment program in Florida for Viet Nam Vets suffering from PTSD is one such example, which has yielded remarkable results using a technique called Craniosacral Therapy. Men and women who were convinced that they were doomed to a life of suffering claim dramatic recovery after only a few weeks of therapy.

Craniosacral Therapy offers an holistic alternative to the artificially separated worlds of traditional physical therapy and psychotherapy by combining the gentle techniques of Osteopathy, (a form of manual therapy practiced by European therapists and American Osteopathic Physicians since the early 20th century), with sensitivities of energy work, such as Therapeutic Touch, and the nondirective facilitation of emotional release from Gestalt and Depth psychologies.

The hands on part of Craniosacral therapy is extremely gentle and slow, differentiating it from traditional Physiotherapy, which focuses on pain management strategies and exercise, and Massage Therapy which can be quite deep and forceful, and Chiropractic, which produces the characteristic ʻpopʼ of a spinal adjustment in a fraction of a second. A Craniosacral session usually lasts an hour or more, taking many minutes to gently unwind a restricted area or a single stuck joint.

Interestingly, because this approach is so remarkably gentle, it has been highly successful at resolving many of the PTSD – like symptoms in both mothers and infants who have been traumatized in childbirth.

The great value to sufferers of PTSD of such a slow and gentle physical approach is a re-patterning of the central nervous system. During the session, the hands-on work is combined with questions from the therapist around sensations and feelings and images, giving an individual time to notice that unconscious anxiety is in fact stored as muscle tension. One can consciously choose to re-run the images of the trauma in the caring safety offered by the warmth and stillness of the therapist’s hands. This process gives new information to the body that the danger really is past, and that it’s now OK to relax.

Craniosacral therapy is one name given to a family of related bodywork techniques, such as Cranial therapy or Cranial work, SacroCranial therapy, Cranial Osteopathy, Sacro-Occipital Technique, Biocranial therapy, or CranioStructural Integration. The differences among these techniques are mostly theoretical and usually for proprietary teaching purposes.

However, not all practitioners of this family of techniques are prepared to deal with PTSD. Some practitioners approach these methods primarily as a physical manual therapy, akin to a slow version of the traditional chiropractic adjustment. Others de-emphasize the manual aspects, using no force at all and focus on Craniosacral Therapy and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder psychotherapy or more esoteric elements of energy work and psycho spiritual counseling.

Even similarly trained practitioners apply the same techniques in very different ways. The experience, interests, educational depth and personal development of the practitioner, rather than his or her particular techniques, makes the biggest difference, so it’s best to interview prospective practitioners about their work.

Craniosacral therapy is most widely practiced in Ontario as a postgraduate specialization of massage therapists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, naturopaths, dentists, psychologists and medical doctors.

Mark Levine is clinical director of Mark L. Levine, B.A.(hons), R.M.T., Pediatric + Family Craniosacral Therapy, providing craniosacral and osteopathic manual therapy services to infants, children and adults for a wide variety of physical, emotional, neurological and trauma related concerns.

Mark L. Levine, B.A.(Hons), R.M.T. ,Pediatric & Family Craniosacral Therapy, 310 Kerrybrook Drive, Richmond Hill, Ontario L4C-3R1

c Creative Commons Licence Some Rights Reserved 2001. Revised 2005

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