CranioSacral Therapy & the Newborn

WHAT IS THE CRANIOSACRAL SYSTEM AND CRANIOSACRAL THERAPY?

Craniosacral Therapy dates back to the early 1900’s when osteopathic physician William Sutherland contemplated the idea that the bones of the skull were not fused in childhood, but moved. Being the innovative type, Dr. Sutherland put an old leather football helmet on his head that he modified with screws over each cranial bone. He proceeded to tighten the screws over each bone to restrict its movement. His wife wrote down her observations. She noticed changes in personality, pain, coordination, balance, and sensation. Since he could not tolerate these changes, he taught himself how to put his cranial bones back into alignment. Cranial manipulation was born.

Further research began in the 1970’s when osteopathic physician John Upledger was assisting a spine surgery. The neurosurgeon asked him to hold the dura mater, which is the outer covering of the brain and spinal cord. As he attempted to hold it still, it kept rhythmically moving out of his forceps. Unable to understand this movement, Dr. Upledger spent the next 40 years researching and developing a theory of the craniosacral system and craniosacral therapy.

The dura mater forms a sac around the brain and spinal cord with attachments on the skull (cranium), mouth/facial bones, and sacrum (tailbone area). Cerebrospinal fluid fills and pulses through this sac to bathe, nourish, and protect the brain and spinal cord. Since this system influences the development and performance of the brain and spinal cord, an imbalance or restriction could potentially cause any number of problems such as headaches, pain, TMJ dysfunction, scoliosis, lack of motor coordination, learning disabilities, ADHD, and other health concerns.

Craniosacral Therapy is a very gentle manual technique that uses the force of less than the weight of a nickel to assist with removing restrictions and promoting optimum alignment and balance in the craniosacral system.

WHY IS CRANIOSACRAL THERAPY BENEFICIAL FOR NEWBORNS?

As our babies proceed through the birth canal, they receive their first craniosacral treatment. Their cranial bones and membranes shift and mobilize through the canal molding their heads. However, birth difficulties can arise such as the cord being wrapped around the neck, being stuck in the birth canal requiring suctioning or a cesarean section, fetal distress, or neck issues coming out of the birth canal to name a few. These types of trauma may contribute to torticollis, colic, breast-feeding problems, developmental delay, strabismus (cross-eyedness), esophageal reflux, hyperactivity, recurrent ear infections, seizures, and learning disabilities. Craniosacral therapy may be of help with all of these symptoms.

Much of the time, we may not have the answers as to why these challenges occur after birth. Here is a scenario to think about. The baby becomes stuck in the birth canal and endures hours of contractions before being birthed using suction or cesarean section. This may place stress on the cranial bones and dura mater which in turn may stress the nervous system. Some of the most vulnerable nerves are the cranial nerves that come off of the brainstem which extends from the spinal cord at the top of the neck inside the bottom of the back of the skull. There are 12 cranial nerves that innervate the muscles and provide sensation to the nose, eyes, jaw, face, ears, tongue, stomach, bowel, neck and other organs. One of the most common nerves that can become irritated is the vagus nerve that passes through the jugular foramina which is a hole in the bottom of the skull. The jugular foramina is located behind, below, and 1 inch inward from the ear canals. The vagus nerve is influential in stomach, bowel and swallow functions. Colic, torticollis, and esophageal reflux may be symptoms of vagus nerve dysfunction.

As you may guess, structurally, the top of the neck and bottom of the skull are extremely important structures to have in proper alignment. Craniosacral Therapy is a gentle, non-invasive technique used to facilitate this alignment and improve nerve dysfunction. Most babies really seem to enjoy Craniosacral Therapy.

At Health in Motion Physical Therapy we see many older patients that have struggled all their life with migraines and neck pain related to birth trauma. If we can assist the body with correcting these issues in infancy or childhood, these health challenges may be prevented.

Already a patient of Health in Motion Physical Therapy? We offer one free craniosacral session for your newborn if you were seen at our clinic during your pregnancy. Call our office staff for more details or to schedule your baby’s first visit today!