by Martin Miron
Elena Ajdelsztajn, owner of Welcome Home Integrative Bodywork, in Albany, is a New York state licensed massage therapist who specializes in CranioSacral Therapy. Her practice focuses on helping clients recover from chronic and post-surgical pain.
What does CranioSacral mean?
The “cranium” refers to the skull, especially the part enclosing the brain, and the “sacrum” a triangular-shaped bone located at the bottom of the spine, just above the tailbone. Therefore, the term CranioSacral refers to a physiological system in the body called the CranioSacral System, that extends from the top of the head to the base of the spine and includes the bones, membranes and fluids that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.
How do you define CranioSacral Therapy?
CranioSacral Therapy is a gentle bodywork modality that helps release restrictions in the fascial system of the body, particularly in the membranes around the brain and spinal cord. It supports the health of the central nervous system by relieving abnormal pressure on nerves and blood vessels, improving fluid circulation and supporting our body’s natural ability to heal and recover from trauma.
What exactly is the fascial system?
The fascia is a certain kind of connective tissue found all over the body. It wraps around all the body’s structures, including the brain and spinal cord, blood vessels, nerves, bones, organs and muscles, providing them with support and space. It helps keep our organs and tissues in place and provides space for fluids to reach our cells delivering nutrients and removing waste products so they can best perform their functions. It is by learning about the fascia that we can begin to develop an appreciation for the wholeness of our bodies, as the fascia connects all of its parts together.
What causes restrictions in the fascia?
Accidents, physical and emotional trauma, inflammation, surgery and daily stresses like poor posture may all affect the health of the fascia, creating restrictions like scar tissue and adhesions.
What effect can these restrictions have on our bodies?
When the fascia gets restricted, its fibers may contract, affecting the tissues around it. The restricted fascia can create abnormal tension or drag on the tissues they surround, potentially causing much pain and discomfort. They can also compromise fluid circulation, causing edema and building up toxins around the cells. Restrictions in one area may travel through the fascia, affecting different parts of the body, as well. So, for example, a fall on the tailbone may affect the membranes around the spine, creating neck pain or headaches. The more we know about fascial restrictions and how they can affect our health, the more insight we can have into the potential cause of our pain.
What health conditions can be helped by CranioSacral Therapy?
CranioSacral Therapy can help in a wide range of health conditions. In cases of postsurgical pain, it can help soften and release scar tissue and adhesions from surgical incisions, helping relieve pressure and pain on the surrounding structures and restoring fluid flow in the area. By releasing restrictions in the fascia that is in direct contact with the spine, it can help relieve pressure on the local nerves, muscles and vertebrae, and be very effective in relieving chronic neck and back pain. By softening the tissues on the base of the head and neck region, it can help improve fluid circulation out of the head, providing relief for headaches and sinusitis. By treating the membranes that are deep within the head, CranioSacral Therapy can help release compressed areas of the brain that could be triggering migraines, or potentially causing add or learning disabilities. By releasing tension in the mouth and jaw areas, CranioSacral Therapy can help provide relief for TMJ dysfunction and so much more.
How does CranioSacral Therapy work?
The beauty of this therapy lies in the ability to palpate a very subtle rhythm in the body called the CranioSacral Rhythm. It originates within the fluids around the brain and spinal cord, generating a natural expansion and contraction that affects all tissues. This subtle rhythm can be palpated anywhere on the body, like a subtle breathing motion that informs the therapist of the health of the CranioSacral system and of the fascia around the body. The therapist listens with the hands to this gentle motion and evaluates whether the fascia is moving with ease or if its motion feels restricted in any way. Once the restricted areas are found, the therapist uses gentle techniques to engage the fascia and help it release.
Could you explain some of these techniques?
What fascinates me the most about these techniques is the incredible effect that a light touch can have on the body. As therapists palpate the CranioSacral Rhythm and find areas of restricted motion, they treat these areas by providing gentle resistance to this motion, therefore blocking its natural flow and redirecting the fluids to push towards the restricted fascia, helping it release. Other techniques involve using certain bones of the skull and spine as handles to access the deeper membranes that are attached to these bones. The very gentle pressure (about five grams) sustained for a certain amount of time helps the deeper membranes soften and release.
What can be expected from a session?
During a session, clients lay fully clothed on a comfortable massage table. The therapist provides gentle touch on the feet, legs, along the spine, shoulders, neck and head as the CranioSacral system is being evaluated and treated. As restrictions are being released, clients may experience feelings of warmth, subtle pulsations, tingling sensations traveling down the arms and legs and digestive noises, etc. What each person experiences however is unique to them. Sessions last 75 minutes and are usually deeply relaxing.
How many sessions are needed?
The number of sessions varies, depending on the individual needs of each client. For those suffering from a specific condition, I usually recommend we start off with sessions closer together, and as symptoms improve, we begin to spread them out. And for healthy individuals, receiving regular CranioSacral sessions can be a wonderful way to help maintain health and well-being.
Welcome Home Integrative Bodywork is located at 17 Computer Dr. E., in Albany. To schedule an appointment or for more information call 518-783-6091 or visit WelcomeHomeIntegrativeBodywork.com.
This article appeared in the April 2017 issue of Natural Awakenings Magazine. Click to read more.