CranioSacral Therapy (CST) is a very gentle style of massage therapy that is helpful in relieving physical and emotional pain. This therapy uses the craniosacral system of our body to assess restrictions in the fascia to pinpoint an area for release.
What is fascia and why it is important?
Fascia is a thin film of connective tissue that surrounds our muscles, attaches to the under surface of the skin, around our organs, along the spinal column, and into our brain and central nervous system. It is a continuous web that holds everything together and allows for movement of the muscles, organs and tissues of our body. It is what allows for slide and glide of the tissue.
What happens when fascia becomes stuck?
Stuck fascia inhibits movement and decreases function
Nerve conduction can be impaired
Joint range of motion becomes limited
Organ function may change
Digestion problems may occur
Mental clarity and cognitive ability decrease
Moods can be effected
Eventually this leads to dysfunction and pain
How does the craniosacral system effect the fascia?
The craniosacral system is composed of the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), the brain, the spinal cord and the structure that encloses it, the dural tube. The CSF is manufactured in the brain, it then travels around the brain to nourish it and then down the spinal cord to the sacral area (tailbone) and then back to the brain to be re-absorbed and the process repeats itself. This cycle is repeated 6 to 10 times a minute.
The fascia is attached to all of these structures, and as the CSF moves down and back up this movement creates a motion in the fascia. This is called the cranial wave, or ebb and flow.
Using light touch, a CranioSacral Therapist can feel for this wave anywhere in the body to find the restrictions and release the adhesion freeing up the fascia, tissue, muscles and bones. This will increase circulation, increase range of motion and reduce pain: allowing you to feel a deep sense of relaxation and greater mobility.
CranioSacral Therapy is safe for adults, infants, toddlers and elders. It is effective in many situations:
Chronic illness or injury
Pregnancy and the post-partum period
Deep Tissue Massage
The use of techniques targeted to reach and affect the sub-layers of musculature and fascia is the hallmark of Deep Tissue Massage. These techniques require more advanced training and a more thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology than other types of Massage Therapy. These techniques are used to release chronic muscle tension and holding patterns through slower strokes and more direct pressure or friction applied across the grain of the muscles and fascia (or connective tissue).
Treatment of stiff or painful areas is done by determining the quality and texture of the deeper layers of musculature, and slowly working into these deeper layers of muscle tissue. The muscles must be relaxed in order to effectively perform deep tissue massage, otherwise tight surface muscles prevent the practitioner from reaching deeper tissue structures. Deep Tissue Massage helps with chronic muscle pain and injury rehabilitation and reduces inflammation-related pain caused by arthritis and tendonitis. Deep Tissue Massage is generally integrated with other massage techniques.
Developed in the 1960s, this style of massage originated at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, and is based on a combination of Oriental and Swedish massage techniques, echoing the rhythmic ebb and flow of waves and breath. Esalen massage is gentle in nature, emphasizing nurturing and empathy. The massage strokes are soft, easy and slow, prompting deep relaxation, and often flow from head to toe in one unbroken sweep.
Gentle rocking, stretching, and passive movement of limbs are also used to prompt release of unconscious muscular tension and holding. Additionally, there may be times during the massage when the therapist simply pauses for a few moments, gently holding a limb or lightly resting his or her hands on the head, neck, or back of the recipient to further foster awareness of a sense of being at home in the body. Attention is also given to the recipient’s breath, and the subtle changes that occur with deep relaxation.
While deeper strokes and attention to areas of muscular spasm are also used, Esalen massage is primarily focused on relaxation, integration, and compassionate presence. It is used to reduce stress, relieve pain, improve sleep, aid digestion and promote healing. This technique is especially suited for those recovering from trauma, who wish to experience nurturing, safe touch, which fosters emotional healing and re-integration of body/mind/spirit.
Jin Shin Do®
Jin Shin Do, which literally means “way of the compassionate spirit”, is a unique blend of traditional Japanese acupressure techniques, Chinese medical theory, and Taoist breathing and meditative techniques developed by Iona Marsaa Teeguarden, M.A., L.M.F.C.C. Acupressure refers to any technique in which pressure is applied to specific points on the body, called acu-points, using the fingertips. Jin Shin Do is a specific form of acupressure in which gentle finger pressure is applied to the acu-points in specific “treatment flows” using powerful combinations of points which act to release muscular tension or “armoring” which obstructs the natural flow of energy through the body.
Because the body and mind are truly interconnected, as researchers are discovering more and more each day, using techniques such as Jin Shin Do to release physical tension and restore energy flow can also have profound effects on one’s mental and emotional state of being. Recipients of regular Jin Shin Do treatment frequently report feeling more able to release and deal with pent-up frustration, anger, anxiety and other “negative” emotions in their lives to achieve a calmer, more peaceful, relaxed and joyful way of being in the world.
Jin Shin Do is performed with the patient relaxing comfortably on a massage table in a room that is kept at a comfortable temperature. It is best to remove jewelry, belts and the like during treatment and to wear thin comfortable clothing such as a long-sleeve T-shirt and stretch pants or sweats so that the practitioner can better feel the state of the body’s musculature and energy flow during treatment. Most patients find Jin Shin Do very relaxing and will sometimes report experiencing a flow of energy that feels like pleasant “tingling” or “streaming”. Jin Shin Do can be used as preventive therapy to maintain good health or as an adjunctive therapy for virtually any condition as its effects are to assist the patient in releasing stress and balancing energy – things which help to promote the body’s own self-healing mechanisms.
Myofascial Release Therapy
Myofascial Release refers to the manual technique of stretching the fascia with the aim of relieving pain and restoring healthy function of the body’s tissues and structures. Fascia is a seamless web of connective tissue located between the skin and the underlying structure of muscle and bone that covers and connects the muscles, organs, and skeletal structures in the body. Injuries, stress, trauma, and poor posture can cause restrictions in the fascia. Since fascia is an interconnected web, the restriction or tightness of fascia at one place can spread with time to other places in the body, much like a sweater being pulled at one point has distortion at other areas.
Myofascial Release Therapy utilizes gentle, kneading manipulation that softly stretches, softens, lengthens and realigns fascia. After careful observation of the client’s posture, the massage therapist will palpate for stressed areas of the body. When restricted areas are found, the massage therapist will gently stretch tissues in the direction of the muscle fibers. This stretch is held for a couple of minutes until a softening or release is felt. These stretches are repeated until the tension is completely relaxed. A Myofascial Release session may last up to an hour and can be administered one to three times per week depending on the client’s condition and response to care.
Myofascial Release Therapy can be used to treat back pain, help those with frozen shoulder, fibromyalgia, headaches, chronic fatigue syndrome, tennis or golfer’s elbow, shin splints, sprains, rheumatoid and osteo arthritis, muscle spasms, whiplash injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome. This therapy is often integrated with other forms of massage.
Receiving bodywork during pregnancy is extremely beneficial. It can help soothe some of the changes taking place, and it is deeply relaxing. This benefits mom and growing baby.
Some specific things Pregnancy Bodywork can help with that may occur as you progress through each trimester are:
Nausea and morning sickness
Round ligament, broad ligament and lower uterine segment pain
Carpel Tunnel pain or numbness of hands
Body pain: back, hip, pelvic, ribs, and sciatic
Changing posture issues
Swelling in legs, feet and hands
Massage During Pregnancy is Safe
Massage during pregnancy is safe, when done by a Certified Pregnancy Massage Therapist. Therapists with this designation have received additional education and training on the special requirements of pregnancy (also called pre-natal) massage. They are trained in the positioning needed for the comfort and safety of mother and baby. Additionally, they are well versed in the areas of the body which should not be massaged during pregnancy, and in massage techniques which are especially suited for expectant mothers. There are some conditions when it is not safe to receive massage while pregnant, and your therapist will be familiar with these conditions. It is recommended that all women seeking pregnancy massage have approval from their physician or midwife prior to receiving it.
Optimal Fetal Positioning
This refers to helping babies get into the best position to align themselves to go through the birth canal. Most babies will find a good comfortable position; some will not. Babies choose the easiest position available within the womb.
Pregnancy massage and bodywork can release restrictions in the muscles and ligaments and create more room for baby to move and re-position.
Postpartum Massage and Care
Bodywork at this point—the so-called 4th trimester—can help you recover from the demands of giving birth. You can have a session as soon after as you desire to help with muscle fatigue, low back and hip pain, tailbone or sacral pain, and constipation. Postpartum Massage can also help with:
A separation of the abdominal muscles due to the expanding pregnant tummy. There are easy techniques to help recover from this, and bodywork is an important part of that recovery.
Weak Psoas Muscle
This muscle becomes especially weak during pregnancy. Bodywork will address strengthening this muscle and relaxing the other muscles that have been compensating.
The physical recovery from this is similar to any other major abdominal surgery. You will need time to heal and you should follow any guidelines given by your physician. Bodywork will greatly reduce recovery time, and provide you with some well-deserved relaxation. Your Pregnancy Trained Massage Therapist can give you some great tips for self-care as well.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation or PNF
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) was first developed in by Herman Kabat M.D., Ph.D., and physical therapists Margaret Knott and Dorothy Voss in the 1950s as a treatment modality for patients who were paralyzed after stroke. Originally designed to facilitate flexibility, strength and muscular coordination, PNF is now used by many massage therapists, sports trainers and physical therapists.
PNF stretching is a combination of passive stretching and isometric resistance. Usually the assistance of a massage therapist is required, although for some stretches it is not essential. The most common PNF stretching technique is the “contract-relax” method. This consists of stretching a muscle group passively, stabilizing the limb or body structure, and then contracting the muscle group isometrically (using muscle contraction without moving the joint(s) involved) while in a stretched position, then relaxing the muscle group and finally increasing the stretch passively.
PNF work is currently the fastest and most effective way known to increase passive flexibility and help muscles relax chronic tension and holding. Research indicates that PNF is not only a superior style of stretching; it also has benefits beyond improving flexibility and range of motion, including building muscle strength overall. PNF stretching is most often integrated into other massage techniques during a therapeutic or medical massage. This technique is quite useful in helping muscles relax after trauma or injury, such as in auto accidents and sports injuries.
One of the most commonly taught and well-known massage techniques, Swedish massage, is a system of treatment designed to energize the body by stimulating circulation. Swedish massage can relax muscles, increase circulation of blood & lymph, remove metabolic waste products from the muscles, foster feelings of connectedness, and increased awareness of the body.
One of the primary goals of Swedish Massage is to speed venous return of blood and lymph from the extremities. The massage techniques are designed to relax muscles by applying pressure to them against deeper muscles and bones and rubbing in the same direction as the flow of blood returning to the heart. Swedish Massage shortens recovery time from muscular strain by flushing the tissue of lactic acid, uric acid and other metabolic wastes, and it improves circulation without increasing heart load. It also stretches the ligaments and tendons, keeping them supple.
The client disrobes and is covered by a sheet and blanket, with only the area being worked on exposed. Therapists use a combination of kneading, rolling, vibrational, percussive and tapping movements, with the application of oil, creams or gels to reduce friction on the skin.
Swedish Massage stimulates the skin and nervous system while at the same time relaxing the nerves themselves. As it can help reduce emotional and physical stress, it is often recommended as part of a regular program for stress management. It also has specific clinical uses in medical or remedial therapy for injury rehabilitation and recovery. The many benefits of Swedish massage include generalized relaxation, dissolution of scar tissue, adhesions, muscular trigger points, and improved circulation, which may speed healing and reduce swelling from injury.
Tuina (pronounced “Tway-nah”) is an ancient Chinese system of massage which uses Traditional Chinese Medicine’s theories of channels and collaterals (meridians) and the flow of Qi (vital energy) as its basic orientation. Utilizing a wide range of techniques including massaging, kneading, pressing, rolling, shaking and stretching the body, the focus of this therapy is on the regulation of Qi to recover functionality of tendons, bones and joints.
Through the application of massage and manipulation techniques, Tuina seeks to establish more harmonious and balanced Qi flow through the system of channels and collaterals, allowing the body to naturally heal itself. Tuina methods include the use of hand and arm techniques to massage the soft tissue (muscles, tendons, and fascia) of the body, and may also include stimulation of acupressure points to directly affect the flow of Qi (energy) through the system of channels and collaterals. External herbal poultices, compresses, liniments and salves are also used to enhance the therapeutic effects of the treatment.
While Traditional Chinese Medical precepts form its theoretical basis, clinical experience governs its application. Tuina techniques range from those that are light and soothing to those that are strong and invigorating. Refined over the centuries, Tuina facilitates healing by regulating the circulation of Blood and Qi, which controls body function and enhances resistance to disease. The term “tuina” combines the names of two of the hand techniques, “tui” to push, and “na” to lift and squeeze, which are used to represent the system.
Practitioners of Tuina claim there are more than 365 hand techniques, and Tuina was first recorded in 2300 B.C. in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine as one of the five major therapies of the time. Tuina is often used in hospitals and clinics in China, and is now taught by some of the best Oriental Medical Schools in the United States, including the Oregon School of Oriental Medicine (OCOM) located in Portland. Acupuncturists who have graduated from OCOM have received at least two years of instruction in Tuina, including advanced techniques taught by specialist Tuina physicians from China.