Craniosacral Therapy and ADD

By John Upledger, DO, OMM

Craniosacral therapy is a gentle, hands-on therapeutic modality that may have a profoundly positive effect upon brain and spinal cord function. Application of this modality can also positively influence the endocrine and immune systems.

It seems especially effective at relieving excess tension patterns and restricted motion in both osseous and membranous anatomical regions and relationships. By relieving excess tension in the meningeal membranes, the impairment of related nervous tissue function is often restored. 

By restoring bone mobility in the skull, spinal column, rib cage and pelvis, abnormal restrictive anchorings of these meningeal membranes are removed. This restoration of natural mobility of the individual bones of the skull also allows the sutural junctures (joints) between these bones to resume their normal pumping and accommodative activities. 

The net result of all this is to enhance the movement of fluids throughout the central nervous system and its related structures and systems. Physiological fluid movement is essential to the healthy function of any tissue and organ, whether it be brain, bone, muscle, etc. Fluid is the vehicle used by the body's physiological mechanisms to remove metabolic and toxic wastes from within cells and from intracellular spaces. Fluid is also the vehicle the body uses to deliver nutrients and antibodies, and to carry messenger substances such as hormones, neuropeptides and the electrically charged ions and particles that are so important to physiological function. 

Craniosacral therapy has been used quite successfully in the treatment of attention deficit disorder (ADD) and hyperkinesis since 1975. Our clinical experience suggests that, in a significant number of ADD and hyperkinesis cases, a structural problem may be a primary contributing factor to the symptom complex. When this structural problem is present and corrected, the symptoms of ADD and/or hyperkinesis disappear very quickly, quite often in minutes to hours. If the structural correction holds the treatment, the effects can be permanent. 

Sometimes the structural problem requires multiple corrections. However, with each therapeutic treatment, the corrective process becomes easier and the symptomatic improvement lasts longer until, ultimately, neither the structural problem nor the ADD and/or hyperkinesis symptoms reoccur. 

The structural problem that often seems to be causally related to ADD and/or hyperkinesis is one that may frequently occur during obstetrical delivery. It happens when there is an excessive back-bending (hyperextension) of the occipital base of the skull upon the first cervical vertebra (atlas). The joint surfaces between this occipital bone and the atlas form a horizontally oriented V-shape, with the point of the "V" facing forward. The most common delivery position for the newborn is facing toward the back of the mother's body. Therefore, the back of the newborn's head comes under the mother's pubic bone complex. In so doing, the head may be severely angulated upon the neck. 

This position represents a very threatening situation to the newborn's nervous system. (The neck could be broken if angulation goes much further.) An obvious response to this kind of threat is to splint or contract the tissues (muscles, etc.) to prevent life-threatening damage. When the delivery is over, the splinted tissues may or may not relax. 

If they do not relax, the occiput remains in a locked forward (hyperextended) position on the atlas. If the soft tissues do relax, the bony surfaces may or may not release from each other. If the head-neck situation does not naturally self-correct, or if there is not a craniosacrally oriented practicioner available to facilitate the normalization of the head-neck relationship, the persistence of this restrictive situation results in abnormally increased tone of the muscles at the head-neck juncture. 

Other soft tissues may also fibrose and hypertrophy. One result of these misguided, but well-intentioned tissue responses, is to increase back pressure to the outflow of blood through the jugular foramena, located in the midst of these overreactive, protective tissues on either side. The jugular veins pass out of the skulls through these foramena, as do the glossopharyngeal, vagus and spinal accessory (cranial) nerves. The increased tissue responses, by heightening venous outflow resistance, must reduce the degree of physiological fluid circulation within and around the brain. These fluids include cerebrospinal fluid, intracellular fluid, interstitial fluid, lymph and blood. The reduction in removal of waste products, secondary to the reduced efficiency of these fluid systems, results in an abnormal accumulation of these products that, in turn, contribute to an irritable brain. 

When fluid motion is restored, the symptoms of ADD and hyperkinesis often disappear. In addition, the impingement upon the major cranial nerves as they exit through the jugular foramena may result in colic, gastric upset, and/or difficulty in swallowing, depending upon the degree of effect upon the glossopharyngeal and vagus nerves. The spinal accessory nerve, when irritated, may cause excessive tone in the major neck muscles. 

Craniosacral therapy is ideally suited for resolving the aforementioned structural problems. Although it is common for the head-neck structural problem to occur during obstetrical delivery, it can also be the result of any kind of accident or trauma that "whips" the head backward on the neck. Fortunately, the problem can be corrected with competent craniosacral work at any time, even as early as an hour after birth.


Massage Today
March, 2007, Vol. 07, Issue 03 


Helping the Brain Drain: How CranioSacral Therapy Aids ADD/ADHD

By John Upledger, DO, OMM and Tad Wanveer, LMT, CST-D

CranioSacral Therapy can have a profoundly positive effect on brain and spinal cord function. It has been used successfully in the treatment of attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) since 1975.

Our clinical experience suggests that structural restrictions in the body, especially in the bones and membrane layers surrounding the brain and spinal cord, may be the primary factor in a significant number of such cases. 

These restrictions can interfere with the normal movement of fluids and vital nutrients into and out of the brain, which enable it to function properly. 

In a gentle manner, CranioSacral Therapy can help release restrictions to naturally enhance brain function, decrease levels of ADD and ADHD, and in many cases, alleviate the disorders altogether.

Fluid Movement Is Essential to Optimal Brain Function

For each task a person undertakes, multiple sites and integrated pathways within the brain are required to operate in harmony for normal function to occur. Often, in cases of ADD and ADHD, some of these areas actually are performing at abnormally high (hyperactive) and/or low (hypoactive) levels.

What could cause such a dysfunction? It might well be a lack of fluids moving within the brain tissue. It’s essential for fluids to move in an unrestricted manner throughout the brain for it to perform optimally. Fluids (blood and cerebrospinal fluid) transport the vital and essential elements required by the cells, while also removing harmful waste products. When the delicate cells are unable to receive what they need, or they are unable to live in an environment free of toxic waste products, dysfunction may occur.

Abnormal Strain Upon Openings and Vessels Can Compromise Normal Fluid Flow Into and Out of the Brain

Traveling through openings in the base of the skull are vessels that supply blood to the brain, and vessels that drain blood and cerebrospinal fluid from the brain. Approximately 85 percent of this drainage occurs through two vessels that pass through two openings (jugular foramina) and become the jugular veins.

Sometimes stressful physical events such as the birth process, trauma or whiplash can cause the base of the skull to jam forward on the top segment of the spine. When this occurs, it places strain on the bones at the base of the skull and the membrane layers within the skull, especially in the area that forms the fluid-drainage openings. The neck muscles also chronically contract to prevent further jamming. This often will maintain the compromised positions of bone and membrane, even for a lifetime.

What happens when such adverse strain patterns are placed on the jugular foramina and the jugular veins? Abnormal vein pressure can occur, which decreases drainage and causes fluid back-pressure to build up in the brain. Such pressure can lead to cell congestion, intracranial toxicity, abnormal pressure on cells and diminished blood flow to the brain. Stress such as this placed on the brain cells may cause them to react by becoming hyperactive in response to the strain, or hypoactive due to the injurious condition; or the same cell or cell groups can be hyperactive at some times and hypoactive at other times. Any of these responses can lead to a myriad of conditions, such as headaches, motor planning issues, speech issues, and one or more of the principal characteristics of ADD and ADHD: inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity.

CranioSacral Therapy Relieves Strain Patterns and Enhances Fluid Flow

CranioSacral Therapy is a light-touch manual therapy that addresses restrictions in the craniosacral system, which consists of the membranes and fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. This vital physiological system extends from the bones of the skull, face and mouth, which make up the cranium, down to the sacrum, or tailbone area.

This gentle, hands-on method of care is highly effective in relieving adverse strain patterns and restrictions, thereby enhancing the movement of fluid throughout the brain, spinal cord and the body as a whole. The stronger fluid motion helps brain cells receive normal levels of essential nutrients so they can function efficiently and in synchrony with other cells. It also creates a brain environment that is constantly flushed of waste products and toxic irritants. When the stress of compromised fluid flow is relieved, the areas of the brain that have been overactive and/or underactive can normalize.

The results often are a central nervous system of greater balance and mobility, and a body that is able to return to its peak levels of performance. By helping the body make the biomechanical corrections necessary to allow the brain to function at its best, CranioSacral Therapy can help relieve ADD or ADHD that can cause great difficulty at any age.

Tad Wanveer, LMT, CST-D, is a certified instructor for The Upledger Institute, where he was a staff clinician for more than five years. He earned his diploma in massage therapy in 1987 from the Swedish Institute of Massage and Allied Health Sciences in New York City. He currently runs a private practice in North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham area specializing in CranioSacral Therapy.

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