What is CranioSacral Therapy?

CST is a gentle, hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the functioning of a physiological body system called the craniosacral system – comprised of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.

Using a soft touch generally no greater than 5 grams, or about the weight of a nickel, practitioners release restrictions in the craniosacral system to improve the functioning of the central nervous system.

By complementing the body’s natural healing processes, CST is increasingly used as a preventive health measure for its ability to bolster resistance to disease, and is effective for a wide range of medical problems associated with pain and dysfunction, including:

  • Migraine Headaches
  • Chronic Neck and Back Pain
  • Msotor-Coordination Impairment
  • Colic
  • Autism
  • Central Nervous System Disorders
  • Orthopedic Problems
  • Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Scoliosis
  • Infantile Disorders
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Emotional Difficulties
  • Stress and Tension-Related Problems
  • Fibromyalgia and other Connective-Tissue Disorders
  • Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)
  • Neurovascular or Immune Disorders
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Post-Surgical Dysfunction

SomatoEmotional Release (SER) is a therapeutic process that uses and expands on the principles of CranioSacral Therapy to help rid the mind and body of the residual effects of trauma. SER1 offers applications designed to enhance results using CST and other complementary therapies.

  • Assess and mobilize the Avenue of Expression working through more than 10 different body components, including the thoracic inlet, hard palate and hyoglossal tissues.
  • Locate and release Energy Cysts.
  • Release suppressed emotions that may be inhibiting complete structural releases.
  • Refine listening and comprehension skills.
  • Improve palpation and whole-body evaluation skills.

What is Visceral Manipulation?

Visceral Manipulation relies on the palpation of normal and abnormal forces within the body. By using specific techniques, therapists can evaluate how abnormal forces interplay, overlap and affect the normal body forces at work. The goal is to help the body’s normal forces remove abnormal effects, whatever their sources. Those effects can be global, encompassing many areas of bodily function.

VM assists functional and structural imbalances throughout the body including musculoskeletal, vascular, nervous, urogenital, respiratory, digestive and lymphatic dysfunction. It evaluates and treats the dynamics of motion and suspension in relation to organs, membranes, fascia and ligaments. VM increases proprioceptive communication within the body, thereby revitalizing a person and relieving symptoms of pain, dysfunction, and poor posture.

An integrative approach to evaluation and treatment of a patient requires assessment of the structural relationships between the viscera, and their fascial or ligamentous attachments to the musculoskeletal system. Strains in the connective tissue of the viscera can result from surgical scars, adhesions, illness, posture or injury. Tension patterns form through the fascial network deep within the body, creating a cascade of effects far from their sources for which the body will have to compensate. This creates fixed, abnormal points of tension that the body must move around, and this chronic irritation gives way to functional and structural problems.

Imagine an adhesion around the lungs. It would create a modified axis that demands abnormal accommodations from nearby body structures. For example, the adhesion could alter rib motion, which could then create imbalanced forces on the vertebral column and, with time, possibly develop a dysfunctional relationship with other structures. This scenario highlights just one of hundreds of possible ramifications of a small dysfunction – magnified by thousands of repetitions each day.

There are definite links between somatic structures, such as the muscles and joints, the sympathetic nervous system, the visceral organs, the spinal cord and the brain. For example, the sinuvertebral nerves innervate the intervertebral disks and have direct connections with the sympathetic nervous system, which innervates the visceral organs. The sinuvertebral nerves and sympathetic nervous system are linked to the spinal cord, which has connections with the brain. In this way someone with chronic pain can have irritations and facilitated areas not only in the musculoskeletal system (including joints, muscles, fascia, and disks) but also the visceral organs and their connective tissues (including the liver, stomach, gallbladder, intestines and adrenal glands), the peripheral nervous system, the sympathetic nervous system and even the spinal cord and brain.

Thanks to the dedicated work of Jean-Pierre Barral, a Physiotherapist (RPT) and Osteopath (DO), healthcare practitioners today can use the rhythmic motions of the visceral system as important therapeutic tools.

Barral’s clinical work with the viscera led to his development of a form of manual therapy that focuses on the internal organs, their environment and the potential influence on many structural and physiological dysfunctions. The term he coined for this therapy was Visceral Manipulation.

Comparative studies found Visceral Manipulation beneficial for various disorders.

Women’s and Men’s Health Issues

  • Chronic Pelvic Pain
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibroids and Cysts
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Bladder Incontinence
  • Prostate Dysfunction
  • Referred Testicular Pain
  • Effects of Menopause

Acute Disorders

  • Whiplash
  • Seatbelt Injuries
  • Chest or Abdominal Sports Injuries
  • Concussion
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries

Digestive Disorders

  • Bloating and Constipation
  • Nausea and Acid Reflux
  • GERD
  • Swallowing Dysfunctions

Musculoskeletal Disorders

  • Somatic-Visceral Interactions
  • Chronic Spinal Dysfunction
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Peripheral Joint Pain
  • Sciatica

Pediatric Issues

  • Constipation and Gastritis
  • Persistent Vomiting
  • Vesicoureteral Reflux
  • Infant Colic

Pain Related to

  • Post-operative Scar Tissue
  • Post-infection Scar Tissue
  • Autonomic Mechanisms

Emotional Issues

  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

How Does Visceral Manipulation Help You?

Visceral Manipulation is used to locate and solve problems throughout the body. It encourages your own natural mechanisms to improve the functioning of your organs, dissipate the negative effects of stress, enhance mobility of the musculoskeletal system through the connective tissue attachments, and influence general metabolism. Today, a wide variety of healthcare professionals perform Visceral Manipulation. Practitioners include osteopathic physicians, allopathic physicians, doctors of chiropractic, doctors of Oriental medicine, naturopathic physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, massage therapists and other licensed body workers.

To find a therapist in your area, go to International Association of Healthcare Practitioners.

How is Visceral Manipulation Performed?

Visceral Manipulation is based on the specific placement of soft manual forces to encourage the normal mobility, tone and motion of the viscera and their connective tissues. These gentle manipulations can potentially improve the functioning of individual organs, the systems the organs function within, and the structural integrity of the entire body.

Harmony and health exist when motion is free and excursion is full – when motion is not labored, overexcited, depressed, or conflicting with neighboring structures and their mobility. Therapists using Visceral Manipulation assess the dynamic functional actions as well as the somatic structures that perform individual activities. They also evaluate the quality of the somatic structures and their functions in relation to an overall harmonious pattern, with motion serving as the gauge for determining quality.

Due to the delicate and often highly reactive nature of the visceral tissues, gentle force precisely directed reaps the greatest results. As with other methods of manipulation that affect the body deeply, Visceral Manipulation works only to assist the forces already at work. Because of that, trained therapists can be sure of benefiting the body rather than adding further injury or disorganization.

How Did Visceral Manipulation Begin?

Jean-Pierre Barral first became interested in biomechanics while working as a registered physical therapist of the Lung Disease Hospital in Grenoble, France. That’s where he met Dr. Arnaud, a recognized specialist in lung diseases and a master of cadaver dissection. Working with Dr. Arnaud, Barral followed patterns of stress in the tissues of cadavers and studied biomechanics in living subjects. This introduced him to the visceral system, its potential to promote lines of tension within the body, and the notion that tissues have memory. All this was fundamental to his development of Visceral Manipulation. In 1974, Barral earned his diploma in osteopathic medicine from the European School of Osteopathy in Maidstone, England. When Barral was at osteopathic school, there were no classes in visceral work. Working primarily with articular and structural manipulation, he began forming the basis for Visceral Manipulation during an unusual session with a patient he’d been treating with spinal manipulations.

During the preliminary examination, Barral was surprised to find appreciable movement. The patient confirmed that he felt relief from his back pain after going to an “old man who pushed something in his abdomen.”

This incident piqued Barral’s interest in the relationship between the viscera and the spine. That’s when he began exploring stomach manipulations with several patients, with successful results gradually leading him to develop Visceral Manipulation. Between 1975 and 1982, Barral taught spinal biomechanics at England’s European School of Osteopathy. In collaboration with Dr. Jean-Paul Mathieu and Dr. Pierre Mercier, he published Articular Vertebrae Diagnosis.

Using his work with Dr. Arnaud as a foundation, Barral continued to investigate how the thickening of tissues in the body creates areas of greater mechanical tension that, in turn, pull on surrounding tissues. That discovery led him to the theoretical and practical development of visceral listening techniques.

Barral’s development of manual thermal evaluation began in 1971 during another treatment session. While treating a female patient, he felt a strong emanation coming from her mammary gland. He learned she had been operated on for a tumor in that area. Researching this phenomenon with other patients, he discovered just how accurately areas of stress in the body could be located by palpating the associated energy, which proved to be thermal. Consequent research has added manual thermal evaluation to many practitioners’ evaluation tools.

With the help of Dr. Serge Cohen, a Grenoble radiologist, Barral also documented changes in the viscera before and after manipulation. They employed x-ray fluoroscopy and ultrasound to record changes in position and motion, as well as fluid exchange and evacuation. Later they conducted additional research with a team of electrical engineers and technicians using infrared emissions from the body.

Jean-Pierre Barral began teaching Visceral Manipulation in the United States in 1985. Since then he has trained a team of International Teachers that teach Visceral Manipulation seminars around the world. He has also authored numerous textbooks for healthcare professionals, including: Visceral Manipulation, Visceral Manipulation II, Urogenital Manipulation, The Thorax, Manual Thermal Evaluation, as well as Trauma: An Osteopathic Approach, Manual Therapy for the Peripheral Nerves, and Manual Therapy for the Cranial Nerves (the latter three were co-authored with Alain Croibier, D.O.). Jean-Pierre Barral has also authored a book for the general public, Understanding the Messages of Your Body, which discusses the link between our organs and our emotions.

Barral continues to research and develop manual therapy techniques while maintaining a full clinical practice. Thanks to his pioneering work, candidates in several European countries must now pass a rigorous test in Visceral Manipulation to earn a diploma in osteopathy, as they have adopted his Visceral Manipulation techniques, just as many other manual therapy professions around the world.

What is Neural Manipulation?

Neural Manipulation examines mechanical relationships between the cranium/spine hard frame to the dura and neural elements. It provides assessment and treatment approaches to address restrictions of the dural and neural components not commonly focused on with musculoskeletal symptoms. Neural Manipulation identifies and releases local nerve restrictions while at the same time examines the effect these local fixations have on the rest of the body, and by accessing this relationship, resolves the more comprehensive (global) dysfunctional patterns.

A nerve only functions correctly when it is able to move feely within its surrounding structures. The modality of Neural Manipulation facilitates nerve conductivity and intraneural blood supply for local and systemic responsiveness. 

By understanding the detailed anatomy of the neural manipulation, one can clearly see the potential for pathological change when nerves are restricted.

Manual therapy, as it applies to the treatment of nerves, follows the standard principles of mobility and function. For optimal function nerves must be able to move freely within its surroundings. This freedom of movement is essential for:

  • nerve conduction
  • electromagnetic conduction
  • intraneural blood supply
  • intraneural nerve supply
  • local and systemic responsiveness

Comparative studies found Neural Manipulation beneficial for various disorders such as:

  • Lower Back Pain & Sciatica
  • Headaches & Migraines
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Joint Pain
  • Digestive Disorders
  • Post-operative Scar Tissue Pain
  • Swallowing Dysfunctions
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
  • Whiplash Injuries
  • Birth Injuries
  • Neuralgia & Neuritis
  • Tendinitis
  • Sprains & Traumatic Lesions
  • Concussion & Traumatic Brain Injuries
    And More…

Neural Fixation

When a nerve is fixed, it typically looses its ability to glide and/or stretch in length. The intra- or peri-neural pressure dramatically increases, at the same time there are changes in consistency. The nerve pathway shows functional interferences (blood supply or electric and/or electromagnetic conductivity).

With fixation smaller nerve sections can harden. They feel like buds and are very sensitive or painful to the touch. Such “Nerve Buds” are an indication of an intraneural interference, an overload of physiological pressure points or a local fibrosis. Nerve buds can be released very quickly, sometimes within one therapy session.

Palpation of the skin branches of peripheral nerves can be useful for evaluative, as well for therapeutic considerations. When evaluating the skin branches, if they are sensitive or painful to pressure, typically there is a fixation of the deeper nerve branches.

Neural Manipulation and its Influence on Organs

Visceral Manipulation techniques can affect the movement apparatus and vice versa. It is important to note that the release of sensitive nerve buds can have a favorable effect on the functioning of the corresponding visceral organs. The neural manipulation is involved in all body functions and without neural control certain visceral activity cannot be maintained. The stimulation of nerves is processed centrally and reported back to the body as feedback. This sequence of responses functions providing no interference (fixation) is present.

Whether the structures involved include joints, fascia, viscera, brain and peripheral nerves, or emotional centers, proper evaluation is essential for good therapeutic results. The treatment of a normal nerve section (without fixation) has no adverse effect, however a local nerve irritation can result.

Generally, one thinks of a trauma as a severe injury that causes damage. This definition encompasses different gradients of external forces acting on the body. For example, not every joint trauma leads to a fracture or dislocation, which is verifiable by x-ray. From a medical standpoint, patients are often considered to be perfectly healthy, even though they are not at all the same as they were before sustaining a trauma. The same is generally true for the neural manipulation and the nerves. Traumatic nerve lesions typically do not result in a recognizable, well defined, clinical picture. Instead a broad spectrum of disturbances can be found. Because of their inconsistency and lack of evidence (with conventional examination methods and imaging procedures) symptoms are often overlooked.

Often functional nerve lesions develop after neurotropic diseases (like herpes zoster) or as a result of posture imbalances. More frequently they derive from mechanical forces and energies: friction, pressure (compression) or traction forces (stretch), all of which affect the nerves. To bring about lesions, a trauma does not have to be severe. Often, it is a matter of repetitive micro-traumas. For example, a non-physiological movement, a harmless sprain, faulty posture or muscle contractions. Pathological processes can take place intra- and extraneurally.

Intraneurally the trauma affects distinct nerve structures:

  • demyelination, neurinoma, hypoxia of certain fibers (in the conducting nerve tissues),
  • epineural scarring, perifascicular edema, fibrosis, irritation of the arachnoid space or the dura mater (in the neural connective tissue).

These categories of pathology are rarely found in isolation. Clinically we typically find several together. Extraneural disturbances are caused chiefly by a narrowing of the spinal canal. Trauma can also impact the “nerve bud” or a functional intersection of the nerve tissue. For example, a nerve or epidural hematoma, an epineural tissue fixation, a dura adhesion in the spinal canal, as well as pressure caused by bone or muscle swelling can result.

Intra- and extraneural function disturbances often occur in tandem. In our opinion, they are closely connected with a neural fixation dysfunction and/or are even the cause of it. Our aim is to treat this kind of fixation with manual techniques or at least to minimize their negative results.

How Does Neural Manipulation Help You?

With interferences in certain body zones, the respective spinal cord and/or brain structures may also be irritated. A peripheral nerve treatment can influence these so-called facilitated areas and therefore promote a common or systemic effect. Manual treatments are basically effective due to the mechanical effects that cause neural stimuli, which can be transmitted at a local or central level. Manual neural manipulation changes intra- and extraneural pressure, improves sympathetic function to blood vessels due to the auto-innervation of the sympathetic gangli and sympathetic innervation of peri-neural connective tissues both of which are affected with treatment of fixations in the nerve sheaths.

To find a therapist in your area, go to International Association of Healthcare Practitioners.

How is Neural Manipulation Performed?

Treatment to nerves is through precise applied pressure. The tension of the perineurium and all other neural connective tissues is transmitted down to the root sheaths, so the distal contact has a central effect mechanically and reflexogenically.

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