It wasn’t so long ago that most people, including doctors, didn’t think twice about concussions. Finding concrete information on post-concussive syndrome and practitioners to provide it was near impossible. Only recently has mainstream medicine started paying attention, with extra care being taken in high school and professional sports like football, soccer, and hockey.
But even with new-found guidelines and precautionary treatment, there is still a long way to go. Research is now suggesting that even minor falls and shocks to the brain can have serious effects. Your head doesn’t even have to hit anything.
“Now they’re realizing that just the whip itself can cause a concussion,” says Jim Asher, a cranialsacral therapist and rolfer of 40 years who works in Denver and Boulder. “Your head stops, your brain keeps moving.”
You see it in almost all car accidents, he says, along with veterans coming back from the war who have been near a blast and suffered shockwaves. Then of course there are the obvious ones where you smack your head against an unyielding surface. The after-effects can be pervasive and debilitating.
“Frontal headaches, vision problems … trouble studying and with memory,” explains Asher, adding that there could be any number of problems.
And that’s where cranialsacral comes in.
Basically a combination of massage and osteopathy, cranialsacral focuses from the head down to the sacrum, and the spinal fluid that flows in between. Practitioners can be hands-on or work more with energy; it’s just a matter of personal preference. Asher is of the former school of thought.
“It doesn’t take a lot of force, more like a listening hand” says Asher. “After awhile your hands get used to feeling it.”
Injuries to the head and brain can be extremely complicated. There is a lot going on in that part of the body: muscles, nerves, vertebrae, you name it. When people suffer after a concussion, it usually is “all in their head” (and often spine), it’s just a matter of trying to figure out what exactly is wrong.
Asher likens himself to a detective. He has patients lie down on a table and cups their head in his hands. Then he gets to work piecing the clues together, combining physical cues with a detailed telling of what happened to the patient.
“(I’ll) put hands on head and almost feel like it’s twisted,” he explains by way of an example, “like they have a cap over their head. On that person, everything shifts forward.” To ease that person’s pain, he’ll do what he calls a frontal lift. “In the technique, you’re basically trying to give the head a sense of space again.”
These methods of treatment were many years in the making. Cranialsacral was founded by a guy named William Gardener Sutherland, an osteopathic physician, back at the turn of the 20th century. He realized that the skull was not one solid piece of bone, but rather various “plates” that are connected by fascia, with underlying muscles and nerves. He postulated that moving those plates back into place after a trauma could help people suffering from a number of conditions. And he was right.
Subsequent research would show that there is a fluid sac that surrounds the brain, so it’s basically floating. What cranialsacral therapists do in addition to feeling for structural misalignments is monitor the flow of the spinal fluid surrounding the brain, down to the sacrum.
“You can feel the fluid,” Asher says, “sometimes feel where the system is locked.”
And then it’s just a matter of finding the key, which is admittedly easier said than done. But when somebody tells Asher that it helped their tinnitus or vision, let them breathe easier, or allowed them to think better or feel more clear, then he knows he’s done his job.
“I just get the body back to a normal balance point and let (it) heal itself.”
More on Jim Asher
Licensed Naturopathic Doctor Michael Sutton (Ft. Collins, CO) discusses the rising number of neurological disorders and the stance natural medicine has toward them.
Video produced by Feel Good Now.