April is also Cranio-Sacral Therapy (CST) Awareness Month. In this article I’ll be covering both topics and how CST helps a tremendous amount with stress!
Stress is a reaction that everyone experiences. The key word here is reaction, which is a feeling experienced in response to a situation or event. How we respond to the situation determines how well or how stressed we feel. A person’s ability to respond to external triggers determines the chemical reaction that will happen in the body and mind. This is known as the “stress response system” or more commonly known as the fight-or-flight reaction.
The Stress Response System
The fight-or-flight reaction comes from the sympathetic nervous system, which provides the body with energy so that it can react to stress. During this reaction, if the response is negative, certain stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline get released into the bloodstream and the body perceives it as a harmful event. This will hinder and change other various functions like blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, and breathing. This creates tension in the body.
Various stress effects on the body include:
● Muscle tension and holding.
● Tension headaches and migraines.
● Shortness of breath.
● Gut problems occur like heartburn, indigestion, bloating and food sensitivities.
● Decreased libido, in both men and women.
● Increased food cravings, leading to weight gain.
● Decreased quality of sleep and/or sleep deprivation.
These effects on the body are numerous and serious, but not all hope is lost. Learning to manage stress will help control blood sugar levels, help you to sleep well, regain energy and regain focus.
Also, healthy levels of stress are good for us because they give us the right amount of energy to focus on goals, to be active and to get places without becoming emotional. Only when the reaction and thoughts of worry, anger or fear come into play, is when the body feels stressed.
How do we manage stress? How can we avoid stress?
How to Manage:
1. Slow down.
2. Take a break.
3. Take deep breaths.
4. Relax the muscles. When we're stressed, we tend to hold the shoulders up or clench the jaw… let it go.
5. Hydrate. Tension increases with dehydration.
6. Talk about your problems. It’s ok to say why/when you’re overwhelmed or even upset.
How to Avoid:
7. Exercise regularly. Staying active helps stress levels go down because serotonin levels go up when we exercise.
8. Eat and drink to optimize your health. Eat plenty of fresh food full of nutrients as opposed to calories. This includes plenty of vegetables, protein, and good fats such as olive oil and avocados. This will supply you with the proper energy to run your day and whatever may come your way.
9. Avoid nervous stimulants. Stop using tobacco and nicotine products. Avoid too much caffeine.
10. Practice relaxation techniques. Meditation, sun gazing, nature walks, and yoga- just to name a few.
11. Prevent stress through massage therapy and bodywork. Sometimes we try steps 1- 6 over and over, we’ve even been eating well, drinking plenty of water and getting lots of fresh air, but the stress just keeps creeping back in. At any point you feel that you cannot shake the stress on your own, go out and get help from a professional massage therapist- it’s what we do!
About Cranio-Sacral Therapy
CST is a type of massage that focuses on the ventricular system. The ventricular system is in the brain and it is divided into 4 interconnected cavities, known as the ventricles. There are 2 lateral ventricles that sit side-by-side, a 3rd ventricle, and a 4th ventricle. Each ventricle produces Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF), which surrounds the brain, the spinal cord, all the vertebrae, and the sacrum. It's 2 main anchoring points are the cranium and the sacrum: hence the term Cranio-Sacral.
CSF circulates through all these parts in the Dural tube, which is in the spinal canal. This clear fluid moves up and down the spine with rhythm, believe it or not. This rhythm is palpable to a set of trained hands. A massage therapist or bodyworker who has certified training in CST can tell if the rhythm is balanced, blocked, or overactive. Changes in this rhythm is often caused by stress; be it traumatic, chronic or acute.
Stress causes tension in the Dural tube, which compresses in the spine. This can be followed by rounded shoulders, shortness of breath, brain fog, poor moods, and more. At this point in time, it is likely that the cranial bones are not moving properly and impedes proper production and reabsorption of the CSF.
What does Cranio-Sacral Therapy feel like?
When cranial bones and vertebrae are not moving well, the result is pain. CST is a wonderful modality to use to experience relief.
CST is performed with a very light, minimally invasive touch on the head or the sacrum. The hands can also be placed anywhere along the spine and the other joints of the body as well. The goal of these hand placements is to feel the palpable rhythm. The rhythm is initiated and felt through physical and mental intention of the therapeutic facilitator to the client. The result is a meaningful touch that allows the client to relax easily. With this ease, the CSF can begin to flow and unwind pent-up tension in the body and mind.
During the session, you will feel the therapist simply performing different hand placements around the head and along the body. As the CSF gets replenished throughout the body, it enhances many functions of the nervous system, musculoskeletal system, the vascular system, the lymphatic system, the endocrine system, the immune system, and the respiratory system.
With so much influence in so many areas of our existence, it is easy to see that Cranio-Sacral Therapy can help bring back a harmonious state of the body, mind, and soul.
This brief explanation I have provided here of CST is only the tip of the iceberg to understanding what this extraordinary therapy can do. CST allows the body to self-correct; the therapist just helps clear the pathways.
The founder and developer of Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Dr. John E. Upledger, teaches us that clear pathways create harmony and long-lasting relief from stress.
If you would like more information on Cranio-Sacral Therapy or to book an appointment with me, please click on my Services page.
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