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Craniosacral Therapy for Kids
By Judith Gusky, LPC

What if you could see significant and lasting improvements in your child's symptomology for autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, traumatic birth, learning disorders, behavioral problems or a host of other child development issues…without medication and its side effects?

Traditional medicine will not be supplanted by alternative therapies any time soon. But some effective treatments that have been around for decades are only recently gaining notice in more integrated medical models of pediatric health care.

Craniosacral therapy (CST) is one of those treatments. Developed in the mid-1970s by Dr. John Upledger, an osteopathic physician, CST is a gentle, light-touch therapy that can produce profoundly positive effects upon brain and spinal cord function. It may look like massage therapy to the observer, but it is much more.

CST focuses on the body's central nervous system (CNS) by way of the craniosacral system (skull and spinal bones, cerebrospinal fluid, and the membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord). The benefit of craniosacral therapy is greater balance, mobility, and improved functioning of the CNS. As the "control center" of the body, the CNS influences every other major body system and function. That's why problems in the nervous system can cause a wide range of sensory, motor, or neurological disabilities. And that is why CST is so effective in treating an equally wide range of disabilities.

The Nervous System is Key for Kids
According to Texas-based pediatric expert, Dr. Amber Brooks, nervous system imbalance is the key to why craniosacral therapy helps so many children with autism and ADHD. Almost all these kids, says Brooks, are "ramped up." They cannot seem to relax. The part of the nervous system that allows us to respond in a "fight or flight" manner is in perpetual overdrive for these kids.

There are many neurological, genetic, and environmental factors that are thought to cause hyperactivity and nervous system dysfunction in children. But, there are also structural causes, particularly within the craniosacral system.

When cranial (skull) bones are not in the right place, for instance, restrictions can occur and remain fixed in the meninges or membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. These restrictions can interfere with the normal movement of fluids (blood and cerebrospinal fluid) that carry vital nutrients such as oxygen, anti-bodies, hormones, and electrochemical transmitters to the brain and that flush toxins and inflammation out of the brain. The greater the restrictions the greater the nervous system dysfunction.

How do such restrictions arise? Many restrictions occur at birth in difficult labor, forceps delivery, vacuum extraction, or breech. Or as children grow and experience falls or infections, surgeries, or trauma.  

Balancing the Nervous System with CST
How does craniosacral therapy work? Practitioners who perform CST first look for the craniosacral rhythm (much like the rhythm of a beating heart). Within the craniosacral system, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) contracts and pumps normally at a rate of 6-12 cycles per minute. By detecting the rhythm, the therapist can determine where restrictions may be slowing or blocking the flow of CSF. Then, using the cranial and spinal bones as handles of sorts, they gently smooth or remove those restrictions from the membranes to help restore proper flow and function.

By releasing restrictions and restoring fluid motion to naturally enhance brain function, CST has had positive, sometimes dramatic, outcomes for a wide range of children's issues. And because it is so gentle, non-invasive and virtually risk-free, children of all ages can benefit from this essential therapy. CST has been used to help children with a wide variety of developmental issues, including: colic, digestive issues, feeding problems, sensory processing disorders, sleep problems, Autism, ADHD, emotional instability, hyperactivity, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, poor social skills and more.

Dr. Brooks notes that helping kids with developmental problems of all kinds is about calming the nervous system and balancing it out. CST is not voodoo. It's all about function. When the body's systems are functioning at 100%, the potential for the body to do its job is really amazing. CST balances and normalizes the nervous system. It elevates the body's inherent ability to heal itself.

What CST Can and Cannot Do
Craniosacral therapy alone may resolve many childhood developmental problems, but it is not a cure-all. CST is often applied in conjunction with other bio-medical approaches and behavioral therapies. However, rather than being the last line of defense or an adjunct therapy, CST can prove beneficial as a first or early line of defense against many childhood disorders. The emotional and financial cost of searching for causes and remedies elsewhere without first looking at underlying structural causes can be great.

It is never too late to consider craniosacral therapy. It can be administered from birth through old age. It has no side effects. It is not intrusive. It is generally a short-term therapy, sometimes with maintenance intervals, depending on the disorder. Kids who undergo treatment are calmer. They sleep better. They are much better able to enter situations of change. They are happier. Once they understand the therapy, they look forward to it. On some level, they seem to understand CST's ability to help them heal themselves.

For more information, call Pittsburgh Integrative Mental Health at (412) 687-1234 or visit www.pimhservices.com.

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