It’s all in your head

A Closer Look at Chronic, Mystery, and Recurrent Health Issues

Between the ears, below the crown, and above the neck sits 80% of the nervous system. The brain, meninges, and master glands are cradled safely inside the cranium, and work together with the spinal cord to send messages to and receive messages from the rest of the body. The senses, organs, movement of the muscles, feedback and all of the automatic operations of the body that we do not have to consider, like heartbeat, respiration, circulation, digestion, distribution, lymphatic flow, hormone production, filtration, and excretion of waste are all managed and controlled from what could be called ‘ground control’.

The cranium, made up of 22 bones, protects the brain and meninges. Connected to the inside of the skull, the dura mater, the strongest layer of the 3 layers of meninges, cushions and divides the brain. This layered system protects the brain and spinal cord, and allows for the flow of blood and cerebral spinal fluid, communication and exchange of material between the brain, spinal cord and the rest of the body. Looking only at the anatomy, one can begin to see how it is indeed all in your head.

Embryologically or developmentally speaking the meninges and nervous system are the first to start and the last to finish growing in the mysterious and miraculous whole. When we look from this perspective, we can begin to appreciate how important the head is and what effect the bones and meninges may have on the contents of the cranium.

The human embryo begins neurogenesis, or the development of nervous system tissues, on about the 18th day of gestation. Gastrulation has already taken place. In other words, the 3 germ layers from which all tissues will be formed are differentiated between all of the dividing cells of the young embryo.

 Day 18 of gestation.

Day 27 of gerstation

 Day 27 of gestation.

From these layers, the neural tube and other nervous system structures form. By day 27 of gestation, these basic nervous system structures are formed and the neural tube is closed. Surrounding this neural tube, which will ultimately become the brain and spinal cord, the germ layers will differentiate into the meninge layers of the dura and arachnoid mater to envelop the neural tube. The pia matter, or 3rd layer of the meninge system, will also differentiate from the neural crest having just developed with the neural tube. From this stage of gestation, the brain, spinal cord, cranial nerves, and peripheral nerves will all continue to develop, even into the postnatal period as well. In fact, research-based evidence is now pointing to the idea that some parts of the brain continue to develop throughout one’s lifetime.

From the diagrams below, we can see how the brain is divided and protected by the tough dura mater. The 3 layers are also apparent, and show how the brain is cushioned by these layers within the skull. The toughest layer, the dura, is directly connected to the bones of the cranium. The thinnest, most delicate layer is the pia mater, which lies directly above and covers the brain. This design provides not only division and protection, it also allows for the flow of cerebral spinal fluid and the exchange of nutrients and information through the meninge layers.

 The cranium, dura mater, brain and meninges.

Chronic, mystery, and recurring health issues that one may be dealing with anywhere in the body, may actually originate in the head, literally. For example, an imbalance in the reciprocal tension membrane, part of the dura mater consisting of the falx cerebri and tentorium cerebelli, (shown above in the lower left diagram) may have a direct impact on the way the brain functions and communicates with the body. These membranes move together in a reciprocal fashion, as one is slack, the other is taut, and vice versa. This balance serves an important purpose for the normal functioning of the entire being. If this gentle and rhythmic movement is thrown off balance through injury, or other possible traumatic events, a cascade of biochemical processes may begin to manifest any number of symptoms from anxiety, to fatigue and weakness, aches and pains, or digestive issues and allergies. Often, when a person is suffering with multiple symptoms that do not seem to have an obvious connection they are labeled as ‘crazy’ or told “it’s all in your head” without any solution being offered. It well may be in their head, and cranial osteopathy may be a solution to help restore the health of the individual.

Given this perspective, it is easy to recognize the importance of not only our nervous system, but the way it is attached to and protected by the cranium. These attachments are important levers that can either mobilize and stabilize the nervous system, or cause the nervous system to become constricted and destabilized altering the health and well-being of the individual. The cranial osteopath is able to feel the involuntary movements between these meninge layers, and through this sensation is able to assess and treat the entirety of the individual.

Many people today are taking their health and well-being into their own hands, finding solutions to the mysterious symptoms that medical science has not been able to solve. Cranial osteopathy is one of these solutions. Osteopaths practice from the principle that the body is designed to maintain and heal itself. When the body is under stress and strain, and imbalances have built up throughout the system, self-maintenance disintegrates. Cranial osteopathy is just one branch of osteopathy that aims to restore the integrity of the entire system. It is a very gentle and relaxing technique that is designed to assess and treat the entire being, and to bring the body into a state of recovery, and ultimately homeostasis. The cranial osteopath is extensively trained to feel the tiny movements that take place throughout the head and body originating from an involuntary mechanism of the nervous system known as the Primary Respiratory Mechanism (PRM). This mechanism can be disturbed by any form of trauma and/or illness. Cranial osteopathy aims to restore this involuntary mechanism, or PRM. This is accomplished by addressing the nervous system through the bones of the cranium, the spine and sacrum, and the respective points of attachment and related connective tissues, as explained above.

Most everyone has bumped and developed a good lump on their head at some point in their childhood. Perhaps even more severe are car accidents, or recreational and sports injuries. Multiple bumps (or even just one good one) that occur in childhood or adulthood can cause trauma that leads to an imbalance in the cranial ostium and/or meningeal system. The nervous system can become strained and stressed from the body up as well. Trauma to the body, illness, and musculoskeletal injuries can all cause imbalances that carry into the cranium. Either way, the accumulation of stress and strains can begin to manifest as mechanical problems that may not only cause aches and pains, but also disturbances in the internal organs, the endocrine or hormonal system, and of course the nervous system itself.

If you or someone you love has been dealing with a set of chronic, recurrent or mysterious symptoms, perhaps cranial osteopathy can offer a solution. Aside from mystery and chronic symptoms, cranial osteopathy is also able to directly improve sinus structure and function, alleviating chronic upper respiratory problems. It can alleviate Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) problems, and help with dental anomalies. Cranial osteopathy is also useful in treating stress, headaches, neck amd spine pain and tension, some vision and hearing problems, insomnia, fatigue, digestive issues and more. Having the knowledge that cranial osteopathy may very well be an avenue to find help can relieve some of the worries and concerns that go along with this type of healing journey

What is Osteopathy?

 

 

 

Osteopathy is a branch of Natural Medicine with a gentle manual approach to the health and wellness of the whole person. The aim is to bring vitality and well-being to the entire body, mind and spirit. Osteopathy was founded by a Medical Doctor in 1874. Dr. Andrew Taylor Still sought to restore health to his patients through the clearing or removal of ‘blockages to the free flowing rivers of life’. Namely, the blood, lymph, and cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), he knew to restore the flow, structural integrity is a must. Dr. Still saw how the natural world and the body mirrored each other, he believed and based his Osteopathic practice on the idea that the natural world is in continuous motion. Anything in the natural world that gets fixed or stagnant will become out of balance with its environment and lead to dysfunction and or disease. Osteopathy developed from Dr. Still and a few students to a worldwide Natural Medical Model practiced by Doctors of Osteopathy, and Doctors of Osteopathic Manual Practice. Osteopathy, and osteopathic practitioners create/cover a large umbrella of diagnosis and treatment techniques, primarily based on the use of the Doctor’s hands on skills.

 

Osteopaths are highly skilled and knowledgeable through their initial and continual training about the human body. Osteopathy includes the study of the muscular skeletal system, myofascial system, lymphatic system, nervous system, and internal organs. In depth learning of detailed anatomy and physiology  on normal as well as pathological, or disease processes. Osteopaths are experts in palpation and mobilization of the human body, and the free flowing rivers of life contained therein. An Osteopath continues to learn, study and develop new ways to mobilize, or move the blockages that limit the body in its self-healing mechanisms. 

 

The Osteopath knows and understands that structure and function are interrelated and interdependent. Both structure and function are treated simultaneously. Osteopathic philosophy stands firm in the belief that following the healing process will lead to healing, regardless of the issue.

Stabilization, detoxification, and fortification, this is the simple process of healing in Osteopathy. Lastly, and possibly most importantly Osteopaths know that emotional healing must accompany physical healing, The Spirit controls the Mind, the Mind controls the Body… for better or worse. Healing the Spirit, heals the mind, and brings the body back to balance, thus enabling the whole organism to fulfill its purpose, letting the light of the spirit shine through.  

 

Osteopathy, as mentioned above, is a manual, or hands on approach. In this case, that means a very gentle method of palpation or touch is used to diagnose and treat the patient. Often times Osteopathic treatment will solve the issue in one or two visits. More chronic, long term, or traumatic lesions may take longer as the body will always do what we ask, until it can no longer. In other words, if an injury is not properly or fully healed before we demand its participation, the body will compensate as best it can, this compensation may and usually does lead to further dysfunction and structural issues. We are completely connected from head to toe and one part in dysfunction can and does affect another.

 

The gentle approach of manual therapy used by Doctors of Osteopathy, requires a stillness, and a connection to the patient. The Doctor must be quiet or still in themselves, the entire patient, body mind and spirit is respected and treated with care and compassion. Often in an Osteopathic treatment, the patient is unaware of the changes occurring from the very subtle touch of the Dr. Moving around the body, somehow seeming to find every tender spot and or injury one has forgotten all about, the Osteopath follows the body through an unwinding or liberating path, always using maximum precision and minimum force.

 

One may come in with a shoulder pain, and have the Dr. rub their belly and relieve the shoulder pain. Really? Yes, possibly. The Osteopathic approach is a whole system approach. The body is a unit and structure and function are interrelated and interdependent. Many organs refer pain to the musculoskeletal system, the nervous system controls everything, circulation of fluids keeps it all nourished and cleansed, and the myofascial system connects them all. The Dr. of Osteopathy considers all of this as they gently palpate and ‘listen’ to the body, mind, and spirit through their hands.

 

The Osteopathic approach is also one for wellness. Having a wellness check and assisting the body by staying in motion are great to prevent dysfunction and disease from getting an edge.

 

My personal and professional experience, I was trained as a Manual Physiotherapist over 20 years ago, much like Osteopaths, a Physiotherapist or Physical Therapist continues to learn and develop new techniques and approaches. As I continued to learn new approaches, those I found most effective came directly from Osteopathy. As I found this more and more interesting and effective, when the opportunity arose to learn more, and earn a PhD in Osteopathic Clinical Science, I jumped for joy at the chance!  

 

Why did I choose to study Osteopathy? Because it works! Because there are not enough Osteopaths in practice, and because my dream is to develop workshops to share Osteopathic techniques for diagnosis and treatment specifically to Medical Doctors, and Doctors of Dentistry and Periodontology, and of course, any other Natural Medicine Docs, who would like to learn more.