Manipulative Therapies

Manipulative therapies can be defined as methods of resetting a particular body part in order to precipitate a healing response in that body. Quite often the treatment is applied at a distance away from the actual symptoms, to obtain satisfactory results.

There are several types of manipulative therapies, among which most importantly are: osteopathy, craniosacral therapy, visceral manipulation, articular manipulation, neuromeningeal manipulation, chiropractic, massage and reflexology, to name a few.Every method described below has a video following it to present it in greater detail.

Osteopathy is a therapy that uses manipulation on the whole body in order to reduce discomfort, improve muscle performance, joint movement and restore the person to full health, by working on the muscles, ligaments and skeleton.

Craniosacral therapy 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 about the weight of a nickel, practitioners release restrictions in the craniosacral system to improve the functioning of the central nervous system.

Visceral manipulation

is a gentle hands-on therapy that works through the body’s visceral system (the heart, liver, intestines and other internal organs) to locate and alleviate these abnormal points of tension throughout the body. At optimal health, the relationship between the organs (viscera) and structures of the body (muscles, membranes, fasciae and bones) remains stable despite the body’s endless varieties of motion. But when one organ can’t move in harmony with its surrounding viscera due to abnormal tone, adhesions or displacement, it works against all the body’s organs and structures. This disharmony creates fixed, abnormal points of tension that the body is forced to move around. That chronic irritation, in turn, paves the way for disease and dysfunction.

Articular manipulation, another part to the manipulative therapies curriculum, works on the premise that different layers of the body starting right from the deepest layer of bone to the muscles, ligaments, blood vessels and nerves, all working together to create an interdependence and unity of the body’s structure. These layers interact with the central nervous system through neural components and motor components. Specific emotions with specific personalities also have an effect on the CNS which affects all these layers. Keeping a balance in these different layers maintains joint pressure. The pressure inside a joint is important. In a healthy joint exists a negative pressure,. All the joint structures stick together to create a sucking effect inside the joint, a kind of “togertherness”. When dysfunctional the negative pressure decreases (becomes more positive pressure) which destroys the cartilage, and the joint falls apart.

Neuromingeal manipulation is a precise treatment of nerves in the body that are causing pain. This is achieved by rolling or gliding movements of the said nerve combined with movement of the extremities or joints in order to relieve any loss of mobility or tightness the nerve  may have.

Chiropractic is a therapy which involves treatment on the musculoskeletal system with paticular emphasis on the spine and nervous system. it can help shoulder and low back pain and help relieve asthma,constipation and digestive problems.

Massage, another modality in the manipulative therapies family is a very pleasant therapy that utilizes stroking, kneading and other techniques to manipulate the soft tissues of the body. It is ideal for stress relief, relaxation and as a remedial treatment for physical and emotional problems.

Reflexology falls into the manipulative therapies category mainly for its ability to relieve stress and decrease digestive problems. The technique involves applying pressure to points on the feet and sometimes the hands. therapists believe that they can stimulate energy by reflex action to a related muscle or organ and encourage healing.

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Fascial Release:Craniosacral and Visceral Fascial Release

Fascial release is key to maintaining tissue health. Fascia is strong connective tissue. Fascia has three layers, starting with the superficial fascia directly under the skin and ending with subserous fascia, deep inside the body that envelopes the viscera or organs.

  • The superficial fascia may be mixed with varying amounts of fat, depending on where it is on the body. This lies directly under the skin and anchors the skin to the underlying layers.
  • Beneath the superficial fascia lies deep fascia, covering the muscles in connective tissue sheaths which help to keep the muscles divided and protected.
  • The subserous fascia lies beneath deep fascia and envelopes the major organs of the body. It is more flexible than deep fascia, and the body leaves for space around it so that the organs can move freely

Visceral manipulation and craniosacral therapy are two popular methods of fascial release that address the subserous fascia that envelopes the organs. Consider the following orthopedic dictum: any structure that crosses a joint has the ability to restrict that joint.  It is true for muscle and certainly holds true for organs. Research has determined that 90% of neuro-muscular-skeletal problems have a visceral component to them.  Hence lasting change is never possible as long as there is a fascial-visceral problem at the bottom of a neuro-muscular-skeletal problem and we don’t address it. The determination of the need for fascial therapies lies in the fact that every organ has physiologic motion. This occurs differently in the visceral and craniosacral system. A confluence of  visceral and craniosacral movement occurs in the brain. These motions are evaluated with reference to their symmetry (i.e. equal on both sides of the both), quality (i.e. weak and thready or strong and bounding or smooth or vibratory), amplitude (i.e. the range of motion of the movement of the organ in question) and rate (this weakens or slows down when the body is tired or ill). Naturally any variance from normal calls for intervention.

VISCERAL  physiological motion can be divided into two components: mobility and motility. Each organ has an inherent axis of motion. In healthy organs, mobility and motility have the same axes and when diseased these are at variance with one another. Interesting is the fact is that these axes of movements are exactly like those that occur during embryological development.

Mobility is the visible extrinsic movement of a structure in response to its environment.  This motion is in response either to actual physical movement like walking or to the motion of the diaphragm during breathing.  In treatment, we as the practitioner actively move the organ in order to realign and reset its moorings.

Motility is the innate intrinsic motion of a structure  and is of low frequency and low amplitude, generally invisible to the naked eye occurring independently of the causes of mobility. This is an involuntary motion and is governed by the autonomic nervous system.  In motility the organ exhibits an inherent subtle energetic rhythm. Of all the visceral techniques, tracking motility is the one that interacts most with the patient’s energy.Every cycle of motility has 2 phases: expir and inspir.  The frequency is 7-8 cycles/minute. Expir is the movement of an organ closer to the median axis and inspir is the movement of an organ away from it. In the case of organs located on the median axis, inspir moves them anteriorly while expir moves them posteriorly.

Visceral restrictions result in a decrease in the mobility and motility of organs. Any restriction, fixation or adhesion of an organ to another structure, no matter how small, implies functional impairment of the organ. Using visceral manipulation techniques, we are able to get motility and mobility back for each specific organ and by virtue of this reinstate the structural integrity of the entire body.

CRANIOSACRAL motion is the other physiological motion felt in the entire body in response to the craniosacral system’s rhythm and is felt like a pulse throughout the body. This motion is related to the fluctuation of the fluid pressure in the craniosacral system and is felt within the dural tube (the sleeve that holds the spinal cord) which in turn influences the tonus of the body tissues, from where it is picked up by the practitioner. This dural pulse of the craniosacral system is felt as a flexion and extension in the body. During the flexion phase the body rotates outward, away from midline and broadens. During the extension phase the body rotates inward, towards midline and narrows down.

Fascial immobility will always appear as an asymmetry or abnormal alteration in the craniosacral rhythm. While the asymmetry of motion will not indicate what the problem is, it will tell us where the problem is. Because body fascia is a single system, trained practitioners are able to palpate the motion of the craniosacral system anywhere on a patient’s body and can thus determine any restriction or dysfunction in the craniosacral system, no matter where hand contact is made. Impairments to this normal physiological motion within the body are called restrictions.The dissipation of a restriction is called a release which is palpable as a relaxation of the tissues. This obviously forms the basis of fascial release.

Ongoing body problems outside of the craniosacral system can be discovered there by a skilled practitioner. Many layers of fascia along with muscles attach to the skull and sacrum. Therefore muscles pulling upon these fascial layers can affect the craniosacral rhythm. Through the premise of fascial continuity, an injury or inflammation, adhesions (from trauma or surgery) and postural stress cause fascial contracture or edema also always affects the craniosacral rhythm. This only serves to emphasize the great importance of fascial release.

Alternative Health Therapies

Alternative health therapies are manual treatment modalities that are based on the fact that our body is innately designed to heal. “HealThy self” is its motto if you will. This occurs because our tissues knows what steps to take to maintain an optimum state of health.

Our body is made up of billions of cells that have a solid and liquid (fluid) component. Each cell has a specifically designated function as determined by the stages of human development in embryology

The solid component in the body and are differentiated into these various systems, viz.:

  1. The musculoskeletal system
  2. The nervous system
  3. The respiratory system
  4. The digestive system
  5. The excretory system(kidneys, bladder, bowel and skin)
  6. The reproductive system

The fluid component is comprised of:

  1. The circulatory system, which includes:
    • The blood circulatory system, and
    • The lymphatic circulation
  2. The cerebrospinal circulation
  3. These systems have an innate motion, as if each comprising cell is its own entity with its own palpable pulse and rhythm, yet in the miracle of the human body, function as a whole. A proverb in traditional chinese medicine says: “Movement gives health and life. Stagnation brings disease and death.” The movements and rhythms that can be palpated by a trained practitioner include:
    • The craniosacral rhythm
    • The visceral (organ) rhythm
    • The lymphatic rhythm
    • The blood circulatory rhythm (the heart rate)
    • The respiratory rhythm ( the breath rate)

While the first 4 are involuntary, breath rate is completely under voluntary control. This is where alternative health therapies assist in the play of the healer we have within.

Essentially, in the structure and function of the body, the bones are at the mercy of the soft tissue and the whole system depends on an efficient “wash and float” effect supplied by the fluid system. The functioning of all bodily systems are thus determined by :

  • The structural integrity and mobility of the solid structures
  • The balance of fluid that runs through them.
  • An intact cellular/organ/systemic rhythm, as the case may be
  • Alternative health therapies like craniosacral therapy, visceral manipulation and lymph drainage therapy are treatment modalities that are based on the premise that structure and function are interrelated. These treatments follow this basic rule,“ listen-follow-release” honoring the intelligence of the body and its inner physician to allow tissue unwinding.

    The following are the basic steps in any treatment session, for a release to be complete:

    1. “Feel the rhythm”. This should feel like gentle ocean waves flowing
    2. “Communicate” with its flow and zone in on the block
    3. “Offer energy” to the treatment zone to initiate unwinding
    4.  “Intention  a release”
    5. “Follow the release” till complete tissue softening occurs

    The above clearly typifies how wide ranging clinical applications could be. Interesting though is the fact that the treatment methods mentioned above are extremely specific in their results. In this lies proof enough of the wisdom of the human body and its ability to heal intelligently when given the chance. The need for medication, which more often than not is toxic to the human system and even surgery may even be alleviated given the efficacy of alternative health therapies.

    Below is a video that mentions a few applications of craniosacral therapy.