You’ve heard the expression “this is as much of an art as it is a science.” This was never as true as in our research on CranioSacral Therapy and Dementia and Alzheimer’s. I learned in the process of coordinating this study that a scientific study is not just all white lab coats and clipboards. There is a lot of subjective “behind the scenes” observation and assessment.
One of the things I begin to notice as I would check in on the patients in our six-week study is their starting point. If you’ve been around a Dementia or Alzheimer’s patient you notice how withdrawn and deeply inside their psyche they seem to be. Having also worked with a number of autistic and cerebral palsy children, I was also familiar with that withdrawn, “hard to get to” mental place. Although the mechanism of why these kids display their symptoms is a bit different, the outcome is the same-lack of connection and communication with the outside world.
We began to notice that about halfway through our six-week Alzheimer’s study the patients started to change-get more interactive, more cognizant, more changes in verbal and social behavior. I began to ask our key investigator, “Do any of these patients have any prior disease process or history?” It was as if I’d asked the stupidest question in the world. “Of course” was the answer.
It turned out when I was able to examine the medical history of these patients that many of them displayed indications of sometimes decades old inflammatory processes diabetes, arthritis, and a whole host of problems that we commonly associated with the aging process. I would notice that our subjects seemed to be sitting on a mountain of accumulated issues, and as the momentum of our 5-10 minute daily treatments took hold, not only would they display momentary clarity but also begin to process and release restrictions that might have been lodging in the body for decades. We had one 100-year-old woman in a nursing home in Minneapolis who started speaking in complete sentences and was able to start feeding herself.
In my own experience of treating early onset dementia I found a common first response is that patients feel more relaxed and less anxious. This is also something the caregivers and family members notice as well. The less stress there is on the body, the healthier the immune system and the greater the fluid flow.
Another effect we noticed was that family members and caregivers were able to have much more interaction with the patients. As the patients began to retrieve some memory of who they were speaking with, sometimes surprised caregivers had the opportunity to interact in a more meaningful way. This is not usually the case in the degeneration that is associated with this condition. Our hope is that continued application of these CST Techniques will offer even more improvement.
Through my teaching of CranioSacral Therapy and my study of natural healing practices over the last 20 years, I’ve become aware that in many “traditional” cultures the elders are an integral part of the family, the culture, and the web of life. The elders are, in essence, a resource for the younger generation. I was so struck by this reality that one day I will publish a book entitled “Honor the Elders, Rituals and Ceremonies Throughout All Stages of Life.”
It was upon this realization that I begin to think, “How could CranioSacral Therapy assist the aging population to transition in an easier, graceful manner as their chronological age advances?” Having a stepmother in an Alzheimer’s unit in California and, later on, a sister-in-law who succumbed to some of the same symptoms, I began to think that CranioSacral Therapy (CST) might be a key for their challenges. About this same time my mentor, Dr. John Upledger, wrote an article about the circulation of Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF) in the brain, and how even middle to aging adults had half the circulation of their younger counterparts.
There are many coincidences that seem to occur in CranioSacral work. In my case, I had some clients and associates who were retired Professors of Nursing at the University of Iowa. With their help and research they confirmed Dr. Upledger’s findings, and found, even more to the case, that circulation of CSF in patients with Dementia and Alzheimer’s was even less than that of aging adults, even half again as much. To put a number to this, a normal adult produces 800ml a day of CSF, a “middle age” person perhaps 400ml a day, and a person with Dementia and Alzheimer’s 200ml a day.
We quickly began to assess the implications of this lack of CSF flow in the brain. You see, CSF has a “chelating” or washing action which helps removes heavy metals across the blood brain barrier. In addition, immune system factors, which in a normal adult keep the brain free and clear of inflammation, become compromised when CSF flow is lessened. We began to think that if we could somehow increase the flow of CSF in at-risk patients or patients in any stage of Dementia, would it have a positive effect?
Well, it turns out there is one tried and true CST technique that accomplishes just this. It’s called the Still Point. It increases the flow of CSF in any client. We designed a 6-week study to assess the effect of CST on agitation in patients in various stages of Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Agitation is one measure that any institution would like to manage better if they could. Published in 2008, our study shows that regular application of this CST Technique has clinical and statistical significance.
That’s how CSG2 came into being. Building on this research we want to get the information out to the public-to laypeople, caregivers, therapists and others who treat this population.