April is Stress Awareness Month. If you read last week’s post, you’ll know that the American Medical Association has stated:
“It has been verified through scientific exploration that more than 80 percent of all diseases are due to stress and strain that originate in the mind and reflect on the body.”
“Everybody experiences stress,” says Sara Peckham, former long-time director of wellness at Judson and member of Judson’s board of directors. “It’s the body’s natural reaction to a stimulus or stressor that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. It’s also commonly known as our ‘fight or flight’ response.”
This response to life or death situations served us well in the evolutionary process, allowing us to adapt and survive in dangerous situations. Our body’s physiological response to this type of stress includes increased heart rate and pulse, heightened muscle tension and preparedness, rapid breathing, and an increase in cortisol production. While this may be helpful in life or death situations, the problem we’re facing today is that many of us have this “fight or flight” mechanism turned on continually throughout our lives, and in everyday situations that don’t warrant this level of response.
Exposure to this type of stress continually over the course of our lives has a chronic effect and can lead to the breakdown and sub-par performance of various internal organs, resulting in everything from heart disease, diabetes, and dementia to depression, anxiety, and gastrointestinal problems.
The good news is there are many ways to reduce physical, chemical and emotional stress on the body. But there is a lesser unknown field of alternative medicine that warrants some extra attention, and that is craniosacral therapy.
What is Craniosacral Therapy?
“First off, it’s not technically a therapy,” says Marcey Mougey, a craniosacral therapist at Judson. “Therapy means something has to be wrong. This is a healing touch practice that helps to support the nervous system.”
Craniosacral therapy, or cranial-sacral therapy, finds its roots in osteopathic medicine, founded by Andrew Taylor Still in the late 1800s. As this profession evolved, a branch of osteopathy called cranial osteopathy was developed by Dr. William Sutherland in the early 1900s. This eventually evolved into the craniosacral therapy we’re familiar with today.
The practice has evolved substantially since its inception, but its primary function is, using light, healing touch, to free the soft tissue around the brain and spinal cord, allowing the cerebrospinal fluid to circulate more freely, releasing compression and enhancing the functionality of the nervous system.
“Craniosacral work is a way to support the nervous system so it can self-regulate,” says Mougey. “It helps my clients experience a stronger sense of calm, well-being and enhanced self-worth.”
How Craniosacral Therapy Reduces Stress
Craniosacral therapy has been shown to reduce stress on the body in numerous ways, including:
- Reduces chronic pain
- Reduces chronic fatigue
- Decreases anxiety
- Lessens symptoms associated with PTSD
- Decreases muscle tension
- Improves quality of sleep
- Reduces sleep apnea
- Reduces migraines / headaches
- Assists with balance difficulties
- Reduces agitation among older adults with dementia
- Reduces symptoms of intestinal problems like indigestion, IBS, acid reflux and GERD
“Again,” remarks Mougey, “there doesn’t have to be something wrong with you to receive craniosacral treatments. It increases your overall sense of vitality and inherent health across the board.”
Judson introduced craniosacral therapy three years ago at the Park and the Manor and has found great success among some of its residents. This practice works extremely well in conjunction with other therapies like aquatic therapy, massage, meditation and yoga, all of which are offered on Judson campuses.