Hi. I’m Dr. Barry Gillespie. I practice in the King of Prussia Medical Center in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, in the United States of America. Today, I’m going to discuss adults and craniosacral facial therapy.
‘Cranial Problem’ Leads Dr. Barry Gillespie, a Periodontist, to Explore Craniosacral Therapy and Work with Adults and, Eventually, Children and Newborns
My journey began when I graduated from periodontal school in 1975, and I’d been to dental school for four years and had been to periodontal and TMJ school for two years. Basically, I thought I knew everything about TMJ, about clinching the teeth and headaches and neck aches. What happened was, about a year later, in 1976, I started developing headaches and very bad sinus problems, and I went to medical friends and nobody really could help me. Somebody told me about a chiropractor who was in the area, and I went for a visit and I walked in and he looked at me and he said, “You have a cranial problem.” After 10 years of medical education, I had no idea what he was talking about.
But it was true. I did have craniosacral issues, I had myofascial issues, and I had TMJ issues. It was interesting because, in 1975, I thought I knew everything. About five years later, I felt I knew nothing. So it’s been a journey for me, and what I found in my therapy, in my correction, that as I went to my practice in the 1970s, many adults had headaches and jaw problems and neck aches and back aches, and they had craniosacral facial strain also, so I incorporated this work into my practice as part of being a periodontist. That’s how we got started in the 1970s. I started with adults, and then we worked with children and newborns, but it all started with the adults, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today.
Dr. Barry Gillespie Learned Craniosacral Therapy and Myofascial Therapy from the World’s Leading Practitioners While Developing His Gillespie Approach
I had many great mentors. My first mentor was Dr. George Goodheart, and he discovered applied kinesiology, and he was one of my teachers. He came to Boston to teach. He was a great guy, and he used me as a subject, and he worked on me, and I just loved his whole structure and function.
One of my later mentors was Dr. Viola Fryman, and Dr. Fryman is an icon. She’s still living today, in 2016. She lives in California and taught me the cranial osteopathic approach. I was her student for a number of seminars. She basically gave me the feeling of brain motion and how the bones moved, and I followed it up with a number of people who studied directly with Dr. Sutherland, who discovered brain motion in 1899. One was Dr. Anne Whales, and she lived in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, and I lived on Cape Cod, at the time. I remember spending the day with her. I’d go over and sit with her, and she used to bring out her writings and show me certain things, and we used to talk about Dr. Sutherland and talked about cranial.
I also studied with Dr. Brooks Walker, and when I used to fly to Nantucket and I work there on Wednesdays, I used to discuss the cranial work with him. He studied with Dr. Sutherland. So it was the connection where I was working with the old-timers, people in their 80s, who had studied with the person who discovered it, and I just wanted to glean as much information as possible from them.
When I moved to Philadelphia in 1983, I was looking around to see who did cranial work then, and there’s really no one except this physical therapist named John Barnes, who happened to be in Paoli. John and I became fast friends, and I worked in his office for 10 years. All that fascial work that I didn’t know what I was doing, I knew I was doing something in Massachusetts. That was all myofascial work, which John was teaching at the time. So I learned quite a bit from him. He is the master in fascia work, myofascial work. So I’ve been very, very fortunate in my career to have mentors who were probably some of the best people in the world in their fields.
What the Craniosacral Fascial System Is and How It Works
The craniosacral fascial system is a system that I discovered about 20 years ago, and it consists of two aspects: the craniosacral and also the fascial aspect. The craniosacral involves the brain, the cranium, slowly expanding and slowly contracting. This expansion and contraction is called a brain cycle.
I have a little toy here. A lot of times, the mothers will bring their children in, and the child’s brain is not breathing very well. It’s very, very tight, and there’s a lot of pressure on the brain and there’s no expansion and no contraction. After the first few visits, the brain will slowly start to expand and slowly start to contract. The brain will, again, slowly start to contract more after later visits. Hopefully, I like to get up to 100 seconds, if possible. The brain will contract around 100 seconds. This total brain cycle will be about 200 seconds.
At the same time, the sacrum, or the tailbone right below the spine, will be slowly flexing as the brain expands and slowly extending as the brain contracts. So it’s this craniosacral action that allows the brain and spinal cord to move and breathe.
The second aspect of the system is the fascial aspect, or the fascial web. The fascial web is this connective tissue from head to toe, finger to finger. It supports our organ system, it surrounds every muscle, it’s within every muscle fiber, it goes into every organ, and it surrounds every blood vessel and nerve. It goes into the eyes, and it goes into the teeth. If the system is loose, you should be OK, but, a lot of times, trauma will create restriction of the system, and the system will get tight, and it’s this tightness of this craniosacral fascial system that we deal with.
Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy Can Help Adults Shed Trauma-Based Layers of the Onion on Their Way to Healing
I’d like to talk about the adult onion. When we talk about an onion, we talk about the layers of trauma that an adult may have in his or her life. It may have been that accident that they had, the car accident they had a few years ago, that fall they had five years ago, the sports injuries they had in college, when they were in high school they had a football injury or they fell off their bike as a kid. It can go all the way back to childhood, where they were running and fell and hit their forehead against the side of a piece of furniture. You can even go back into birth, where there was difficulty during the delivery, difficulty during the labor, difficulty during in utero.
So we’re looking at the adult onion, the lifetime of trauma that’s sitting in your body. So when an adult comes to me and says, “Oh, gee, I have a headache” or “I have a neck ache,” I have no idea where that problem started. That problem may have started in grade school, that problem may have started with their whiplash accident from two weeks ago. That problem may have started all the way back into in utero. So you don’t really know where you are in that onion.
If it did happen when you were very, very young, what we have to do is to go through a lot of therapy to peel the layers of that onion to get you back into that time where the trauma caused the issue that you are living with now that you’re 47 or 52. So that’s what therapy is. It’s gradually peeling the layers of the onion, going back through all the traumas of your life, and sometimes emotions will come out with that. You may have feelings of anger or feelings of fear—different emotions will come out with that. You may have different feelings that you haven’t experience before.
To give you an example, sometimes an adult will come in, and they’re 38 years old, and around the fifth or sixth visit they may say, “Gee, I feel like I have asthma again.” I said, “Well, what was the story?” “Well, I had asthma as a kid.” I said, “Well, you’re peeling the layers of your onion, and you’re back into the layer of that childhood situation, where you’re releasing the tightness around the respiratory system.” So the asthma symptoms are usually transient. They’re only temporary, and they’ll pass.
The ultimate goal for an adult is to peel the onion all the way back into your birth trauma, to where you possibly had a problem then, where you had colic, you had reflux, you had nursing issues, where all that is relieved, and you clear that so your body is free of all that craniosacral facial strain.
Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy Can Help Prevent Needless Suffering and Limitations from Health Conditions by Eliminating Strain and Ensuring the Newborn Has a Brain Cycle
The favorite aspect of Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy is prevention at birth, and we see so many adults and so many children, and I look at their situation and we start peeling their onion, and I say, “This problem probably started at birth,” and it’s too bad nobody was there when you were 5 minutes old to check and to see if you had a problem. If you did have a problem, therapy when you were 10 minutes old could have released all the strain so you wouldn’t have to live your whole life with a headache or a neck ache or asthma or a cognitive issue or difficulty reading or difficulty doing math or difficulty focusing or concentrating. If you’ve had a lifetime of these issues, we should be able to mitigate them right at birth.
If you had your first therapy when you were 10 minutes old, you can have more therapy later that day, and the next day, and the ultimate goal is, in the first few days of life, where you’re strain-free, where all that trauma that you may have had in utero during that labor, that long hard labor, and during the delivery where there were maybe forceps or vacuum suction or the cord is wrapped around your body, where there was trauma in there and all of that has been mitigated, and you’ll be free of all that, where you don’t have to suffer your whole life with these problems. So I’m very, very excited with the work at birth.
I know for everyone here listening to this, we missed the boat, but we like to have our children and our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren to have it done so they don’t have to go through a lot of the issues that we went through.
When I was a kid, I was a sickly kid. When I was little, I had allergies, sinus problems and sore throats. I missed school and had reading difficulty and cognitive issues. I had to go to summer school one year for remedial reading when I was 12. I could read well but couldn’t process what I was reading. When I look back on and I said, “All these situations.” I said: “Gee, I wish somebody were there in 1947 to look at me when I was born and to have this work done. It would be a beautiful thing.”
So I think it’s such a great gift, and our goal is to have every newborn on the planet have this work done at birth so they don’t have to suffer their whole lives because they had a difficult birth. Thank you.