Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy Is Effective As Headache Therapy for Tension Headaches, Migraines, Cluster Headaches, Sinus Headaches and Concussions
Hi. I’m Dr. Barry Gillespie. My practice is in the King of Prussia Medical Center in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, in the United States of America. We’re going to talk about headache therapy.
The scope of practice involves many types of headaches. The most common type of headache is a tension headache where people are tight, their muscles are tight, their fascia is tight, and it’s pulling into the head and causing some pressure or pain. Other types of headache people that we see are people with migraines, people with cluster headaches, people with sinus headaches, and we see people usually children, high school kids, play sports and they have concussions.
The craniosacral fascial system is a system that I discovered about 20 years ago, and involves two aspects. It evolves a breathing brain, a brain expanding and contracting, and it also involves the fascial web, the connective tissue web.
Breaking Down Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy
The first part, the craniosacral part, is where the brain slowly expands and slowly contracts. This is a normal brain motion where the brain is actually—we call it breathing, where it expands very slowly and contracts very slowly. And we have a toy right here that will demonstrate this. Usually, when most parents bring their children in, they have a zero cycle, where there’s no expansion, no contraction, and it would look something like this. And during the first visit, the brain may expand maybe 20 seconds, where it’s slowly expanding 20 seconds and then slowly contracting 20 seconds. So the brain cycle might be 40 seconds after the first visit.
After the second and third visit, the brain may open up to 50 seconds, where the brain is expanding 50 seconds, it’s contracting 50 seconds, where the brain cycle would be 100 seconds. The ultimate goal in therapy is to have the brain fully expanding over approximately 100 seconds and then when it would contract in about a hundred seconds. So the total brain cycle would be about 200 seconds.
The sacral aspect is where the tailbone or the sacrum flexes and extends. So when the brain is expanding, the tailbone will flex, and when the brain is contracting, the tailbone will extend. So it’s this cranial pelvic motion and the synchronicity of the brain and the spinal cord gently moving in time.
The fascia is the connective tissue that attaches everything from head to toe, finger to finger, and it’s surrounding every muscle and cell. It goes into the blood vessels, it goes into the veins, it surrounds the lymph vessels, it surrounds the nerves, it goes into every organ, it goes into the eyes, it goes into the teeth. It goes everywhere, from head to toe, finger to finger. And as long as this web, this fascial web is loose, we seem to function pretty well. But during some type of trauma, the trauma will create tightness in this fascial web, and the whole craniosacral fascial system will get very tight. And CFT, or craniosacral fascial therapy, is all about freeing up this system.
Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy Can Serve As Headache Therapy by Relieving Pressure Through the Loosening of the Craniosacral Fascial System
Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy helps with headache people, because those people have a lot of pressure in their head and in their neck. And usually that pressure will put strain on the fifth cranial nerve, the trigeminal nerve. This is your main headache nerve of the skull. There are three divisions: the ophthalmic division, the maxillary division, the mandible division. These are all pain divisions. So when we have a toothache or a sinus headache or a frontal headache or a headache, it’s usually involved that trigeminal nerve. And when somebody has a zero brain cycle or when somebody’s very tight in their neck and their shoulders and their neck and their head, it can put a lot of pressure on this trigeminal nerve.
And what we do is we’re not trying to fix the headache, we’re not trying to adjust someone to relieve the pain of the headache, we’re trying to loosen that person up, to loosen the craniosacral fascial system to relieve the pressure in the shoulders, the upper body, and the neck, pulling into the head where the brain can actually expand and contract. It’s usually this expansion and contraction, when the brain is freed up. It frees up all the nerves around it, and that can be very, very helpful for headache people.
How Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy Can Be Effective in Treating TMJ, or Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle Disorders
The TMJ aspect or the Temporomandibular joint is the jaw joint in this area right in front of the ear, the “T” stands for the temporal, the temporal bone, the “M” stands for the mandible, the lower jaw, and the “J” stands for joint. So it’s this joint area where we open and close our mouth. And it should be very smooth. There shouldn’t be any grinding, there shouldn’t be any clicking or cracking or popping in here. And sometimes there is. And it involves people who clench and grind their teeth.
So when I got started in this field as a periodontist, as a TMJ specialist in the 1970s, I would see people who clench or grind their teeth at night, and they’re putting a lot of pressure on their head, and they would wake up in the next morning and have headaches. Well, what they’re actually doing is creating craniosacral fascial strain in their TMJ and also all through their head and neck. So what we like to do in therapy is to relieve the strain around this joint, so everything is loose, so people tend to clench or grind their teeth less and they have less pain.
So the TMJ can be very important for people who clench and grind their teeth. And a lot of times dentists will make appliances, night guards or bite guards, that you would grind on at night. And I used to do those in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. I don’t do that anymore, because we found out that a lot of the problem is because of the craniosacral fascial strain. And once you relieve that, you may not need the TMJ appliances.
In summary, for headache people, you want to look at tightness around the head and in the neck. And, basically, what we do in CFT is free up this craniosacral fascial system to take the pressure off the nerve and to allow the brain to breathe and allow everything to move freely so that, with many people, it’s very, very helpful. Over a series of visits, as this pressure’s being released, the headache will go away.