Hi. I’m Dr. Barry Gillespie. I have my practice in the King of Prussia Medical Center in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, in the United States of America. Today we’re going to talk about Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU.
Infants Who Go to NICU Represent About 1 in 20 Births
The NICU population or the neonatal intensive care unit population is a very special group of babies. Statistically, in America, about 19 out of 20 births are normal and go well. With one out of the 20, there’s usually a problem, and that child needs a little extra care, and they go into the NICU. These children are usually the preemies, they’re born before 39 weeks, so they may have some difficulty, and in all honesty it’s some life-threatening issues are involved here. So it can be a very, very scary time.
Dr. Barry Gillespie’s Son, Suffering from Wet Lung Syndrome, Went to NICU for Special Care
Just to relate my experience, my wife and I had my son, Brian, in May 1975, and when we were in our 20s, and we thought you just had babies. Our first baby was fine, and we just thought you had babies, and they came home, and they were good to go. But with Brian, he had wet lung syndrome, and, in 1975, the hospital we were in, in New Jersey, didn’t have a NICU. So as soon as he was born, my wife was holding him for a few minutes, and the doctor came in and said, “We’ve got to take him to the NICU right away.” They took him in an ambulance to Newark, where the large hospital at the time had the NICU.
The Craniosacral Fascial Therapy System: What It Is and How It Works
The craniosacral fascial system is a system I discovered about 20 years ago, and it’s a system that involves the craniosacral system and the fascial web, the myofascial web. The craniosacral system is where the brain, the cranium, actually has a very slow expansion, where it expands over a number of seconds, and it stops, and it slows down, and it contracts a number of seconds. It’s this expansion and contraction that we call a brain cycle. This is where the brain is “breathing,” with the brain slowly expanding and contracting like the lungs in its breathing.
We have a toy that measures this, and I show this to the moms when they bring their children in. A lot of times, the children will be very tight around their brains and then we have a zero brain cycle, and the brain’s not breathing, and during therapy, there will be slow expansion. There’ll be slow relaxation, where the brain starts to slowly expand and contract. Eventually, at the end of visits, the brain will fully expand about 100 seconds, and it’ll fully contract about 100 seconds. So we want a really nice brain cycle to be about 200 seconds.
At the same time that the brain is expanding and contracting, the sacrum or the tailbone will gently flex and extend. So when the brain is expanding, the tailbone will gradually flex, and when the brain’s contracting, the tailbone will extend. So it’s this craniosacral action that will allow the brain and spinal cord to move and “breathe.”
The other aspect of the system is the fascial web. The fascial web is connective tissue that attaches from head to toe, finger to finger. It’s around every muscle cell. It goes into every organ, it’s around the blood vessels, around the nerves, it allows us to be upright, it allows us to be fully open. It keeps us from collapsing; it keeps us from being Jell-O. It attaches from head to toe and finger to finger, and it goes into the eyes and the sinuses. As long as it’s loose, everything works pretty well in the body. But during birth trauma, some of it can get tight, and when it gets tight, that’s when we have problems, whether it restricts in one area of the body, and the body gets tight, and you may feel pain, and you may feel tightness. A lot of the parents will come in and say, “Gee, my child is just tight.” So that is the craniosacral fascial system.
Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy Can Help with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
There are a number of NICU conditions that we feel that Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy can be effective. The primary one would be neonatal abstinence syndrome, or working with drug-withdrawal babies. Classically, people think, “Well, mom was on cocaine or heroin.” But this could be any medication that mom was on—oxytocin, or any type of painkiller, or just about any type of medication that the child is getting that medication, too, and all of a sudden, when the child is born, the blood supply switches around. All of a sudden, that child has a withdrawal. So that child is usually not very happy.
So we feel that craniosacral fascial therapy can help relax this child and can help calm the child down. Because a lot of these children are tight where they’re colicky, they’re refluxy. They have the usual tightness thing that babies have. On top of that, they’re withdrawing from some pretty heavy drugs, so instead of being just the normal fussy they’re superfussy. If you talk to NICU nurses, quite a few of those babies just scream all day. There are 24 hours, I mean, they’ll stop screaming when they go to sleep, but they’re very unhappy, and they’re very restless. We feel that CFT can help relax them and help calm them down.
So we feel that over a series of visits, these babies will feel much better quickly—more quickly—and they’ll heal faster. Classically, these babies stay in the hospital for 16 days on average. We feel that with Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy, we can relax these babies and get them out in at least half the time. So we feel that that can be possibly very, very effective for NAS, and we’d love to do research in this area, hospital research, to prove this point.
Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy Can Benefit Those Suffering from Necrotizing Enterocolitis
There are some other conditions we feel that Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy may be effective, and one of the diseases is necrotizing enterocolitis. It’s a pretty serious and life-threatening disease, where we believe there’s fascial strain down on the mesentery of the intestine. This tightness in the mesentery of the intestine can possibly cut off the blood supply to the intestine, the arterial and venous supply. It can also possibly cut off the lymph drainage so the toxins come back from that organ. We feel that it could be possible that this tightness can create the necrotizing colitis effect, where it can be a very, very life-threatening situation.
Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BPD) May Be Improved with Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy
There’s another condition in the NICU, bronchopulmonary dysplasia or BPD, where we feel that there’s a lot of restriction around the lungs that the fascia and the respiratory system is tight. Once this tightness is freed up, the baby can breathe better.
Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy May Be Successful in Managing Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)
There’s a third situation that’s called retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP. What we feel is that that there may be fascial strain within the eye of the baby. There’s a vitreous matrix in the eye or all over the eyes; it’s like a fascial web inside the eyeball. This vitreous matrix can attach to the retina, and we feel that if there’s strain in this fascia within the eyeball, that strain can possibly pull the retina off of the eye socket and can cause blindness. In America, about 500 babies a year go blind because of ROP, and we feel that craniosacral facial therapy may have an application here where we can help save the sight for some of these babies.
In 2012, we were fortunate enough to teach a NICU nurse, and she was from the Rocky Mountains area, and she practiced in a small community hospital. Her neonatologist was gracious enough to say, “Hey, go take the seminar and come back, and we’ll see how it works.” She learned during our seminars, and she went back into the NICU, and she was relating to me over the months what she was finding. One particular case she had mentioned was that a child suddenly developed neck, it was getting all the five symptoms of neck, necrotizing enterocolitis. Once that happens, it becomes a life-threatening event.
My students decided to say, “Let me do some CFT on this child very, very quickly.” She had her partner there, and the two of them were doing Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy. Within 10 minutes, all of these symptoms were gone. She felt that, “Wow, that neck might be disease of tightness.” The child was getting lumpy in the intestinal area, and there was a lot of discoloration, and there was a lot of bloating. The child wouldn’t eat. These are symptoms of the neck. Within a few minutes, they all went away, and the child had a normal bowel movement, and everything was fine thereafter. So I got very, very excited about it, and I studied neck on the internet, and it looks like there may be a strong application there.
Drug-Withdrawal Babies Have Regained Health More Quickly with Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy
She was also finding, they were working with the NAS babies, the drug-withdrawal babies, and she and her partner was telling us that quite a few of these babies were doing much, much better, and they got out of the hospital that much faster. So we feel that there’s maybe a strong implication for the NAS babies.
So we do have some history, but we love to be able to do some research within hospital works, in the NICU, and we have a strong feeling that, once our work starts to relax these babies and calm these babies down, get them happier so they can heal quicker and get out of the hospital sooner.
If I ruled the world, every newborn would have this work done at their birth, and, specifically, in the hospital work, what we’d like to do is to have the babies check with a Baby Brain Score. If the Baby Brain Score isn’t up to speed, we would do Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy right at birth. So, ultimately, I understand what the babies are going through in the NICU. They’re very unstable, and this may not be able to happen for those babies. But the ultimate goal for the NICU baby, as soon as they’re stable, as soon as the contour educations go away, and we’d love to have the brain breathing, the cerebral spinal fluid flowing really well and the fascia really relax.
We really like to have all of these babies in the NICU really happy, really calm, really relaxed so they can heal. I mean, a lot of them are difficult situations: a lot of preemies, 24 weekers. It’s a life-and-death situation, and, if possible, we would like to make our contribution to keep the child as loose and calm and free as possible. So we see this at birth, and that would be our ultimate goal. Thank you.