2020 ArticlesGillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy Articles

The Diverse Effects of Soft Tissue Birth Trauma

The wonderful thing about the Internet is that our website baby message, an inquiring parental email, and our subsequent conversation can go worldwide. Birth trauma casts a global footprint as a universal message.

As a backstory, mom related to me that she has had many health issues due to birth trauma and fascial tension. She has suffered from small jaws with eight adult teeth removed, a high palate, tongue-ties, tonsils removed for breathing, allergies, kyphosis, and TMJ dysfunction.

“The cost of trying to now remedy these issues would make your eyes water. The pain has been even worse. I fell through the cracks at birth and now know my health could have been so much better. That is what drives me to keep going because I don’t want my son to have my experience. I know what is down the road for him without therapy.”

A Mother’s Story

A mother from Asia recently sent me this story about her ten-month-old child:

“My son, a full-term baby (39 weeks + six days), was born with severe oral ties. My husband and I didn’t know at birth, as we had never heard of them before. We found this out after months of colic, gas, constipation, allergies, and screaming over 20 hours a day.

“Our son had issues with his cranial bones from in utero, labor, and delivery traumas. He was very jammed up in the womb, got stuck on the pelvic floor during labor, and had a ventouse/vacuum birth.

“He also had tightness issues with the left side of his body. His left ear was folded like his head had been stuck in one spot for a long period of time in the womb. He had very tight upper and lower buccal ties. His left side is still very tight, and he doesn’t like us to touch his cheeks at all. He has a severe Eiffel Tower type tongue-tie and a grade four lip-tie.

“He had torticollis at birth (left turn, right tilt) that did not show up on ultrasound but appeared as a true torticollis at five months of age. As a newborn, he held his right arm rigidly up in the air with a fisted hand but eventually stopped doing it. He often has a crooked smile/yawn, but his mouth looks normal at rest.

“He also favored the left side of his body and as a newborn could easily roll onto one side, almost over onto his tummy. He still has an intermittent lazy left eye. His left testicle was also undescended at birth.

“Since he was eight-weeks-old, he has had three unsuccessful surgical releases of his ties (upper buccals, lip, and tongue). The subject of oral ties is not well recognized here, and most practitioners do not perform complete releases.

“While we did not get a huge improvement with the incomplete releases, we had some small remission in symptoms. He still retains a lot of tension throughout his body, which is obvious even to us as lay individuals.

“After the third unsuccessful oral release at five months, his left testicle seemed to disappear completely. Up until that point, it had been descending normally since birth and was almost in the scrotum. Then it just disappeared.

“Doctors feel that the testicle has either died from torsion or has disappeared back up into his abdomen. He is having surgery for this in two months.

“His conditions have generally improved with time, although he still has a lot of tension. He is behind developmentally and has trouble with tummy time. Also when sitting, he has a noticeable weakness down his spine, which makes him slouch. He army crawls but struggles with elevating his head to look up.

“Even at this age, he has sleep apnea with a lot of coughing and some restricted breathing. As an overtired heightened baby, he is easily startled, cries a lot, has meltdowns, and overreacts to small things. All in all, he is a lovely boy with many great qualities but is clearly uncomfortable in his skin.”

My Thoughts

My overall assessment: He appears to be painfully trapped in a tight body. Craniosacral fascial therapy (CFT) needs to loosen up his restricted and twisted body.

Everything in his story encompasses the Gillespie Approach. Since the full-body craniosacral fascial system becomes tight and distorted from birth trauma, ALL of the above conditions would be potentially correctable with therapy.

I have found that moms have an instinctive knowing because she used the words “tight” and “tension” at least three times each in the story. In my world he would have had assessment and treatment directly at birth in the hospital. But even now at ten months, I would still expect a positive result. But I would anticipate him to be considerably more fussy now requiring more therapy visits since the fascial strains are more ingrained in his compensated body.

We know he has many layers of birth trauma in his onion from fetal, labor, and delivery issues. You never know how much therapy would be needed, but I would expect at least ten hours, if not longer. The parents would need to take a deep breath and stay the course with the goal to be strain-free. I would expect that therapy will be a game changer for him, similar to the recent Kansas City baby.

My clinical approach would be to start treatment in his pelvis. I am thinking that his torticollis would start here with a pelvic twist. This same fascial strain would hopefully be causing his testicular issue along with the left-sided tightness. I would expect that he would have a zero-second brain cycle that would open nicely as his pelvis frees up. I would anticipate that his brain cycle would eventually reach 200 seconds resulting in the best opportunity for cognitive enhancement.

I am saying that his torticollis, testicular, and left-sided conditions would probably be rooted in the same cause, allowing therapy to result in authentic healing on many levels. That fascial strain in the web would probably be pulling superiorly causing his colic, gas, constipation, and oral ties.

The tightness from his head trauma may also be extending down through his neck into his trunk. We often find neck and fully-body fascial strain pulling into an intermittent lazy eye. The web is all connected in space through all the body systems.

I would also be checking if he was an archer, having a fascial strain pattern arching his body back into extension. Usually these babies are not comfortable on their backs and hate to be strapped into the car seat. With his torticollis condition I would check for twisting in his spine. In our infant research we thought this pattern could sow the seeds for later scoliosis. Mom did not mention circumcision, adding yet another layer of surgical trauma to his pelvic area.

My thought would be that the repeated oral revisions are a failure to recognize the power of the fascial web. As a former periodontist, I would love all dentists to realize that they are just looking at the tip of the iceberg. The below-water iceberg section, all of the fascial strains below the oral cavity, desperately need attention FIRST before performing the revisions. Every health provider needs to think that oral ties are connected to a fully-body restricted fascial web.

In this child’s case the oral techniques were probably sufficient, but the incomplete revisions probably resulted from an incredible amount of body fascial strain. If he had completed therapy directly at birth with still an oral issue, the revisions would have had a much greater chance for success.

Even now at ten months, he would need a lot of therapy to free up his full-body fascial web BEFORE the possibility of more revisions. In addition, the therapist now needs to work through the layers of scar tissue from the three previous oral surgeries.

With the torticollis and cranial birth trauma, I would expect some plagiocephaly that would probably correct in therapy. The raised right arm and hand fist may be a remembered in utero position, possibly being revisited in therapy. The crooked yawn, involving the cheek sensitivity of fascial strain, probably also denotes bilateral TMJ strain.

As per the allergies, I am wondering if he would have a dairy issue or would they primarily be due to fascial tightness? I have seen it both ways. If he is still breastfeeding, I would ask if mom eats dairy products because the milk protein can pass through the breast milk to baby.

Since infants are vulnerable, powerless, and voiceless, I try to advocate our conservative approach on their behalf. But I never tell parents what to do. Everyone sees the world differently, and I respect their childrearing wishes.

That being said, I would strongly suggest holding off on the testicular surgery. It is possible that the added layer of strain in the fascial web from the last oral surgery pulled the testicle into the abdominal cavity. This concept is nowhere on anyone’s medical radar screen, but the power of the fascial web can elicit a broad scope of seemingly unrelated issues.

My recommendation would be to let’s see how he does with this more conservative bodywork approach by getting him completely strain-free. We can always do testicular surgery, if needed. But like everything else I am presenting here, the parents would make the final decisions.

Strained muscles and bones encased in the fascial web would probably greatly contribute to his developmental issues. Many doctors go down a fruitless neurological route for a medical explanation. The real issue is probably birth trauma creating soft tissue tightness. Once their bodies are loosened, the infants can then develop normally.

I would expect him to gradually improve as his body frees up with therapy. As tight as he is, he would definitely not be happy with treatment in the early visits. Many providers in Philadelphia tend to back off painful areas like the pelvis to keep the parents happy.

In my world the deep fascial strain in his pelvis must be released. As the strain diminishes with therapy, he would become less reactive. The goal would be for the therapist to eventually hold his hips, feeling no strain as he is smiling.

The parents would have to realize that on the other side of the crying would be a potentially happy and healthy baby. Dads are usually OK with the crying, but the “mommy hormones” shoot in for many mothers, especially on the first visit. I keep saying to moms that it will get better. I always look beyond the uncomfortable short term of a few minutes to the quality of a potential 100-year lifetime.

My mission is to wake the world up to the fact that the fascial web can hold soft tissue birth trauma to create a lifetime of health issues. My preventative goal is for every baby to leave every hospital calm and relaxed, being able to breathe well, nurse well, digest well, poop well, and nap well. I believe a better world is possible.

Mom’s Email Response

“I feel validated by your response, something I have not really experienced up to this point. Thank you.

“A midwife at the hospital told me after giving birth, ‘You are going to get a lot of advice about babies and kids. Just listen to your instinct as his mother and you can’t go wrong. You know best.’ Getting others to hear me and my son has been the hard part.

“My husband and I have read your explanation, and we were amazed at how accurate some of your information was on things we had not disclosed. Reading your material makes so much sense.

“We need your approach in our hospitals. If my son had been treated at birth with your method, I can only appreciate how much pain and suffering would have been alleviated for him and for us.”

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Dr. Barry Gillespie

Dr. Barry Gillespie founded Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy, which provides patients with a freely moving brain, spinal cord and fascial web, all critical to optimal health. Dr. Barry Gillespie also created the Baby Brain Score and discovered effective therapeutic techniques for newborns and infants. Read more about Dr. Barry Gillespie.

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