Below is a list of the top ten causes of trauma that I see regularly in my practice.
- Accidents – Old and New
- Emotional Trauma ~ Difficult Childhood ~ Witnessing Violence
- Head Injuries
- Difficult birth ~ Induction ~ Forceps ~ Caesarian ~ Separation Anxiety
- Lost Soul
- Lumbar Puncture ~ Spinal Tap ~ Epidural
- The After Effects of Meningitis
- Misaligned Dental Fillings ~ Orthodontic Work
In our day to day lives we bump into things, we trip, we have all manner of little accidents, most of which our bodies can repair. If we have a more serious accident the trauma to our bodies can imprint a pattern of restriction in our bodies that it may not be able to release without assistance.
Let’s say someone is in a car accident. The impact of the steering wheel puts a large pattern of trauma in their body. The broken bones and lacerations caused by the accident will heal within a matter of months, but the physical after-effects can go on for years – causing anything from headaches to depression or worse. Their body can release much of the pattern of restriction but it may not be able to release the entire pattern.
Also, if you have ever seen crash simulations using dummies you’ll know they move around a lot during the impact. So rather than one pattern of trauma, there are many.
The other thing to consider is the depth the pattern is imprinted in the body. With patterns of restriction, the greater the force of the trauma, the deeper into the body the pattern is imprinted.
The effects of unreleased trauma from an accident may not show up for years. When the effects do begin to surface the symptoms may not be in the area of the accident. Damage to the lower spine, for example, may show up as headaches or depression. This occurs because of the reciprocal nature of the system.
Just to give you an idea of how devastating accidents can be, here is a list of conditions that can all have their roots in unreleased trauma from accidents.
Attention Deficit Disorder, Aggression, Anxiety, Back pain, Behavior problems, Depression, Dyslexia, Frozen shoulder, Fibromyalgia, Headaches, Irritable bowel syndrome, Obsessional behavior, Sciatica, Scoliosis, Insomnia, Sinusitis, Sleeping difficulties, Panic attacks, Spinal disc problems, Chronic fatigue, Joint problems, Torticollis, Meniere’s disease, TMJ, Trigeminal neuralgia, Epilepsy, Migraines, Mood swings, Vertigo, Neck pain, Whiplash.
Emotional Trauma ~ Difficult Childhood ~ Witnessing Violence
Emotional trauma can get lodged in our bodies and remain there unreleased causing just as much devastation as physical trauma.
In Peter Levine’s 1997 article ‘Trauma – vortex of violence’, he draws a mental image of a scene from the Serengeti plains. A cheetah is stalking an impala. He describes the seventy mile an hour chase with the cheetah closing in. Just before the cheetah is about to bring the Impala down, the Impala does a strange thing.
It drops to the ground as if it’s already dead. It has tried the ‘fight or flight’ response. Its flight was unsuccessful. So it then goes into the ‘freezing response’. Even though the impala’s body is still being flooded with adrenalin, it plays dead. All the blood leaves the impala’s extremities, this happens so that if the cheetah decides to drag it behind a bush for later consumption, the Impala won’t suffer from too much loss of blood and can make its escape.
The other thing that happens is the impala’s brain releases huge amounts of endorphins into its system. Endorphins are nature’s little happy drugs. Many times more powerful than heroin they put the Impala in a euphoric trance and so distanced from being gobbled up.
Let’s say that doesn’t happen and the cheetah goes off to find her cubs. Once it knows it is safe the Impala does not run away immediately. Instead, the Impala gets to its feet and starts to shake violently. This has the effect of shaking off the endorphins and discharging the built-up energy of the chase. Then after a good shake, it does this even weirder thing. It sort of runs on the spot, vigorously. What it is doing is enacting its escape from the cheetah, completing the chase but this time with a happy ending.
All the above actually happens quite quickly and once it’s done, the impala trots off to rejoin the heard. From the impala point of view, it’s not such a big deal because it happens to them frequently. They haven’t got time to dwell on it and they are experts at discharging the built-up energy as a result of it.
It is different for people. We are not so used to life or death situations and have adapted our responses in different ways. For example, it is very common for people who have experienced trauma to have continually cold hands and feet and be in a sort of dreamy other-world all the time. They can remain like this years after the trauma happened.
The cold hands are because the blood never fully returned to the extremities and the dreamy state is because the brain has continued to release an elevated level of endorphins.
One of the main reasons the trauma remains stuck in their body is because unlike the impalas, we have no culture of enacting or completing traumatic events.
Let’s face it, intense shaking and acting out of happy endings to traumatic events are not something we generally encourage or support. If someone started to do it beside you at the local coffee shop, chances are it would be very disturbing to witness.
One of the things craniosacral therapy does is assist the emotional trauma to release and dissipate gently.
To give you an idea of how subtle and long lasting emotional trauma can be let me morph a couple of patients together to illustrate the point.
Two men, Bill and Ben, come to see me for treatment. They are both 40yrs old and they both have frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder is where you can’t move your arm without it being really painful.
Here’s what happened.
When the Bill was six years old, he was walking past a building site. A careless builder dropped a brick from the scaffold and it hit Bill on the shoulder, breaking his collarbone. The bone healed within a couple of weeks but the imprint of the trauma never fully released. Bill’s body kept trying to release the pattern of restriction from the accident but it couldn’t fully. Eventually, his body was unable to compensate for the restriction anymore and this showed up as symptoms. The end result with Bill was that by the time he was 40 he had developed frozen shoulder.
Now let’s talk about Ben. When he was six years old, he was taking a walk with his Father in the park. His Father was a little preoccupied because he was currently unemployed and unsure of his next job. Just before they reached the pond they met a friend of Ben’s father who began to talk with him about the possibility of a job.
Ben really wanted to continue on to the pond but his Father wouldn’t let him without his supervision.
His Dad asked Ben to be quiet and patient while he talked with his friend.
Ben was not impressed with this. He pulled on his Father’s hand and carried on in general. Eventually, his Father finished his conversation and the friend went on his way.
As soon as he was out of earshot Ben’s Father rounded on Ben. He was livid. He told Ben he was very naughty and that he was a selfish little boy. As he said this he kept tapping Ben on the shoulder to reinforce his point. Not a very severe physical trauma but because his Father was angry and saying bad things about him, it penetrated Ben’s system with the same level of imprint as a brick.
The moment passed. His Father found work soon after and life moved on but the imprint of the emotional trauma never released fully, with the result that by the time he was 40, Ben had developed frozen shoulder.
This idea of emotional trauma getting locked in our bodies is based on what is called ‘Tissue Memory.’ Tissue memory is the idea that the imprint of emotionally traumatic events is not exclusively stored in our conscious mind but in the cells of our bodies.
If you find that that hard to believe, think about it in terms of DVDs.
A DVD is made of a sort of tin foil sandwiched between two layers of plastic. There is nothing too amazing about that, yet when the DVD is played through the DVD player and we watch the movie, we laugh and cry and become emotionally engaged.
The cells in our bodies are a lot more complex than a DVD. They store an incredible amount of information and perform a mind-boggling number of tasks every second. Isn’t it plausible that they can also store individual memory?
Head injuries deserve a section to themselves because they can have such devastating long term repercussions. The initial effect of head injuries can be often severe and life threatening but once the danger is over, the ongoing symptoms can often be subtle and very debilitating.
Symptoms, like aggression, agitation, poor attention span, anxiety, poor memory, difficulty sleeping, temperature fluctuation and so on.
Head injuries leave patterns of restriction in the membranes in the head. In my experience, a small amount of pressure in the wrong part of the brain can have widespread effects. When I say small I mean a few microns. A sheet of paper is 100 microns thick. Head injuries also often lead to restricted drainage in the head.
Not every trauma to the head causes severe symptoms. It depends where the restriction is putting pressure on the brain. I have treated people with patterns of restriction in their head who had no symptoms other than the physical appearance. This case is a good example of this.
Every structure in the body is covered in a thin membrane called Fascia. From the smallest neuron to large structures like your lungs or your liver, they are all covered in fascia. Fascia forms a connective covering that encapsulates your whole body.
If you look at the back of your hand as you wiggle your fingers, what you are looking at is the outer layer of fascia of your hand. Below it many layers of fascia are gliding over each other as your fingers move.
To get an idea of what effect surgery has on all that wrapping, think of 20 layers of Glad Wrap, one on top of another, with a thin layer of fluid between each layer. When your body is functioning normally, each layer glides easily over the next.
Surgery would be like if you took a knife and sliced through all those layers and then trying to get them to realign in exactly the same place.
When the different layers of fascia don’t line up, they kind of stick together in unnatural ways as the wound heals. This sticking together forms what are called adhesions.
Add to that the trauma your body undergoes during surgery. You may be unconscious but from your body’s perspective being cut is still being cut and is traumatic.
Difficult birth ~ Induction ~ Forceps ~ Caesarian ~ Separation Anxiety
Even with a natural, problem free labor, a baby can get stuck and distressed during delivery. If this happens, even briefly, it can put substantial restrictions into the baby’s system that may not show up for years.
Modern birth is often mismanaged from the outset. Mothers are brought into hospital at the appointed time rather than when the baby is ready. Waters are broken. Babies are induced. Labour is hurried. Mother can’t dilate fast enough. Babies get stuck.
Suddenly labour becomes a frenzy of ’emergency procedures,’ which never needed to happen in the first place. Violent extractions with forceps or ventouse (suction) are used and if they don’t work it’s off to surgery for an ’emergency’ caesarian.
Because of the seriousness of the situation, and make no mistake by this stage it is serious, the baby is literally yanked out of the mother. Even with a planned cesarean the incision alone can often cause trauma because of the sudden change in pressure in the womb. This is a very different experience for the baby from the waters breaking naturally.
Once the incision has been made the baby has to be extracted from the womb. This means the baby has to be grabbed . . .somewhere . . . usually by the back of the neck to get it out.
More trauma follows. . .
The first few minutes after birth is very important to the newborn baby. The baby needs to bond with its mother, if it is deprived that contact it can cause lots of different conditions, from low immunity to behavioral problems to fearful disposition and crying.
These symptoms may not show up for years. Having the umbilical cord cut too quickly can lead to umbilical shock which in turn can cause everything from digestive problems to anxiety to difficulty sleeping.
All the above leads to many patterns of restriction within the babies system which in turn can lead to symptoms.
“I don’t know what it is but something is wrong . . .”
Lost Soul is a poetic term I use to describe a condition I see regularly in my practice. It is where a person feels like their life has lost its meaning. Where the joy has gone and they are ‘off track’. Day to day feels like just going through the motions and nothing has any real meaning. They feel their life doesn’t represent them at all. It is often described to me as waking up one morning and realizing that they are not living the life they thought they would or know they should.
Craniosacral therapy helps with this because it works with cerebrospinal fluid, which as well as being crucial fluid from a physical perspective is also at the core of who we are. I have found that working with cerebrospinal fluid has profound effects on the feeling of being a lost soul.
Working with cerebrospinal fluid at a deep level I assist it to flow better by helping to release any restrictions in the structures that contain cerebrospinal. As cerebrospinal fluid starts to flow more naturally the feeling of being off track fades into the distance and is replaced by a natural vitality and joy of life. That may sound flowery but it is what I have witnessed repeatedly in practice.
What generally happens is that people come in with this lost soul condition, then during the course of treatment, they reconnect with themselves in a very deep way. Because this happens at a very deep level there is usually no need for extensive talking or probing their past. The changes occur gently and over time. Generally, people look back and realise how far they have come rather than being daunted at the outset by how far they have to travel.
Lumbar Puncture ~ Spinal Tap ~ Epidural
What an Epidural, Lumbar Puncture or Spinal Tap have in common is that they all penetrate the tough membrane surrounding the spine called the Dura Mater.
I have treated a number of people whose symptoms have come from a lumbar puncture or an epidural. The root cause of the symptoms can go undetected for years because they are occurring elsewhere in the body. For example, if you are getting chronic headaches or neck pain, an epidural you had 5 years ago is probably not the first thing you will think of as the cause. The reason the symptoms can appear away from the site of the trauma is because of the reciprocal nature of the craniosacral system.
Another aspect of the trauma pattern caused by these procedures is a disturbance of the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. Though there isn’t a huge amount of cerebrospinal fluid in your body, about a half a standard glass, and there is only a small amount removed for a lumbar puncture, about 2ml, it is such a vital fluid that any disturbance can have widespread effects.
To give you an idea of how sensitive the amount of cerebrospinal fluid in your body is, when you have you have a lumbar puncture you will be told to lie down for 6 hours. That is, remain completely horizontal for 6 hours or more. The reason for this is that if you don’t you may get severe headaches.
The After Effects of Meningitis
Meningitis is the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Another name for these membranes is the meninges. Most cases of meningitis are caused by microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites, that spread into the blood and into the cerebrospinal fluid.
When the infection is over the membranes are often left with a form of scaring which can affect the delicate balance within the head causing symptoms from headaches to epilepsy.
Misaligned Dental Fillings ~ Orthodontic Work
Over the course of our lives we can accumulate a number of restrictions. These restrictions may not show up as symptoms because our bodies can compensate for them. If we have dental work and our bite changes slightly, in some cases, this is can be the last straw for our bodies. It can be one too many things for our system to compensate for and we can develop symptoms. These symptoms may occur weeks after the dental procedure and so make it hard to link. The most common symptoms I have treated for this are headaches, neck pain, face pain.