Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is a relative new multidisciplinary medical approach that studies how emotions and thoughts influence our immune function, nervous system, endocrine system (hormones) and its relationship to illness and disease. Cranio views the body as one connected and sophisticated system. We are one whole person and your body and mind are 1 bi-directional system: what happens to one has an impact on the other and we treat so accordingly.
Old Scenario - Isolation - Narrow view
In the West wing: psychologists study the mind.
In the East wing: immunologists study the immune cells.
In the North Wing: endocrinologists study the hormones.
In the South Wing: neuroscientists study the brain.
New Scenario - Integration: PNI
Here the specialists leave their individual wings and come together to study, learn and research together in the one communal kitchen. This new branch of medicine (with an integrated Body and Mind approach - yes!) no longer looks at things in isolation. PNI studies the influences of our emotional states (stress) and nervous system activity on our hormones and immune function in relation to the onset and progression of diseases. In other words it studies how stress can make you physically sick and lead to illness and how chronic inflammation can lead to cancer. Stressful emotions reduce the numbers and effectiveness of immune cells that directly attack foreign invaders and rid the body of cancer cells. Stressful emotions also reduce cells and processes that fuel chronic inflammation and promotes stimulation of ACTH (hormone released by pituitary gland in brain) which in its turns stimulates production of cortisol (hormone released by the adrenal glands).
A great and recommended book is: “When the body says no” by Dr Gabor Mate, who also was a speaker at the 2017 Craniosacral Conference in London. In his book he explains not only PNI but also how, as a Doctor in his 30 years of practice, he has seen how repressed emotions especially Anger contribute to illness and disease. He explains how:
It has been stated that 50-75% of the population consult their doctor for stress and tension related symptoms. It appears that their stress regulation has deregulated and the body is no longer able to come back to its natural balance (homeostasis), leading to ill-health. Stress is only ever intended to be short-term and for our own good e.g. catching a bus, doing a presentation. Unfortunately in this day and age most of us live in a chronic state of stress. We have dialled ourselves up so high, like an internal thermostat, that it actually feels normal. Chronic stress can lead to various stress related medical conditions like headaches, insomnia, pain (particular low back pain), allergies, arthritis, asthma, anxiety and depression, high blood pressure, exhaustion and fatigue. How many of these do you experience at least more than 1x a month?
How does CST help in prevention and treatment strategy? Clinical application.
Thoughts, emotions and health are linked.
The 2 Questions I always ask are:
1. When did your symptoms start
2. What was going on around the time you developed your symptoms? Tell me what has been happening for you.
Often there has been a stressful event that precipitated the symptom(s) either recently, but more often than not, from a long time ago that is only coming to the surface now, triggered by a recent event. Our body unconsciously remembers and can react to a new stimulus in the same way it did to a previous event, as every situation builds upon each other. As a client of mine said when she realised during a treatment how 2 seemingly unrelated events, were linked and contributed to her pain: "Different set of circumstances, but with the same distinct flavour". Her body was reacting based on the initial past event instead of the present. Work stress, family stress, loss of a job, a break-up, abuse, neglect, childhood wounds, emotional issues, we record and store all those events in our subconscious mind. If they are attached with a certain amount of stress, signals are received through the nervous system, which will alert the endocrine system to increase adrenaline and cortisol, which suppresses the immune system and here lies a fertile ground for inflammation, allergies, fatigue, aches and pain without us often even being aware of it.
Many people deal with their stresses and symptoms through exercise and/or diet, which is 100% recommended for better brain health. If you have ongoing chronic problems, most people are not always aware that physical symptoms can have a mental, emotional component but prefer to see it as purely a mechanical problem. Thoughts and emotions directly impact your physiology - bottom-line.
I always address the mechanical, physical symptom first, some are indeed just purely physical, a tight shoulder is just a tight shoulder but if warranted and with chronic problems, I look at potential underlying cause(s), treating the why instead of the what. During treatments, my hands are often met with overwhelmed nervous systems, palatable by oa nerve facilitation (hyper excitability), high buzzing and electrical loops and fast craniosacral rhythms. We may explore factors and emotions that have deregulated the feedback loop in the body and have impacted the nervous system in a holistic body-mind way. Cranio works with the nervous system as a way to improve health so homeostatic balance can be regained and all systems can be integrated.
Benefits of CST
One of the strongest proven effects of CST is that it has a profound effect on the nervous system: it calms our fight or flight responses down (sympathetic nervous system-SNS) and enhances our rest and digest responses (parasympathetic nervous system-PNS). The gentle touch of Cranio belies its power as it has a profound relaxing effect: impacting our nervous system, our hormonal system and elevating mood, decreasing anxiety, fatigue and stressful emotions and improving overall quality of life.
In the words of Osteopath Dr. John Upledger–one of the founders of craniosacral therapy: “The Craniosacral system is a physiological system composed of cerebrospinal fluid, bones and tissues. It has a palpable, rhythmic motion and has a powerful influence over the nervous, endocrine and immune system and a total body effect”.