By Ginny Reynolds March 16 1999.
Modern life can be a pain. Many of us live with demands and stresses that exact a huge
toll, physically and emotionally, yet we soldier on, ignoring the shopping list of aches and ailments that afflict us. We
"get headaches," or "put our back out." We feel tired all the time or vaguely depressed. Chronic fatigue,
fibromyalgia, repetitive strain injury are conditions that are symptomatic of our time -our bodies' rebellion against overload.
Increasingly, we turn to alter- native therapies for relief, often only when other medical avenues have been exhausted. There
are a variety of alternative therapies available, which have been proven both scientifically and anecdotally, to be very successful.
Craniosacral therapy is a gentle, hands-on treatment in which Ute therapist uses a light touch to evaluate and correct problems
affecting the craniosacral system; the physiological system that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Founded by osteopath
Dr. John Upledger after 20 years of research, this therapy has been taught to over 38,000 health care professionals throughout
the world. Russell Mater is one of about six or so craniosacral therapists in the area. With a degree in biology and five
years as a recognized practitioner of therapeutic touch, Mater has long been interested in how the body works to heal itself.
He received his training in Toronto, Boston and London from the Upledger Institute and opened his practice in Kitchener a
year ago. Last summer, he expanded to an office in Guelph. Mater has built his practice entirely through word of mouth, and
the response has been "fantastic;", has become an accepted, recognized altemative which as Mater points out,"can
augment the benefits of chiropractic and physiotherapy." Patients seeking craniosacral therapy often have conditions
with which they have lived for years -headaches, back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, and
scoliosis. Other disorders, such as Meniere's and tinnitus, strabismus, earning difficulties and autism can also be effectively
treated. Most problems respond in two to eight treatments.
Skepticism naturally surrounds any "miracle cure."
This sounds a little like "Lose 10 pounds in l0 days," or "Learn Spanish While You Sleep, "and for many
of us, relief from pain sounds, well...too good to be true.
Sandy Page was " a huge skeptic" , but after living
with punishing barometer headaches for 16 years, she was desperate to feel better. She used to experience headaches for two
or three days every week and she did not believe her problem was solvable.
After her initial treatment, Page experienced
one minor headache, and after her second treatment, her headaches were gone. Since September, Page has had three minor headaches,
and considers herself cured. A bonus that Page had not counted on: since craniosacral therapy treats the whole body, her old
ankle in- jury improved to the point that she was able to go skiing again.
Mater is sanguine about such success stories.
He has also benefited personally from craniosacral treatment. A car accident 18 years ago left him with a shattered leg and
after orthopedic surgery; much scar tissue remained. Craniosacral therapy ", has restored his knee 100 per cent and has
improved function in both leg and ankle. "The results with craniosacral therapy are either zero or positive," says
Mater," and 90 per cent of the time, results are positive." ,
Mater's office is in the back of the Terrace
Building on Woolwich Street. The waiting room, with polished hardwood, oriental carpet and upholstered chairs, sets the tone
for Mater's tranquil room. I am booked for a treatment. With the soft lighting. and melodic trickling from a terra- cotta
fountain; as I lie back on the air bed, I figure I. have about 10 minutes before I'm asleep.
"That's not uncommon,"
says Mater," Patients often have a little nap," As Mater begins the one-hour treatment, he describes how craniosacral
The brain and spinal cord are surrounded by a semi-enclosed hydraulic system, driven by cerebrospinal fluid.
This fluid moves up and down the spine at about six to 12 cycles per minute, and the membranes containing the fluid pulse
and exert pressure on connective tissue all over the body. Craniosacral therapy works to improve the flow of the fluid, which
unlocks the healing process. The natural healing mechanisms of the body are then able to dissipate the negative effects of
stress. strengthen resistance to disease and improve the operation of the central nervous system.
This is achieved by
a series of very small, very gentle positional touches. which last from 30 seconds to three minutes and exert force less than
five grams, or the weight of a nickel. Within five to 10 seconds, the body begins to respond.
Mater begins and ends treatments
with the patient's feet. The whole body is affected by craniosacral therapy through connective tissue, with the hips governing
the heart and the heart governing the head.
Beginning with my right side, Mater positions one hand on my sacrum (the
base of the spinal column) and moves his other hand along my lumbar and up- per back.
As Mater says," The body's
response is not earth-shattering, but it is noticeable!." By touching the spine, the body indicates which direction to
Mater is looking for release from the lumbar or sacrum that measures a millirnetre of motion. From the skull, the
motion is much less -maybe one-tenth of a millimetre.
I experience a gurgling stomach and a wave sensation, not unlike
lying on a waterbed. These releases signify the changes in the craniosacral system. When Mater is working on my left hip and
leg, my kneecap makes a perceptible motion to the right.
A bad fall on the ice years ago had left me with water on the
knee. After that motion, I experience a slight pressure and another wave of feeling. This is the "unwinding when the
body releases old injuries.
As Mater continues to work along my arms, and then my head, I experience small releases that
are marked either by a feeling of warmth or by a physical motion."
When the session is over, I walk home feeling
like a cross between Karen Kain and Gumby; limber, springy and energetic.
With craniosacral therapy being practised by
an increasing number of health care professionals, including osteopaths, dentists, physiotherapists, psychologists and chiropractors,
the validity of this therapy is no longer in question.
For more information about Dr. Upledger's work, contact The Upledger
Institute at 1-800-233- 5880,ext. 9508.' To read more about this therapy, check out http://www.upledger.com/factsht.html.
on the Internet. Russell Mater can be reached at: Red Road Therapy, 328 Woolwich St. 767-2992.