Here are some craniosacral patient stories – examples of my healing treatment.
Infertility and Low Back Pain
Post-op Shoulder Pain
Chronic Serous Otitis (fluid in the ear)
Hypothyroidism, Nearsightedness, Low Back Pain, Childhood Sexual Abuse
Autism, PDD, and Asperger’s Syndrome
Wounds That Wouldn’t Heal
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from Terrorist Missile Attack
Two Lovely Descriptions of CST Sessions
Diane came to me complaining of low back pain that had begun a few weeks earlier. In the course of her medical history she mentioned that she and her husband had been trying to get pregnant for the previous seven months. They had just completed an infertility workup (which showed everything to be fine except her husband’s slightly low sperm count) when her back pain began.
“I guess we’re going to try IVF (in-vitro fertilization) next,” she said dejectedly. “We really wanted to do things naturally, but it’s not working.” Diane relaxed well during the first Craniosacral Therapy (CST) session, and her back pain and spasm decreased. Back pain is rarely a purely physical phenomenon. In fact, there is often little correlation between the amount of structural pathology a person has and the amount of pain he or she has.
So during our second session I asked Diane if she would be willing to speak with her back to see if we could get more information about the roots of her pain. Not know what to expect and with a bit of trepidation, she agreed to try.
Within a few minutes Diane had learned from her achy back muscles that the source of her pain was in her uterus. Intrigued, we shifted our attention to her womb. It was cold and tight and very frightened. After adjusting my hands to sandwich her uterus between them I asked, “What are you so scared about?”
“Of getting pregnant and being abandoned by Scott (her husband),” she answered immediately. Then she teared up and cried as her pelvis began to relax, emit heat, and pulsate. (This is what we call a release in CST terminology.)
“Would it help if Scott came in and reassured you?” I asked. “Yes.” Scott came into the treatment room a bit discombobulated, but quite naturally gave Diane the reassurance that she needed. By the end of the session Diane’s low back felt better than it had “in ages,” and her pelvis felt warm and soft. She came for another couple sessions, and her back pain cleared up completely.
A month after our last session Diane stopped by unannounced. She was glowing. “We did it naturally!” she beamed. “Thanks for the help.”
Sam was a talented and strong high school athlete, excelling in both wrestling and baseball. However, in a spring wrestling tournament during his senior year, he was smashed on the mat and tore a piece of cartilage in his shoulder.
In the two months between Sam’s injury and the arthroscopic surgery to repair his shoulder, he came to me for several treatments. To help relieve the pain, spasm, and stiffness in Sam’s shoulder, I gently elongated the tissues and “unwound” them. Unwinding involves supporting an arm, leg or head to neutralize the effects of gravity. Then, while gently tractioning the extremity, a skilled CST practitioner senses the unconscious movement pattern that the patient’s tissues wish to express in order to release pain, spasm, or other residua of trauma.
As a sensitive young man who was very tuned into his body, Sam entered into this process effortlessly. His shoulder heated up, throbbed, and relaxed multiple times as a variety of old shoulder injuries and their associated memories literally bubbled to the surface of his body and were released from his tissues.
I believe that releasing traumatic energy of this nature reduces entropy (chaotic energy patterns) in a person’s body. This, in turn, leads to better healing, perhaps preventing or lessening future problems like arthritis in Sam’s shoulder. I also believe that having less chaotic energy in an area can lead to better surgical results—fewer complications and better healing.
After his surgery Sam came back for another few sessions. “The surgeon told me to stop being a hypochondriac,” Sam said, after complaining that he still had shoulder pain and was guarding his movements two months after surgery.
“Let’s see,” I replied. The cartilage had been sewn into place and trimmed, but Sam was clearly having significant pain. Sensing his guarding, I began gently unwinding his shoulder. The tissues quickly began elongating like taffy—a sign of a very healthy system. Meanwhile, Sam’s face relaxed and his breathing deepened.
“What do you see in your shoulder?” I asked. “It’s like a hot, swirling, bubbling brown pond right where it’s opening up,” he replied.
“Very impressive,” I thought, “for a young guy to be so in touch with his inner world. Really good athletes are like that though—things that are difficult to most of us look so easy when they do them.”
Then Sam added. “Now the bubbles are coming out the back of my shoulder into the massage table and my shoulder is starting to soften and calm down.”
By the end of the session his shoulder was much more relaxed, and his guarding and pain were minimal. Within a few months he was back to playing competitive baseball with a passion.
“James can’t hear. He’s got fluid in both ears. Antibiotics and decongestants haven’t helped. I think they’ve just weakened his immune system.” James’ mother didn’t waste words. “We’ve tried other things– homeopathy and changing his diet— but they didn’t help.”
“We know he’s a bright child– way above average—but he’s falling behind the other first graders because of his ears. Can Craniosacral Therapy help him? If not, I guess we’ll need to let the doctors put in the PE tubes. I hate the idea of putting him under anesthesia, but if nothing else works, we’ll have to.”
James’ situation was common. I’ve seen dozens of kids like him over the years. My answer to his mother’s query as to whether CST would help him was the same answer I usually give: “It might help a lot; it might help a little; or it might not help at all. But unlike anesthesia and surgery, which have dangerous possible complications, CST won’t hurt him. It’s definitely worth a try.”
I’m not someone who likes to take risks with peoples’ health. If someone’s appendix is about to rupture or a patient has internal bleeding from a gunshot wound or any other situation where surgery can be life saving, I’m all for it. The risk of not operating under these circumstances is greater than that of putting someone under anesthesia and the surgical knife.
However, for someone like James I would prefer trying gentle, non-invasive complementary healing forms like CST, homeopathy, acupuncture, dietary modification, and/or chiropractic treatments first. When one of these modalities works, the risks of major surgical and anesthesia-induced complications are avoided.
When James first lay on my massage table, he could only hear me when I shouted loudly. Midway through our first half hour session as I released his temporal and parietal bones, I noticed James swallowing rapidly and repeatedly. “What’s going on?” I asked in a loud voice.
“I’m swallowing some gooey stuff and my ears are popping,” he said. That sounded good to me.
Three days later his father brought James back to the office. He was a conventional health professional who was very skeptical about my work. He seemed annoyed to be in my office.
“How do you feel James?” I asked in a normal voice. He didn’t answer.
“He can’t hear,” James’ father grunted. “He seemed a little better after the other treatment, but it only lasted for a day.”
“Well, we’ll see what happens,” I replied.
James lay down on the table and within a few minutes was swallowing repeatedly again as I released several of his cranial bones and the corresponding intracranial membranes. By the end of the session the swallowing had stopped, and he looked angelic and relaxed. Now came the test. “How do you feel James?” I whispered.
“Good,” he responded. His father’s jaw dropped and his eyes opened wide. “Wow,” he muttered. And that was it. James came for one more session, and his ears cleared completely. He never needed surgery.
Like many new physicians, after finishing my family medicine residency I spent time working in emergency rooms to maintain some of my basic medical skills and help pay my bills. One morning I picked up the chart of a 60-year-old career military man named Jimmy who was complaining of neck pain. A gentle giant, Jimmy seemed easy-going and friendly. After examining him and finding no neurological deficits, I asked if he’d prefer anti-inflammatory medication or for me to first try helping him with the Craniosacral Therapy
I was learning.
“It’s very gentle and has virtually no negative side effects,” I added.
“Use your magic hands, Doc,” he replied.
Twenty minutes later Jimmy was deeply relaxed, and his neck pain was much improved. As Jimmy got off the treatment table, I was struck by how he limped toward the door. I asked the obvious: “Why are you limping?”
“Oh, my left hip’s been killing me for months,” he said. “I’ve got bad arthritis and I’m going to have my hip replaced soon.”
“Do you have x-rays of your hip here?” I asked.
He responded affirmatively.
So I walked over to the radiology department and looked at his hip films. They showed barely a trace of arthritis – no structural reason at all for surgery. I shared this info with Jimmy and suggested that he come to my office for a few sessions. Since his neck pain had responded so well to the treatment I knew he was sensitive and that there was a good chance he could be helped.
Jimmy hobbled out of the ER using a cane, and with his wife’s encouragement came to my office a few days later. During the first session he relaxed deeply, but he continued having significant pain and restriction of motion as he limped out my front door.
The second session, however, was transformational for both him and his wife who watched the whole process. With Jimmy lying on his back on the massage table, I lifted his left leg at the ankle, so as to counteract the effect of gravity on it. I then simply followed the leg into various positions it unconsciously wanted to go as it moved upward toward the ceiling. Meanwhile I intuitively placed my right hand over his left hip and pelvis and began applying pressure toward his back.
At first both Jimmy and his wife were amazed that his hip could flex more than 45 degrees. But when it approached 90 degrees with only my pinkie touching his heel they were in awe. Suddenly his leg began to elongate and twist at the hip, and his pelvis began to pulsate and radiate tremendous heat. An “energy cyst” (an area of trapped traumatic energy) was opening. Meanwhile, Jimmy’s leg and pelvis twisted and contorted in a way that would have been unimaginable an hour earlier.
Suddenly he began screaming, “Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! That’s just what it was like when they trampled me roller skating when I was eight.” Terror and traumatic memories locked in his spastic tissues poured out of his hip.
His wife saw that I only had one finger under Jimmy’s foot and that my hand on his pelvis was exerting extremely light pressure. All I was doing was staying emotionally connected with Jimmy, who had entered deeply into his body’s unconscious. Jimmy’s leg slowly returned to the table and he fell into a deep sleep. So I explained to his somewhat discombobulated wife how traumatic events like Jimmy’s roller skating trauma are often trapped in the tissues of our bodies where they can cause deformities, pain, and dysfunction. Through unwinding (going back through a sequence of postures associated with the trauma and unconsciously retained by the body) and energy cyst release, function may be restored and the body’s energy can flow smoothly through previously restricted areas.
When Jimmy awoke, he climbed off the table pain-free for the first time in years. He also had greater hip flexibility than he had had in decades. He not only never needed hip surgery, but the next week he went out dancing.
About 500 years ago the great physician-healer Paracelsus said, “A physician should be the servant of nature, not her enemy. He should be able to guide and direct her in her struggle for life, and not throw, by his unreasonable influence, fresh obstacles in the way of recovery.”
Joan’s thyroid symptoms began in her mid thirties. She gained 50 pounds, felt cold much of the time, and became constipated and tired. Her family doctor diagnosed her as having hypothyroidism and treated her with synthroid. For a while her symptoms improved, but over the ensuing five years she needed increasingly more medication to stop her condition from worsening.
“I feel like a dog chasing my tail with the medicine,” she told me. “The more I take, the more I need.It’s not this way for my friends with hypothyroidism. They seem to do fine with the synthroid. I’ve tried armor thyroid extract, too, but it doesn’t seem to work either.”
Joan was clearly frustrated, but hopeful. “Maybe the conventional doctors are missing something. Craniosacral Therapy helped one of my friends with Graves Disease decrease her medication dramatically. I want to see if you can help me, too.”
I agreed to try, saying she’d know after a short while whether or not the work would be helpful.
In addition to her thyroid condition, Joan’s medical history included having worn glasses for nearsightedness since age 6, seasonal allergies to pollens since early childhood, and chronic low back pain for over 20 years. She came from a large, stable, Connecticut Presbyterian family, and reported no major life traumas other than losing consciousness briefly after hitting her head on the windshield of her car during an accident a few years earlier.
As Joan lay down on my massage table, she removed her glasses and handed them to me. “Your lenses are very thick,” I observed.
“Yeah, I can’t see anything without them.”
“Was anyone else in your family–grandparents, parents, brothers, or sisters–also severely nearsighted or nearsighted as a child like you were?”
“No. But throughout my childhood, my eyes just kept getting worse. Every time the eye doctor gave me a new prescription, it seemed like my eyes would get worse. It was almost like there was something I didn’t want to see, so my eyes fought with the glasses and kept getting worse.”
“What didn’t you want to see?”
“I don’t know.”
Though I sensed she was onto something, I dropped it.
She lay down, I placed my hands on her head, and we began the CST treatment. Joan was an extremely sensitive patient. Almost immediately she began sensing an assortment of pulsation, twitching, and heat discharges from many areas of her body as she relaxed like never before.
“I haven’t felt this good in ages,” she proclaimed as she jumped off the table at the end of the session. “When can we do it again?”
Joan came four times during the subsequent two weeks, each time responding similarly to the first treatment. However, despite her fine responses, her body didn’t seem able to digest the sessions and proceed. “This work is often like peeling layers off an onion. Each layer of stress or trauma that gets removed allows the body to feel freer and less burdened,” I said. “But something seems to be paralyzing your system–not allowing change to happen. There are a few things that commonly do this–things that most people are completely unaware of. These things act like corsets or tourniquets to our energy systems. The most common external appliances that I see doing this are eyeglasses that are too strong, braces or bridges across the two front upper teeth, and orthopedic appliances like casts and braces. All these appliances are meant to help people, but they also paralyze the craniosacral system and contribute to people getting sick. I think your glasses are doing this.”
Joan was surprised but interested. So I referred her to the man who helped me reduce my prescription by 40% via vision therapy and exercises, Marc Grossman, OD.
Within weeks Marc had begun reducing Joan’s prescription, and her work with me had deepened dramatically. Over the next few months Joan felt much more energetic, and she lost half of the excess weight she had gained, but then she hit a wall, and her improvement stopped.
“People reach plateaus in their healing processes,” I told her. “We just need to let your system acclimate and to be patient. Your body and psyche know how much change they can handle and at what pace.”
Joan felt relieved and reassured.
Having worked with people’s in-depth processes for 20 years at that time, I knew not to push a sensitive person who had been doing a lot of potent healing. Joan was a beneficiary of the errors in judgment I’d made working overly zealously with patients earlier in my career.
For several weeks Joan’s sessions were quiet and relaxing. Then it happened. While I worked from her ankles to relax her achy low back, she began to gag. Soon the gagging took on the visual of a nasty snake trying to exit her spastic upper abdomen through her throat. Then the visual changed into the penis of the neighbor who had forced himself on her multiple times when she was 4 and 5 years old — just before she became nearsighted. Though her mother eventually discovered the abuse and put an end to it, the damage was done.
Young Joan tried to repress the horror of her trauma as many abuse victims do, by dissociating from her traumatized body literally leaving her body whenever she felt scared — and by going deep within herself and shutting off from the outside world by becoming nearsighted. There was a lot that Joan hadn’t wanted to see, and for many years her protective unconscious mind engaged in a struggle with well-intentioned ophthalmologists who tried to force her to “see like a hawk.”
Initially, with her demon out of its bottle, Joan felt relief at no longer needing to repress or somatize her childhood trauma. Yet these feelings were counterbalanced by what felt like a tidal wave of terror, fury, grief, helplessness, and overwhelm. Sometimes our healing sessions were calm and relaxing. Yet during other sessions the somatoemotional release process ensued, and vivid memories and visceral sensations from her childhood abuse flowed out. Joan learned how to listen to her body and pace herself, and she sought out help from an experienced psychotherapist. This gave her another safe space in which to process the painful emotions and memories emerging during sessions with me or after Marc decreased her prescription another step.
With the full support of her caring life partner and despite setbacks (like when she couldn’t tolerate any more emotional suffering and her neck or back seized up with spasm), Joan faced her demons and healed them.
Today, several years after beginning our work together, Joan’s thyroid functions and weight are normal without any medication. She is mostly free of low back and neck pain and spasm, and her glasses prescription has been reduced by 50%. Much of the anxiety and despair that blanketed her life have resolved as well. Joan stayed the course, and her body healed –a medical “miracle”– sourced in her courage and hard work.
Angels appear in many forms. In my practice they usually look like children with special needs. Mostly they carry diagnoses like autism, pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), or Asperger’s Syndrome, or they need help with sensory integration.
I think part of why I connect so naturally (and sometimes so profoundly) with these kids is because I have mild Asperger’s myself. Like most people with Asperger’s, I have both pronounced gifts and deficits. My gifts include keen intelligence and straightforward insightfulness into people and their energies. My deficits in social cuing and social awkwardness have, likewise, required a lot of work to modify.
Among the dozens of autistic kids that I’ve worked with over the past twenty years, one had a miraculous cure. He was a five year old with mild autism who somehow transformed during our hour together. I don’t know what happened for him, but two weeks after the session his mother phoned to say that the craniosacral therapy treatment had altered his behavior radically. For the first time he was relating like a normal kid, and new neuropsychological testing at his school bore this out. He no longer had any indicators of autism.
Exceptions prove the rule. For the other developmentally challenged kids in my practice I have been a part– sometimes significant, sometimes minor– of their healing team. The most important factor influencing the impact of my work on these children is the bond that forms between the child (and secondarily the mother) and me. Through this connection the real magic occurs. It’s like this with adults, too– just more so with these exquisitely sensitive special children.
In late 2004 I received a call from a distraught woman from the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York.
“Dr. Wish, this is Mrs. Rothstein. My friend Yehudis Shimtov recommended I call you for craniosacral therapy, whatever this is. I have nine children. Everyone ’s doing fine, baruch hashem (thank G-d), except my little one. She’s two, and her development is delayed.
“I had a hard birth with her. All my others came out fine– natural childbirth all the way. But she didn’t want to come out. She got stuck inside me, and the doctor had to pull her out. She always seemed a little different from my others– a little slower. Then after her MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine a year ago she developed a high fever, and everything went backwards after that– especially her speech.
“Regular doctors can’t find anything specific wrong with her, but she’s definitely slower than my others. She understands some of what ’s said to her, but she doesn’t speak any words. She’s also very demanding. She wants my attention all the time. None of my others were like that. It’s very difficult. Doctors say she has mild to moderate PDD. Have you ever treated anyone with this, and can you help her?”
“What have you done for her so far?” I asked. (It’s a Talmudic thing to answer a question with a question– especially when one doesn ’t have a clear answer to the question.)
“I just started her on a gluten-free diet that a nutritionist suggested to me. Do you know anything about that?”
“No, but I’ve heard this helps many kids with autism or PDD. Has she had any more vaccines?”
“No way! Not after what happened to her. Do you think you can help her?”
I reassured Mrs. Rothstein that I had worked with many PDD children over the years. “Some have been helped a lot, some a little. Nobody’s been hurt by the treatments, but I never know who ’s going to be helped and by how much. Why don’t you bring her in for one session, and we’ll see what happens?”
“Well, what is this Craniosacral Therapy?”
That question usually pressed my irritation button. I took it to mean that she either hadn’t done her own research before phoning me, or that she was trying to understand something with her rational mind that can only be understood through direct experience.
I kept my answer short and logical. “It’s a very gentle hands-on healing system that works with the body’s fascia to help release and heal old trauma.”
“Is it like chiropractic?” She was persistent.
“There are many kinds of chiropractic work.” My irritation level was rising fast.
“Sorry Mrs. Rothstein,” I said. “I have to go. You can find out more about craniosacral therapy from Mrs. Shimtov or go on line to my website. You have the internet?”
“Then call me back if you’d like an appointment sometime.”
“Oh, no, no, Dr. Wish. I want an appointment for her. What days do you work?”
She was thrilled that I worked Sundays and set up an appointment for two weeks hence.
Two weeks later Mrs. Rothstein considerately phoned me when she was already 45 minutes late to say that she ’d be arriving in “just a few minutes– maybe ten.” Forty-five additional minutes later I saw a minivan park in the middle of my next-door neighbor ’s driveway. Mrs. Rothstein and Miriam had arrived.
“Mrs. Rothstein, welcome!” I greeted her– appreciating the effort she had made in getting to me, but not her monumental lateness. “You’re in luck today. Miriam is my last patient of the day, so I can see her. But in the future please know that I always run on time.”
“Of course, Dr. Wish. Thank you. I’m so sorry. We left late, and there was so much traffic on the Thruway, and”
“OK. Let’s get started.”
I had her sit on my massage table with Miriam in her lap as I took a history of child’s brief but intense life. During the next 20 minutes, while her mother and I talked, Miriam and I eyed one another inquisitively. She was calm in her mother’s lap and interested in the many multicultural decorations on my shelves and walls.
Toward the end of the history Mrs. Rothstein added, “Miriam is very shy with doctors, Dr. Wish. She doesn’t like them touching her. She’s been through so many examinations. What are you going to do with her?”
“I don’t know exactly– just try to connect with her.”
Then suddenly an idea came to me. “I’ll be right back Mrs. Rothstein. I’m going to put on some special music for her. ”
Then suddenly an idea came to me. “I’ll be right back Mrs. Rothstein. I’m going to put on some special music for her. ”
The CD my intuition told me to play was a hauntingly beautiful rendition of the music of G. I. Gurdjieff performed on violoncello and piano by Anja Lechner and Vassilis Tsabropoulos. The soft and mystical near eastern melodies instantly touched the child, and her eyes locked on mine like no child I’d ever encountered before.
I reached my right index finger toward her and gently rolled it over the backside of her hand.
She smiled, and to her mother’s surprise, didn’t pull back. Instead, she delicately rolled her hand over and took my finger in her palm.
For the next half hour we danced this way– looping and weaving my fingers and her hands in wonderful patterns in the sacred atmosphere created by Gurdjieff’s music. Neither of us wanted or needed to stop. We just listened to one another, never losing contact as we followed each other’s energy. It was completely natural and spontaneous.
As our period of contact came to a close, I softly asked Miriam ’s mother if she had any questions.
It was clear that Mrs. Rothstein had sensed the extraordinary interchange that occurred between her daughter and me, but she had no frame of reference for the experience. So all she could do was acknowledge that something special had happened and begin to ask questions from her usual state of linear consciousness. “What did you do? Was that craniosacral therapy? How”
I had to cut her off before the barrage became too strong. “Miriam and I just made contact, Mrs. Rothstein. She’s an exceptional human being– exquisitely sensitive. Has she ever let anyone touch her or play with her like that before?”
“Good. So we’re on to something. I can’t give you any more information about what happened. Just trust your intuition and what you sensed happening. I know it’s hard because it’s so different than anything you’ve ever experienced, but try.”
“OK doctor. I’ll do whatever I have to for her. When should we come back?”
“How about next Wednesday at noon?” I offered her the time just before my two-hour lunch break.
“Zie gezunt (to your health) Mrs. Rothstein,” I said to her in Yiddish.
“Thank you doctor.”
On Wednesday, true to form, they arrived at two o’clock. I was irritated by Mrs. Rothstein ’s passive aggressive behavior– her extreme lateness for the second time and her insincere apology. If she had been the patient, I wouldn’t have tolerated it. However, she wasn ’t. Since I wanted to help her misunderstood little angel, I felt that I needed to avoid a confrontation with Mrs. Rothstein. Therefore, as in a game of chess, I anticipated her behavior and planned for it, scheduling Miriam before a long lunch break. This allowed me to be flexible with my time. So after engaging in what was to become a ritual dance with Mrs. Rothstein– of my chiding and her apologizing– Miriam and I got to work.
This time there was no need to check each other out. I put on the same sacred music, and we began our openhearted dance. After ten minutes of sweet, undulating hand and arm contact, I moved my left hand onto her head and began gently releasing her tight intracranial membranes.
She didn’t flinch. She just continued to focus on our hand dancing.
And so it continued over the next few months. They were never less than an hour late for a session, but I always had time to work with the child. By the fourth week Miriam was speaking intelligible words and telling her mother how she wanted to “see Dr. Wish.”
“I can’t believe it, ” Mrs. Rothstein said as the child ran to me from the office door. She wanted me to pick her up, put her on the table, and start our healing dance immediately. “She ’s so much better, and the only things that are different are your treatments and her gluten-free diet. So is this craniosacral therapy you ’re doing? What do you think is helping her?”
By this time I knew she couldn’t help but ask these questions. I also didn’t know how either the diet or my treatments were affecting Miriam. I only knew that she loved coming, that I loved working with her, and that something magical was happening.
After about three months of weekly sessions, Mrs. Rothstein walked stiffly into my office late one afternoon with Miriam and one of her older children in tow. “Mrs. Rothstein, ” I greeted her, “something must be wrong. You’re only a half hour late.”
“Oh Dr. Wish. I twisted my back two days ago and I can’t bend over. Do you know a good chiropractor near me in Monticello?”
“No, sorry. But I help people with their backs all the time.”
“Really? You’re kidding. Craniosacral Therapy?”
“She really doesn’t have a clue what’s going on here,” I thought.
Then I said to her. “After I’m done with the baby I’ll work on you if you like.”
“Will it help? Wow. Can you?”
“I can try.”
So after Miriam ’s session, her sister took her outside for a walk in the stroller while I worked on her mother.
As I began to traction Mrs. Rothstein’s legs, I couldn’t help but ask her a question I’d been pondering. “With nine kids, aren’t you exhausted a lot?”
“No. Not really. Just from Miriam sometimes. Why?”
“Well, nine kids are a lot– more than most people I know could handle. I once had an orthodox Jewish lady from around here that came as a patient. Her main complaint was that she was tired all the time. I asked her how many children she had, and she told me– ten.”
“Why do you think you’re tired? I asked her. You have ten kids.”
“Yes, but doctor, she said. My friend has 15 kids and she’s not tired.”
Mrs. Rothstein laughed. Then we got down to business.
My hands melded with her ankles, and she quickly began to feel the rocking, wavelike motion of the craniosacral rhythm undulating up her legs and into her back. “Wow. This is amazing!” she exclaimed as her body relaxed.
“I understand where your daughter gets her sensitivity,” I said.
“Mmmmmm, ” she sighed.
For the next 45 minutes her body undulated, relaxed, and unwound with no resistance to the process and no questions. It was a miraculous as working with Miriam. “This is the most relaxed and rested I’ve ever felt, ” she said as the treatment came to an end.
She got up off the table. “Wow. Amazing. The pain is all gone. It feels so good to move.”
“Now you understand why Miriam loves the treatments so much, and why I kept cutting off your theoretical questioning,” I said. “Anything I said would be just words, because you had no in-body experience to help you relate to it.”
“Mmmmm. Yes, ” she replied.
“Now good luck when you go home and try to explain what happened to you to your husband!”
As an addendum, I include here a letter I received from Al, an autisic man who also suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder and numerous other neurologic disorders. For the first 25 years of his life Al was labeled profoundly mentally retarded, as he was completely nonverbal and had virtually no ability to control his compulsive and impulsive actions.
One day on a talk show Al ’s mother heard about facilitated communication– a novel approach to writing in which a trained assistant supports a nonverbal patient ’s arm as he learns to type words by pointing to letters on a paper keyboard.
Always suspecting that there was more to her son than anyone else appreciated, Al’s mother decided to go with him for this training. The results were beyond anything she could possibly have imagined. Her “profoundly retarded” son– raised in a working class family, who had never attended a single day of school– was actually brilliant. Writing with an eloquence that few of us could possibly ever match, he was a literary genius locked in a body that was a neurologic nightmare.
Al and I worked together for nearly a year. On one occasion I asked him what his favorite music was. He typed without hesitation “Mozart.” Another time after laying my hands on his head and melding with his mind, I received the impression that he was like a gentle, highly evolved sea creature. So I asked if he was a dolphin. He sweetly responded, “no, a manatee.”
Here is the letter Al wrote to me after one of our sessions:
Dear dr. wish,
your treatment today was very comforting. My body was in a state of near frenzy when we arrived in nyack. Familiar torments were assaulting my very core, and I was not in a very receptive condition, or so I thought. Yet again, anxieties in my flesh, extreme sensitivities and dreaded fears because of the lack of control of my environment were threatening to overpower me. My o.c.d. (obsessive compulsive disorder) was warming up and I feared another failure.
During the discussion period with moth(er) I grabbed some items that are inappropriate for normal folks to handle. I apologize for this behavior. I certainly have no great interest in a toy helicopter or a bird ’s feather. Gathering small things in my hands seems to fill some bizarre need in my nervous system. Dammed up in my reservoirs of energy these cursed compulsions sometimes seem to multiply to be finally released and create shame and further isolation for me.
The sense of creativity coming into my body during the treatment gave me utter relief from the stresses I had brought to your office. My inner self is nourished and I feel more at peace with my surroundings. I was not asleep but I was in a delightful dream-like state. Since the debut of cranial sacral therapy my outlook seems more optimistic and many chronic fears seem to have abated. Each day will be an adventure with someone in my corner to help me cope with these little weevils in my brain.
O.c.d. has control of my life right now. Someday maybe this creative energy can be channeled where the o.c.d. lurks in my brain and I will be free.
Good feelings about the treatment abounds, doctor. Thank you from my heart, Al.
Lena came for a treatment on the recommendation of a mutual friend. Though she knew virtually nothing about CST, she was distraught and becoming desperate for help. Four months earlier Lena had had a mastectomy for breast cancer. She subsequently developed an infection at the surgical site that was treated with antibiotics. Though the infection had healed, the wound wouldn’t close, and nothing her surgeon did was helping.
I had never before treated anyone with this kind of problem, but I knew that CST wouldn’t hurt Lena, so I agreed to try a few sessions with her.
After taking my usual complete medical and psychosocial history, I had Lena lie on the massage table. Intuitively I began working on her legs, gently tractioning her fascial planes and modifying her craniosacral rhythm. This wavelike fluid motion resonates throughout our bodies and connects us with the oceanic waves that permeate our magnificent biosphere. Though at first Lena’s craniosacral rhythm seems weak and constricted, her system eagerly responded to the subtle work. Soon, after several full body shudders, her rhythm felt open, full, and strong.
Next I moved to her left arm, adjacent to her breast with the wound that would not heal. Her arm felt tight and guarded, though Lena claimed to not be in any pain. Slowly her arm relaxed as it sensed the gentle, noninvasive nature of the work I was doing. For the next half hour I continued to support and traction the arm as I slowly followed the circuitous path it was leading me on in its unwinding journey. Occasionally Lena’s eyes welled up and tears silently dripped down her cheeks. At other moments she took deep breaths and sighed, releasing waves of tension from her chest and back that had been concentrated in her tissues by months of worry and anxiety.
For a short while Lena noticed what seemed like a hot, red, foul-smelling gas being emitted from her wound. She simultaneously felt a surge of anger pass through her body, at all the suffering she had recently endured.
By the end of the session Lena felt both energized and relaxed, though when she inspected her wound, it was still open and oozing.
The next morning Lena phoned me. “Doctor Wish,” she sounded excited. “You won’t believe what happened. When I went to bed the wound looked the same. This morning when my husband went to change the bandage, there was no oozing and there was no wound. It completely healed overnight.”
When we help an otherwise healthy system to clear restrictions that are preventing healing, our bodies naturally come back into balance and heal themselves.
Lena subsequently received radiation therapy to further treat her breast cancer. During this intense and frightening process she returned twice a week for CST treatments. Like other patients I’ve worked with who received radiation, Lena felt and released tremendous amounts of angry, hot, red energy from her breast, chest, and shoulder during each CST treatment. This continued for a month after the radiation ended.
Five years later, Lena feels healthy and vital, with no signs of breast cancer recurrence and no residua from the surgery or radiation.
Alice originally came to see me for help with the residual pain and stiffness she had from a broken wrist. CST had worked, and she went back to her passion—gardening. A few years later, at age 88, she was still in good health and living alone when she fell. For the next 24 hours she lay on the floor, unable to stand or crawl to the phone to get help, as her fractured hip was too painful. Finally some friends stopped by and forced their way into the house.
The next afternoon she was in surgery undergoing a successful hip pinning. Her recovery was uneventful, until she was transferred to a horrific rehab center where she developed a venous stasis ulcer in her leg.
The wound rapidly deepened and became infected, as it formed a crater down through her muscle to her tibia. Over the next year Alice underwent the best wound care modern medicine had to offer. These surgical debridements and salves and dressings managed to prevent the infection from spreading to her bone and blood. They saved her leg from amputation. However, after a year, the wound still oozed and Alice remained bedridden, unable to use her leg for weight bearing.
Knowing of her plight, I’d stop by her home every few weeks to see how she was doing. Each time I’d offer to treat her, but she’d decline, saying that she was getting physical therapy and wound care. The problem was, she wasn’t getting better—just barely holding her own and getting weaker and more depressed.
Finally Alice took me up on my offer to treat her at home. Over the next three months I came to her house 2-3 times a week for CST and energy healing sessions to her leg. Each time I’d traction and unwind her leg, and she feel stretching and burning coming out of her wound. Week by week the wound shrunk and the amount of oozing decreased. We kept the treatments a secret from her wound care team, who were doing the same thing they’d been doing for the previous nine months. Alice didn’t want to upset them or lose the services of the visiting nurse who came regularly to change her dressings. So she let them believe that their ineffectual treatments were finally helping her.
One day, three months into our treatments, she proudly pulled off her sock and took off the bandage covering the wound. “It’s all healed!” She announced. “They’ve discharged me.” She was elated. So I started pushing her to get up and walk.
Within a few weeks I stopped coming to her home. “You can walk enough to get up the path to my place now,” I told her.
At first she was unsure—needing a walker and someone to steady her. Now, at almost age 90, she refuses to even use a cane when she comes for her treatments. She laughs when I tell her that she’s not just getting older; she’s getting better.
I do volunteer healing work and teaching in northern Israel in Kiryat Shmoneh (KS), a town of 25,000 on the border with Lebanon. The people of KS have been the recipients of decades of terrorist attacks—first from radical Palestinian organizations and more recently by the murderous Iranian-backed Lebanese organization, Hezbollah. From terrorist squad infiltrations to barrages of missiles, the people of KS have experienced horrors that no one should have to face. Yet they manage and endure.
During Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah, terrorists shot many dozens of missiles every day into civilian areas of the Galilee in an attempt to break the will of the Israeli people. Most of these were a primitive but deadly variety of unguided missiles called Katushas. These 4 foot long metal canisters with 6 inch diameters are packed with razor sharp pieces of metal and explosives. When they smash into the ground or a building and explode, they can cause significant destruction and the death or maiming of many nearby people.
One patient I worked with in KS whose story profoundly touched me was Izzy, a forty year old farmer, mechanic, and father of 4 from an Israeli farming community adjacent to the Lebanese border. A week into the 2006 war, Izzy decided to make sure his apple trees were being watered. So he rode out into his orchard on his tractor.
Suddenly there was a loud screeching followed by a deafening explosion, as a Katusha flew over the mountain and landed 10 feet in front of him. The force of the explosion threw his tractor into the air, and as he spun around 180 degrees, shrapnel obliterated the entire tractor save the steering wheel. Likewise, the blast completely shredded his clothes. Miraculously, however, not a single piece of shrapnel touched his body.
After a while Izzy’s friends went out looking for him and found him dazed, shocked, and complaining of a deafening noise going off in his head and a terrible headache. They brought him to a doctor who found no physical wounds other than that both Izzy’s eardrums had been blown out.
For the next 3 years, though Izzy appeared normal on the outside, he was barely functional. The deafening noise and headache persisted relentlessly.
He had nightmares and couldn’t sleep or think clearly or work on anything complicated though he had previously been a skilled mechanic, community leader, and competant multi-tasker. He was depressed, had no sex drive, and felt irritated all the time, so he was unable to parent his kids or make a living.
This is how Izzy presented to me in October, 2009, hoping for some relief from his suffering. It only took a few short minutes for the somatoemotional release process to activate Izzy’s system, as pain, tension, vibration, and heat began pouring out of him. He moaned and sweated and described the Katusha blast in detail as waves of energy from his trauma released from all over his body. By the end of the session the sound of the explosion in his head was “half” what it had been before we started, and he felt more relaxed and “in my body” than he had been for the previous 3 years. He was elated and hopeful, though he understood that it would take many treatments to release the majority of the traumatic energy that had been blasted into him. As with any trauma survivor, Izzy’s body only released as much traumatic energy as his system could tolerate. To push him to release more than he could comfortably digest in a given session would have only reinforced the trauma he’d been through rather than helped heal it. CST and the somatoemotional release process are wonderfully beneficial healing modalities for trauma survivors of all kinds, including those with TBIs and PTSD, but it is important to use these powerful tools with gentleness, sensitivity, and wisdom.
Dear Dr. Wish,
On my way home from the treatment, I felt the same sensation as after a heavy workout: loose but tired. I also felt a combination of “what exactly just happened?” with “I don’t recall ever being so relaxed.” I decided to pause my analytical thinking and (even with traffic) enjoy the sensation of the moment.
Back at the house, I got involved in my daily chores and didn’t give myself the time to process everything that had happened until finally, late into the night, I felt exhausted, My son invited me to walk, and I accepted, (he is very worried about me being overweight) only to please him. We started walking and finally, what I had been holding back for years, came out. I broke down emotionally. My son got scared and tried consoling me, but I gently asked him if we could walk in silence. We walked for more than an hour, and I cried the whole way out of tension, sadness, bereavement, madness, frustrations, deception, you name it! I didn’t analyze. I just let them out.
I still don’t know what happened, I don’t know where this experience will lead me or what changes It may bring, I only know that today I was full of energy and my mind felt well rested (it is a problem for me to do that). Today I had 4 regulars (massage clients), and everyone said that the sessions were way beyond they thought that I had done something “new”. I feel as if my lungs opened up (does that make sense?) and my breathing became stable (I don’t know if you noticed that it is very difficult for me to take a deep breath). When you left the room I saw myself in an open field covered with snow. But it wasnt cold. It was warm and pleasurable. Then I saw something like a rainbow, (yes, in color!) and the color that stood out was purple. I don’t know if it was a vision or a dream because I fell asleep for a moment.
Physically, I still feel pain in my lower back. I think it’s the psoas that is contracted, but in general I feel much, much better. The thing is, my soul is full of joy just because.
From my heart.
I had to write and let you know that your treatment yesterday for my Mom did everything that I had hoped. She just had her 90th birthday and her regular check-up with her neurosurgeon for her shunt surgery for normal pressure hydrocephalus. Her symptoms of fatigue, confusion, memory loss, balance problems and resulting frustration and reticence to talk or do things had worsened recently, but the neurosurgeon said that it might be dangerous to release any more pressure via the shunt. So, as I see it, you were our last hope for easing the pressure in her brain and reversing those symptoms.
I picked Mom up after her treatment and the first thing I noticed was the strength of her gaze like she was way more present. Her face even looked different. She was relaxed and very happy and even energetic. As we drove home, she noticed things in her surroundings and commented on them, like the flowers and the different shops in Nyack. Then she suggested that we should go out to dinner, and she even initiated several more conversations. When we got home I suggested we take the dog for a walk around the block and she said sure and she hadnt been wanting to walk much at all for the past several weeks. She hadnt even wanted to get up to see you for this treatment.
This morning, when I came downstairs, Mom was sitting at the breakfast table. She had, on her own initiative, picked out and prepared for herself a new cereal and liked it. (She has been eating the same breakfast cereal every day for the past several years.) She had fed the dog by herself, and she wrote a note and put it in the dog dish saying that the dog had been fed. She hadnt written a note since I arrived in NY six weeks ago. Then she initiated several conversations, and even joked around with me during breakfast. After I left the table I heard her chatting away and laughing with her caretaker. Now she is looking forward to her workout with her trainer. She is happy, energetic and conversational.
Truly, your treatment was nothing short of a miracle for my Mom and our family.
Ron Wish, MD is approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) as a continuing education approved provider - number 451491‑10. The Great River Craniosacral Therapy Institute is approved as a sponsor of continuing education for physical therapists & physical therapy assistants by the New York State Education Department, Office of Professions.
© Ron Wish, M.D., All rights reserved, 2019
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