The subject of pain is a HUGE one and deserves much more time and space than I have here, but I will do my best to cover the key points.
We all know what pain is like, but to clarify…. acute pain is short lived, the term chronic pain is used when pain has lasted for 3-6 months or more.
In a Lancet study carried out in 2014 (Michaleff et al), it was found that reading about how pain works for 30 months plus two telephone conversations, worked as well as twenty, yes TWENTY sessions of physiotherapy!!! Therefore, understanding how pain works is key to recovering from it.
So here, and in my clinic, I teach people why they still have pain and help them out of it.
Its important to recognise that initial pain is often an indicator of danger. It tells us to react and can save us from further injury or death e.g. if your finger is burning on the oven for example, you will automatically withdraw your hand from the heat (without even thinking). When we have just injured our back, pain is helpful, because it warns us against further injury.
However (and this is the important bit) what we now know, is that after 3-6 months, pain is rarely in the tissues but in our nervous system. That is, pain has caused our nervous system to change. Our nervous system has become too sensitive!
“Sensitization means we turn the volume up on our alarm system, but are very poor at turning the volume down.’, Steve Haines, Pain Is Really Strange.
The medical profession used to believe that chronic pain was held in the tissues of the body, now we know that it rarely is. The answer to resolving the pain issue is to show the system how to down-regulate / desensitize / ‘turn the volume down’.
I should also say at this point that unresolved emotional trauma is held in the physiology and in the limbic system, not the cognitive (thinking part of the brain) as previously thought. It often shows itself as physical pain. So whilst we may be looking for the cause of our pain by having MRI scans for example, there may well not be a structural cause.
So…..hopefully all of this goes some way to explain why Craniosacral Therapy (in my experience) is so effective in terms of reducing or eliminating pain from the body.
I could go and on about this subject, but I am passionate about helping people with pain. The people I see in my clinic have often been in pain for decades. They may have limited mobility and their quality of life / ability to work may be seriously affected.
In a treatment, we find that the body has it’s own sense of priority. Number one is showing the system what safety is, this may be something which is a new experience, but is it key to everything else. We then teach the system to notice sensations other than the pain. This is all HUGE in terms of down-regulating the nervous system (turning the volume down).
Gradually, trauma, whether that be physical or emotional will come to the surface and release and the pain gets less or goes. This is an amazing experience for someone when the pain has been there for a long time!
So, hopefully that gives you a brief summary of why I see so many people’s pain levels reduce or disappear. These steps seem counter-intuitive I know and how can something so simple be so effective?? If you would like to understand more or see if this therapy can help you, please do get in touch.
Children off to school
Does your child suffer with anxiety? It is very common and can show itself in many ways such as worrying, difficulty sleeping, digestive issues, being moody and snappy, withdrawal, depression, obsessive behaviour, panic attacks and so on.
This time of year can be especially challenging, with the new academic year, which brings lots of change and new experiences for school aged children. But what can you do to help your child? Some children are more prone to suffer with anxiety than others, but part of our job as parents and carers is to act, when they show that they are struggling and not just ignore it and hope that it’ll go away by itself!
I see a lot of children in my practice who are suffering with anxiety, and Craniosacral Therapy is usually fundamental to changing things for them.
Our nervous system should spend most of its time in the ‘rest and digest’ mode and rarely need to be in ‘fight, flight or freeze’. However, after experiencing stress, our bodies can get stuck in the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ mode and finding the ‘off switch’ can become almost impossible. This results in a variety of symptoms: anxiety, stress, being hypervigilant, being aggressive, very tired, depressed, and so on. And yes, this can be the case in very young children too, even babies. The priority here is for the therapist to show the child’s nervous system how to down-regulate from the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ mode to ‘rest and digest’ and this is what I do. This practice alone usually has a profound impact on the child’s anxiety or stress levels.
The next stage of their treatment is for me to identify any specific tensions or restrictions that are being held in the child’s physiology, and then help those tensions to release in a very gentle way, and at a pace that is right for the child.
It is worth saying at this point that nearly all the children that I see, REALLY enjoy their treatments and will ask to come back, even once they are all better! It is not unusual for them to be asleep by the end! Making your child feel safe, and secure in the knowledge that I am there to help and support them is a top priority for me. And if you don’t feel that your child could lay down during the treatment or keep still, don’t worry, we can work around this and treatments can still be really effective.
So there is a brief explanation of why Craniosacral Therapy and how it works. Now onto the ‘toolbox’ part…..
When parents bring their children to see me, they often ask me is there’s anything they can be doing at home, with their child, to support them whilst they receive treatments and I tell them about the toolbox, which I believe everyone needs. A toolbox of resources, or in other words, things or skills that we know help to keep us well and happy, help us to cope and keep us strong. Things we should use on an ongoing basis, but could turn to particularly when the going gets tough.
So, I’ve put together some suggestions of some things to go in the toolbox. These are things which either I have used myself with my own children, or that have been recommended to me by other health professionals or other parents. If you have any of your own ideas, please let me know because I am always keen to extend the list!
- The Wishing Star by Relax Kids. Relax Kids do various books along similar lines for children. This one is full of creative visualisations, meditations and relaxations. Children can imagine they are lying in soft grass, sitting in a peaceful cave, watching a beautiful sunset and flying like a bird. From 5 years old.
- What To Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide To Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner and Bonnie Matthews. A favourite of mine – this book is aimed at primary aged children, and talks about how ‘feeding worries’ helps them to grow and introduces the idea of a ‘worry box’.
- Sitting Still Like A Frog: Mindfulness Exercises For Kids (And Their Parents) by Eline Snel. A book and CD, which teaches us how to be in the moment, rather than the past or the future, a key skill in mental health.
- Affirmation Cards For Kids by Catherine Keller. Often children find it hard to say good things about themselves, but with daily practice, it becomes easier and easier and soon it is a new way of thinking!
- The Law Of Attraction For Kids by Jennifer Quaggin. Similar to the above, but aimed at slightly older children.
Mindfulness / relaxation / sleep apps
- There is vast array of these apps available. A lot are free. My advice would be to do a search and try several until you find one that your child likes. Some people prefer talking, some music, some white noise. They can be used for mindfulness practice and / or at bedtimes to help quieten the mind.
- Abdominal breathing is the most efficient and relaxed way of getting enough air into out lungs. However, we sometimes get into the habit of chest breathing which increases our stress levels. There is good advice online on abdominal breathing and how to train yourself (or your child) to do it habitually, eg. http://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/resources/patient-information/therapies/abdominal-breathing.pdf.
Help from the school / GP
- Do the school know about the situation?
- Have you told your child’s GP?
Schools are often able to offer additional support where appropriate. Both schools and GPs are able to refer your child to a mental health specialist for assessment.
Life can be stressful. We all need healthy coping strategies / support in place. Many children are under a lot of pressure from school and so on. Start filling up your child’s toolbox. By taking action, you are showing your child that it is good to be open about their feelings and to tell you when they need help or are worried; that they are not alone and that things can and will get better.
And please note also, that often when we take a look at our children’s stress levels, we realise that our own stress levels need addressing also. It’s really hard for children to be calm when their parents are not, so its important to address your own stress levels too. How about filling your own toolbox?
Please do feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss anything in this blog or if you have concerns about the impact that stress or anxiety is having in your child’s life or your own. I’ll be happy to have a chat with you.
Special thanks go to Julie Clark of Julie Clark Nutrition for suggesting that I write this blog in the first place!
Resources why do they matter – a little test for you ……
I have been working as a Craniosacral Therapist for about 7 years now and I have learnt many things along the way. One of the main things I have discovered, is that some people are more likely to suffer ill health than others.
There are many factors that can predispose us to disease, of course. But what I see time and time again, is that people who are suffering ill health, pain, depression are under-resourced. When we are under resourced, we have few coping strategies and we struggle more with life’s challenges. We neglect ourselves, year after year, often putting other people’s needs before our own. We just carry on and on and on, ignoring the signs (no time for that!) until our system, one way or the other, FORCES us to stop (pain, disease, depression etc take over) and we have no choice but to ask for help.
When we are well resourced, we are resilient, strong, feel supported and are far better equipped to cope with life’s stresses and problems. In a nutshell, we are less prone to disease.
There are many reasons why people become under-resourced. A Craniosacral Therapist can sense how well resourced your system is through touch and then they can work with your body to build the potency passing through it. That is one way to build up the resources within the system. There are also things that the patient can do, outside of the treatment room to help themselves.
Here comes the little test……..So how well resourced are YOU?
I encourage all my patients to write a list of 10 things that resource them. Go on, have a go. Your list is unique to you. There may be things on it which you are not able to do right now, but still, put them on if you consider that they would ‘feed your soul’. So, grab some paper and a pen and have a go before you read on (it works best this way)……
How did you get on? Did you get to 5? Over 10?
Often, simply putting our attention on that list is a useful exercise. It can really help us to focus on our own needs.
I find that well resourced people can write their list quickly and easily and could often write way more than 10 things down. These people are well aware of what they need to keep themselves well and they make their health a priority.
Whilst people who under-resourced either look at me blankly, or as if they think I am mad (new mums fall into the latter category – their focus is naturally on their young baby and they have little time for themselves), and they struggle to think of even two or three things that should be on their list. It may even take them a few days to get to 10.
If you are struggling, examples might be:
• Having a Craniosacral Therapy session
• Taking a walk in the woods
• Writing a diary
• A trip to the seaside
• Going out with friends
• Talking to your best friend
As I say, there is no right or wrong, everyone’s list is different.
More to the point, if you struggled with that exercise, how would it be for you to do something about it? This is YOUR life and it’s important that you enjoy it and stay as healthy as you can!
I’m too busy
If this is the case, please pause and take an honest look at your life and how you are living it. Do you want things to stay the same?
I need help!
I am offering free telephone consultations now! Do get in touch on 07956 390419 and you can tell me more about your situation and I will see if I can help you.