Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Post-partum, and Cranio-Sacral Therapy

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If you’ve ever read my blog, you’ll know that I write about cranio-sacral therapy sometimes. There are so many things to say about it, a short article hardly seems adequate. With its benefits to sleep, anxiety, migraines, pain, and a general sense of wellbeing, it’s hard to fit it all in. In my opinion, the best way to describe it is with a story. 

What is PTSD?

First, understanding PTSD and how it affects the nervous system is important to the story. PTSD is a mental health condition where the nervous system responds as though your life was in danger when it is not. It is caused by a past traumatic event where you felt intense fear that your or a loved one’s life was in imminent danger. Once the danger has passed, your body continues to respond as though it were current. For example with a smell, sound or colour that brings the memory roaring back into our nervous system causing a cascade of symptoms such as anxiety and panic, sleeplessness, and hypervigilance.

What is Cranio-Sacral Therapy?

The treatment is based on the movement of Cerebrospinal fluid as it is produced and reabsorbed. When the fluid is produced in the fourth ventricle and reabsorbed in specialized cells in the dura that encases your spinal cord, it creates a pulse that can be palpated anywhere on the body. And since every part of your body is connected to every other part through the fascia (think fisherman’s net), restrictions in one area can lead to symptoms just about anywhere else. Thus a skilled practitioner can use this pulse to treat restrictions anywhere in the body through this fascial system.

In my practice, I combine CST with acupuncture. I find this combination effective for reducing anxiety and pain very quickly and I use it for a variety of conditions. However, one patient’s experience has stayed with me, so I wanted to share her story.

Agnes’ Story

When Agnes was 31 weeks pregnant with her twins, the doctors realized that her babies had what’s called TAPS syndrome, whereby the two babies share a single placenta which can result in uneven blood flow between the two identical twins. She knew they had TAPS, but the severity had not previously been clear. Soon afterwards, a cascade of events unfolded that led to surgeries and several months of both babies in the NICU. Agnes watched while the doctors did everything in their power to save her babies. For much of that time, the doctors made it clear that the twins' survival was not guaranteed, and that one or both of them would likely have severe lifelong disabilities if they lived. 

As it turned out, they came through the worst parts of this unthinkable ordeal, and 7 months later, both babies were thriving and meeting all normal milestones.

This sounds like a happy ending, and it certainly is the best-case scenario, but the journey for Agnes was only just beginning. During the worst part of it, she was clear, strong and brave, staying awake for long hours, expressing breast milk and holding vigil for her children. However, after the uncertainty was over, she began to experience severe anxiety, fear, sleeplessness, hypervigilance and sometimes panic. Basically, her nervous system was behaving as though she was still in the emergency, even after the danger had passed. Regardless of how clearly she understood that her children were safe, she was unable to convince her body to believe it. So as the two healthy babies slept through the night, she was awake, pacing and having palpitations. Agnes had a psychologist who helped her to develop tools for managing her symptoms, but these tools had limited effectiveness, as the issue wasn't in her mind: she knew the babies were safe. It didn’t matter how many times she told herself that. The issue was in her body, her nervous system, and she felt like she didn’t have any control over it. That’s when she came to see me. 

We started a treatment plan of acupuncture combined with Cranio-sacral therapy. After the first session, Agnes felt lighter and more relaxed, but was still waking through the night anxious and unable to fall back to sleep. After two more sessions, she was able to recall about half the time but was regaining her interests, enjoying food, and even entertaining the vision of having another child someday. Then, after her fourth weekly treatment, Agnes was reliably sleeping through the night. When her anxiety started, she was able to apply the tools and techniques she learned from her counsellor. Once her nervous system was responding appropriately to her situation, rather than being triggered by a past experience, all of these tools started to work. We were training her nervous system to react to the present moment (safe, stable, happy) rather than a past moment (danger, fear, panic). As a result, she was able to fully enjoy the time she had with her family and finally felt the sense of joy and ease she had hoped for. 

This sounds like a remarkable story, but Agnes is not alone. According to the Canadian Psychological Association, eight percent of people will develop PTSD after a traumatic event, and women are twice as likely as men to suffer from it. And it can last for a long time, from weeks to years. 

If you or someone you know is suffering from PTSD, feel free to reach out. I’m always available for a chat. Book your free 15-minute discovery call today.

TCM for PTSD Vancouver. Cranio-Sacral therapy PTSD Vancouver.