Treating Seizures Through Craniosacral Therapy: Finding Calm and Balance in the Nervous System
Kathy Warner’s first grand mal seizure took her completely by surprise. At 51, she was grieving the death of her husband while working as a massage therapist and teaching as well. Adult-onset seizure disorder almost completely disrupted her life, keeping her from driving and being able to work. But with a combination of very low-dose seizure medication and regular craniosacral therapy, she hasn’t had a seizure since 2018 and lives a rich, full life.
“I’ve got myself down to a minimal amount of medication. I will skip a massage or something else, but I don’t skip going to see Kelly,” says Kathy. “If you’re in doubt, just give it a try. you’ll feel so amazing when you’re done, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.”
Seizures can be a debilitating medical condition, interfering with a person’s ability to drive, work, go to school or function in many normal situations. It’s surprisingly common, affecting 1 in every 26 people at sometime in their lives. While medication is able to help some people reduce or eliminate their seizures, it doesn’t work for everyone or nor is it completely effective. Craniosacral therapy is a gentle alternative or addition to more traditional treatments for seizures, reducing the strain on the central nervous system and clearing the waste build up in the cerebrospinal fluid.
Kathy’s story is one of many who have found healing from seizures through craniosacral therapy. Read on to learn how craniosacral works on the body systems that are related to epilepsy and seizure disorders.
What causes seizures? How can craniosacral therapy help seizures disorders or epilepsy?
Seizures can be caused by a wide variety of underlying medical conditions and come in different forms, varying in how much of the body is affected and whether or not a person loses consciousness. Although seizures are commonly associated with epilepsy, not all people who have seizures have epilepsy. Seizures are caused by unusual electrical activity in the brain, which can have a number of underlying causes.
Kathy Warner found that her seizures were brought on by a perfect storm of brain disrupting activities - dehydration, stress and fatigue.
“Everyone’s got rhythm and cycles that we go through, when everything hits at once and the perfect storm forms, those things that cause your brain to be overtaxed. When we run around and carry all that tension, we’re not at our full potential and it takes so much more energy to function.”
Kathy describes the effect of craniosacral therapy on seizures like a wind-up toy plane where the propellor is wound tight, the rubber band coiled and ready to spring.
“Instead of pulling the finger away and letting the airplane fly across the room, craniosacral therapy takes the propeller and backs it off, unwinding the nervous system,” says Kathy.
Craniosacral therapy works primarily on three systems of the body — the central nervous system, the cerebrospinal fluid and the musculoskeletal system — which interact with each other as well. The occurrence of seizures is most directly related to the central nervous systems and the cerebrospinal fluid, but can also be affected by tension in the musculoskeletal system.
The body’s central nervous system regulates our stress state - whether we're relaxed or experiencing fight/flight/freeze due to stress. That, in turn, regulates the autonomic nervous system - all the ways our body responds automatically to stress, like increasing our heart rate, controlling our breathing, dilating our pupils, etc. Craniosacral therapy works to calm the central nervous system and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, bringing us out of fight/flight/freeze, and allowing us to relax, think more clearly and engage in meaningful relationships.
When a person has chronic seizures, their body can stay almost permanently in a stressed or hyper-vigilant state. Higher stress levels are associated with a greater incidence of seizures, so allowing the central nervous system to relax and come back to a state of calm can reduce the incidence and severity of seizures.
In addition to improving the function of the central nervous system, CST also works to help the body clear waste from the cerebrospinal fluid, the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord and washes the central nervous system. Higher levels of waste products in the cerebrospinal fluid are associated with seizures.
Scientists are just now discovering the importance of the cerebrospinal fluid as the system that washes the central nervous system and clears waste from the brain. New discoveries are being made about how the presence of certain substances in the cerebrospinal fluid can be an indicator of disease and how impaired waste removal can cause issues within the functioning of the nervous system. Craniosacral helps improve the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid by unlocking points of tension that keep it from doing its job. Once the fluid is able to flow as intended, the body can remove waste products and the central nervous system functions better.
Improving the cerebrospinal fluid allows the body to remove waste products and improve the function of the central nervous system, which can lower the frequency and duration of seizures for those who experience them. Craniosacral can also reduce systemic stress on the nervous system, leading to fewer seizures.
Craniosacral Therapy as a Complementary Therapy for Seizures
Kathy combines craniosacral therapy with other treatment modalities to keep her seizures from happening. When she first was experiencing seizures, she combined craniosacral with chiropractic to help adjust both the bones, as well as the muscles and tissues, to help her body find release.
“Combining craniosacral with chiropractic is a really good one-two punch. If you seize and your body is locked down, the occiput bone in your skull can get stuck out of alignment. Chiropractic helps put it back in place, and CST unwinds the tension that holds it there,” she says.
Kathy did seek traditional medical help for her seizures, but found it to be mostly unhelpful. She does take regular seizure medication, but regular craniosacral and paying attention to her body’s needs has helped her to lower her dose over time, transitioning to the lowest dose.
“The medication has side effects, which aren’t great. Craniosacral therapy’s side effects are love, peace and balance. Who doesn’t want that?”
Kathy says craniosacral therapy has also helped her be more aware of when the tension in her body is building up.
“I can see the patterns that led up to my seizure activities. Now I’m more self-aware and I know when I’ve got more tension. Because I go to her regularly, the release is more maintenance now, a way to keep the tension at bay,” says Kathy.
Kathy has referred other people to Kelly and says she would recommend anyone with a seizure disorder try craniosacral.
“I would absolutely encourage them to try it. The nervous system gets tied up with tension. Anything you can do to help balance that, that would be one of the first things I would try. If you can avoid the perfect storm and head it off at the pass, why wouldn’t you?”
If you experience frequent seizures, consider booking an appointment with the Craniosacral Center of Grand Rapids, by using our online appointment scheduler or calling or texting us at (616) 433-3003. We look forward to seeing you in the office and helping you find relief!
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