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Massage Today
March, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 03

Relieving the Diseases Associated with Aging

By Sharon Desjarlais, CC

Michael Morgan, LMT, CST-D, witnessed the harsh effects of Alzheimer's firsthand and he couldn't forget. His stepmother and sister-in-law each grappled with memory loss and disorientation before they died, leaving him with a burning desire to help his older clients minimize the diseases of aging.

The Alzheimer's Association, which considers itself the "leading voice in Alzheimer's disease advocacy," claims that more than 5.2 million Americans 65 years and older have Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia.1 According to Michael, his determination to help that growing population spawned a 12-week pilot research study called "Craniosacral Still Point Technique: Exploring Its Effects in Individuals with Dementia."2 As part of the study, he coordinated the therapists who performed five to 10 minutes of the still-point technique every day, on nine elderly patients in long-term-care facilities who'd been diagnosed with dementia.

"Halfway through the program, about two-thirds of the patients started improving," Michael said. "They became more interactive, more cognizant, and their verbal and social behavior improved. We had one 100-year-old woman begin speaking in complete sentences and feeding herself again." Those are promising results for what amounted to a few minutes of daily hands-on help. So, what is it about CranioSacral Therapy that seemed to work so well? Michael believes that answer lies largely in the patients' prior medical conditions. "When I examined their medical histories, I saw a pattern of what looked like decades-old inflammatory processes that manifested in conditions like diabetes, arthritis and a whole host of problems commonly associated with aging. Our subjects seemed to be sitting on a mountain of accumulated issues." Add to that the drugs that suppress immune-system function and, over time, the immune system's ability to counteract inflammation begins to fail. "That's when the stage is set for an opportunistic invasion of the blood-brain barrier by factors that increase toxicity in the brain, like heavy metals."

Increasing the Flow of Cerebrospinal Fluid to Counteract Inflammation

As a long-time instructor for Dr. John E. Upledger, who's best known for his developments of the biomechanical approach to CranioSacral Therapy, Michael is well acquainted with the benefits of strengthening the flow of cerebrospinal fluid to help relieve inflammation. "Cerebrospinal fluid can help wash away toxins that may have crossed the blood-brain barrier and accumulated in the brain." As people age, their natural production of cerebrospinal fluid decreases, Michael explains. "The body can go from producing as much as 800 milliliters a day down to 400 milliliters a day." The still-point study goes on to state that cerebrospinal-fluid levels in individuals with senile dementia can be as low as 200 milliliters a day. So it makes sense that a hands-on therapy known for increasing the flow of cerebrospinal fluid would have a beneficial effect on aging.

In classes he now offers through his company, Michael teaches therapists and caregivers how to use CranioSacral techniques to counteract diseases of aging. "The techniques that seem to help the most are the still point, direction of energy and cranial pumping."3,4,5 Each one is gentle, yet the benefits are rich. According to the research study, the most challenging aspect of caring for dementia patients is their general state of agitation, because they don't remember that their caregivers are trying to help. At the end of the study, the staff reported that six of the nine participants were more cooperative during their daily caregiving activities.

"In my own experience using CranioSacral Therapy with early-onset dementia, a common first response is that the patient feels more relaxed and less anxious," Michael said. "Caregivers notice this as well, and they often enjoy easier, more meaningful interactions and conversations." Not all dementia-like conditions are caused by inflammation, Michael concedes. "Some people just don't want to remember anymore." But for others, the research indicates that CranioSacral Therapy may be very helpful at relieving common diseases of aging.

References

  1. "2011 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures." The Alzheimer's Association, www.alz.org/downloads/Facts_Figures_2011.pdf.
  2. "Craniosacral Still Point Technique: Exploring Its Effects in Individuals with Dementia" by Linda A. Gerdner, PhD, RN; Laura K. Hart, PhD, RN; M. Bridget Zimmerman, PhD. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, March 2008, Vol. 34, No. 3. www.slackjournals.com/article.aspx?rid=26916.
  3. "The Still Point" by John Upledger, DO, OMM. Massage Today, November 2004, Vol. 04, Issue 11, www.massagetoday.com/archives/2004/11/12.html.
  4. "Direction of Energy" by John Upledger, DO, OMM. Massage Today, September 2004, Vol. 04, Issue 9, www.massagetoday.com/mpacms/mt/article.php?id=12012.
  5. "Putting Insomnia to Sleep: Using Cranial Techniques" by Sharon Desjarlais, CC. Massage Today, April 2011, Vol. 11, Issue 04, www.massagetoday.com/mpacms/mt/article.php?id=14392.

Click here for more information about Sharon Desjarlais, CC.

 

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