Massage Today Get the Latest News FASTER - View Digital Editions Now!
Massage Today dotted line
dotted line

dotted line
Share |
  Forward PDF Version  
Massage Today
March, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 03

Pain Rehabilitation Associated with the Head, Neck and Shoulders


Are your clients showing up with painful TMJ symptoms, shoulder issues, headaches, neck pain caused by whiplash, tension, arthritis, disc issues or even stenosis? Are you looking for new answers so you won't have to repeat the same techniques over and over again? If so, and your mind is open to looking at new and unique concepts, you will discover answers in this article that will resolve most of the oldest and most persistent painful symptoms that your clients have been experiencing related to the head, neck and shoulders. There is a unique approach that is significantly different from what you have been exposed to or studied.

Structural Energetic Therapy utilizes a "golden nugget" called cranial/structural therapy which is a missing link that achieves long-term rehabilitation by providing total structural support from the feet to the head with one application for your soft tissue treatments. The head, neck and shoulders are at the top of the spine. If there is no weight bearing support for the spine, then maximum rehabilitation is extremely difficult to achieve. By applying cranial/structural therapy, you can bring the pelvis, legs and feet into weight bearing support at the base of the spine for rehabilitation of head, neck and shoulder issues at the top of the spine. This weight bearing support totally expands the effectiveness and longevity of all therapeutic and rehabilitative massage techniques for the rehabilitation from pain and dysfunction found with head, neck and shoulder issues.

There are so many soft tissue treatments that relieve painful conditions found in the head, neck and shoulders temporarily, yet clients tend to return with the same symptoms. There is nothing wrong with these soft tissue treatments, but what is missing is the structural component that will allow these changes to last long term. This is true even when high quality techniques such as myofascial restructuring, structural integration, neuromuscular or other deep tissue treatments are successfully applied. All of these techniques seek to achieve long-term relief by balancing structure. Yet, over time, their clients tend to collapse back into the old structural core distortion. Cranial/structural therapy releases this core distortion and brings structural balance and support to the body that was previously unattainable.

Pain Rehabilitation - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark What became apparent from years of treating clients with structural imbalances was that there was a basic distortion in the body. Anyone who specializes in structural bodywork will agree that this distortion exists even though it may be called different names – i.e. spiral distortion, core distortion and the like. The foundation of this distortion is a rotation of the iliums, resulting in a lack of support for the sacrum. This lack of weight bearing support for the sacrum results in the sacrum being tipped so there is no level support for the spine, which is the basic cause of exaggerated spinal curvatures. This is important when viewing issues in the head, neck and shoulders. Like a flagpole, when it is off slightly at the bottom it will be further off the higher up the pole you go. Thus, there are greater distortions in the head, neck and shoulders at the top of the spine due to the lack of weight bearing support in the pelvis. This rotation of the iliums also creates a long leg/short leg with distortions into the feet that further complicates achieving long-term balanced support for the head, neck and shoulders.

From the description above, it is apparent that for long-term successful treatment and rehabilitation of head, neck and shoulders symptoms, this structural imbalance needs to be addressed. Otherwise, the effectiveness of any therapy will be extremely limited when looking for long-term relief. This is where cranial/structural therapy comes into play.

There is a torsion distortion in the cranium that is related to the anterior/posterior rotation of the iliums and tipping of the sacrum – the core distortion. The discovery that releasing this core distortion in the cranium will release this distortion in the pelvis and bring the sacrum/ilium relationship into weight bearing support, gave birth to cranial/structural therapy. The core distortion in the cranium is a cranial torsion with the sphenoid tilted down on the left and the posterior ridge of the occiput tilted down on the right.

This cranial torsion is held by soft tissue which governs the ranges of motion of the cranial bones just like any joint in the body. Cranial/structural therapy releases these soft tissue restrictions within the cranium, allowing the cranial motion to move into balance. This is what brings the ilium/sacrum relationship into weight bearing support with a leveling of the sacrum that will support the spine and reduce the curvatures in the spine all the way up to and including the cervical spine. Much more happens throughout the entire body including the feet, but here we are concentrating specifically on how to improve the effectiveness of therapy for head, neck and shoulder conditions.


The torsion imbalance in the cranium creates a very definite imbalance in the temporal mandibular joint. If you treat TMJ with soft tissue protocols without first releasing the torsion imbalance of the cranium, you are not addressing the principle cause of TMJ dysfunction. However, if you release the core distortion in the cranium first, the majority of TMJ imbalance disappears, and any additional soft tissue treatment for TMJ can be very specific and create further maintainable balance and function. Thus, TMJ is a significant part of the core distortion.


There are many types of headaches and most of them relate to the core distortion in both the cranium and the body. Migraine headaches tend to have congestion issues inside of the cranium. The imbalance of the cranial motion does not allow for efficient movement of cerebral spinal fluid or detoxification of the brain, so releasing the distortion in the cranium can very effectively address these symptoms. The most common severe headaches relate to a C1/occipital jam with pressure on the brain stem. This is due to the torsion of the occiput which is part of the cranial core distortion and is very effectively released with the cranial/structural core distortion release. Headaches caused by compression of the trigeminal nerves under the temporalis muscle relate not only to TMJ imbalance, but also to the imbalance of the temporal bones when the cranium is restricted in the core distortion.

The severe headaches behind one eye result from the optic nerve being compressed or irritated, again due to the distortion of the cranial bones in the core distortion. Tension headaches result from imbalances in the neck causing chronic tightening and tension within the neck muscles compressing nerves - a result of the core distortion in the neck. As you can see, most headaches relate to, or are at least partially caused by, the core distortion in the cranium and the body. Thus, releasing the cranial core distortion first by applying the cranial/structural core distortion releases before applying soft tissue protocols, allows you to directly release the cause of many of these headaches.

Neck Pain

Neck pain caused by tension, disc problems, arthritis, injuries, nerve entrapments, or stress related directly to the core distortion with its curvatures in the cervical spine due to lack of balanced support for the spine. Applying soft tissue protocols to bring the neck into balance are limited in effectiveness if there is no weight bearing support in the iliums and sacrum creating a level base for the spine when the client stands up. This weight bearing support is achieved by applying the cranial/structural core distortion releases which will reduce curvatures in the cervical spine in just one treatment. This provides structural support for the neck for soft tissue protocols to further release the myofascial holding patterns and soften and normalize the adhesions and scar tissue. The result, as found with Structural Energetic Therapy, is that soft tissue treatments are substantially more effective and long lasting.

Even severe stenosis and disc problems can improve when a more balanced structure is able to be maintained and supported. Degenerative disc conditions, which can result in arthritis symptoms, are caused by exaggerated curvatures of the spine putting imbalanced pressure on the discs. This process is halted and the spine and discs become more balanced with the application of cranial/structural therapy so that the uneven pressure on the discs causing the degeneration is dramatically lessened. The incidents of nerve entrapments, arthritic spurring and lipping, and the buildup of adhesions to compensate for the imbalances are all diminished, and range of motion and function are often restored.


In the core distortion, one shoulder is raised higher than the other and one is rotated medially. The greater the core distortion, the more the shoulders become distorted and the more severe the chronically tightened muscles, pain and dysfunction become. This imbalance creates weakened muscles called strain patterns which can lead to additional complications and injuries. Again, you are limited in treating the soft tissue symptoms without first releasing the torsion and the high/low shoulder patterns caused by the core distortion no matter how good your soft tissue treatment is.

The whole ribcage is also in distortion affecting the shoulders as governed by the whole body core distortion. The cranial/structural core distortion releases will release this torsion not only out of the pelvis, but also out of the ribcage and the shoulders. Starting your therapy session with the cranial/structural core distortion releases will provide a more balanced structure and support for your soft tissue treatments for long term improvements and results.

Click here for more information about Don McCann, MA, LMT, LMHC, CSETT.


Join the conversation
Comments are encouraged, but you must follow our User Agreement
Keep it civil and stay on topic. No profanity, vulgar, racist or hateful comments or personal attacks. Anyone who chooses to exercise poor judgement will be blocked. By posting your comment, you agree to allow MPA Media the right to republish your name and comment in additional MPA Media publications without any notification or payment.
comments powered by Disqus
dotted line