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Massage Today
April, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 04

On Straight Footing: CranioSacral Therapy Makes a Difference

By John Matthew Upledger

When the body receives the release it needs to begin healing, change can occur rather quickly—and unexpectedly. Just ask Sharon Aldrich. A licensed massage therapist, Sharon was enrolled in her first CranioSacral Therapy class.

On the third day she was watching a demonstration of a 10-step protocol technique when she looked down and noticed something that amazed her. Her feet were facing straight. Since childhood, she had lived with an in-toe gait, or pigeon toes as it is commonly referred to. Looking back at that moment, Sharon said, "I noticed that I seemed to be standing in a posture that felt strange but not at all uncomfortable. I took my focus away from the demo and looked down at my feet. For the first time in my life, I was not pigeon-toed. My feet were out and it felt good all way up my legs, into my hips and low back. I then noticed that my ASIS and PSIS were level. No more anterior rotation." The CST techniques that Sharon received during practice sessions in the first two days of class had initiated a healing process that didn't stop with her feet.

A Life of Hard Knocks

No surprise, growing up with a condition such as pigeon toes presents a host of emotional and physical challenges. Sharon's right leg was so turned in at the knee that the ankle bone was actually facing forward. Growing up, she said, "There were many times when I would be so exceptionally tired I might step on my left big toe with my right foot. I remember having to sleep at night with shoes on and a corrective bar between them." The constant reminder from her mother to, "turn your feet out" still reverberates in her memory.

To her credit, Sharon didn't allow her condition to rule her life. "I was always very active as a child," she said, naming sports, cheerleading, gymnastics, horseback riding and general roughhousing as common activities. This active lifestyle came at a cost, however. Sharon endured a number of mishaps over the years that included a fractured tailbone from a fall on the balance beam at the age of 15, a fall off a horse, and a waterskiing accident in 1997 that left scar tissue in the area around her C-3. As a result, she said, "I had chronic lower lumbar and sacrum pain, and my S.I. joints continually locked up."

About six years ago, as Sharon's body continued to lose its ability to compensate for her rotated leg and many injuries, she began to experience right hip pain. This manifested in the form of numerous severe trigger points across her right piriformis and upper gluteals. "I could not sit on a hard surface for a long time nor in a car," she said. "Sometimes my back would seize up, and I had difficulty getting out of the car." An X-ray ultimately showed that Sharon's femur was moderately internally rotated — a fact that surprised her. "I was told that my foot wasn't turned in at the ankle; it was turned in completely at the hip." The type and severity of her pain began to make sense.

Light Touch Promotes Deep Release

Pain had been a part of Sharon's life for so long that she had learned to compensate for it in her daily living. All of that changed with the gentle, precise touch of CST, which activated the release of long-held restrictions and encouraged her body to self-correct. With that initial correction, Sharon said, "I had some aching in my right quadrant area medial to lateral. It felt as if my thigh was trying to roll in and also reorganize. When we did a mini session on the last day of class, the aching stopped the next day."

In Sharon's case, she believes her issues resided in a restriction within her pelvic girdle. This was released as she received the various techniques of the CST protocol during class. Mariann Sisco, PT, CST-D, who was Sharon's CST instructor, explained the connection. "The pelvic diaphragm of fascia lies within the pelvic girdle and is oriented transversely. It connects to other transverse planes of fascia—notably the respiratory diaphragm and the hips in Sharon's case." Touching on these transverse planes with CST proved to be a key in Sharon's healing process. "Most therapists focus on the longitudinal planes, while these transverse planes are often the missing link in clients who are not quite coming along," Mariann said. Being both student and patient was an especially educational experience for Sharon. As the body begins correcting, she said, "You don't see anything happening from the outside, which is so  fascinating. As a practitioner, though, you can feel all of this. It's amazing."

A Continued Path of Healing

Within three months of her CST class experience, Sharon reported a 90-percent reduction in her low back, sacrum and right buttock pain. She said that her pelvic girdle is basically stable, as well. She attributes the remaining 10-percent of pain to being a hard worker and an active person. "I now only have to stretch my low back daily for normal age-related stiffness," Sharon says. "If I don't do that, I tighten up and experience some swelling lateral to C-3 and C-4 along with headaches."

To help with her residual pain, she says, "I have shown my [MT] colleague how to do the CST technique involving the decompression of C-1 and the occipital ridge. That helps so much with my headaches and my tightness." One of Sharon's biggest marvels continues to be the condition of her stance. "I have a pair of expensive tennis shoes that I always wore to work in," she says. "They have a stabilizer bar and are made to correct pronation and rolling in on the big toe. If I try to wear them now, my feet turn completely out! It has been a life-changing experience for me not to have back pain that very often dictated a good deal of my life. Also, for the first time in my life, I no longer hear 'Turn your feet out, sweetie' from my dear mother!"

John Matthew Upledger is the CEO of Upledger Institute International. For 25 years, he has been actively engaged in all aspects of the organization — from education to clinical services. For more information about CranioSacral Therapy and other modalities offered for study through Upledger Institute International go to


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