The Dynamic Puzzle of Your Head Bones
Originally posted by Dr. Melanie Brown at The Mountain Times on 02/01/23
Nancy Sullivan, MD, proclaimed as she taught our craniosacral class, “Tell your patients, ‘You’re not a coconut head!’”
She was talking about the skull’s puzzle-like flat bones and zipper-like connections or “sutures.”
Our anatomy instructor in chiropractic college said that he only occasionally saw fusion of head bones in geriatric cadavers but not in the general population of adults. A Sacro-Occipital Technique (SOT) seminar with Dr. Crestione, DC, revealed enlarged photos of microscope slides showing blood vessels and nerve endings going through the cranial sutures.
Our skull bones do not fuse in adulthood; they are dynamic!
The head bones expand and contract with our breath, and the butterfly-shaped sphenoid bone at the base of the skull moves up and down about 11 times per minute in concert with our sacrum bone at the bottom of the spine to circulate cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) around our brain and spinal cord.
Our skulls are not immune to stress and injury. From infanthood, we can experience birth trauma, falls, cute but tight hats and headbands, and sleep preferences creating flat spots.
In childhood, sports and spills and snug helmets stress the skull, and in adulthood, we sleep with the wrong pillows, occasionally bang our heads on cabinets and such, and clench our jaws with stress.
As a result, these structures can become misaligned, creating dysfunction and symptoms of pain, headaches, vertigo, jaw problems, sleep and breathing disorders, latching difficulties in infants, and more.
How to restore skull bone alignment and CSF flow
Movement patterns of the skull and sacrum can change, which can affect our CSF flow.
I like to picture the neurotransmitters “riding the wave” in the CSF when the system functions correctly. If the sphenoid, sacrum, or cranium is distorted, these systems can stop or move with less efficiency.
My favorite way to bring alignment to these structures is through hands-on or “manual” cranial work.
The Sacro Occipital Research Society International (SORSI) teaches chiropractors how to gently restore function in the cranial bones to create symmetry and balance in the skull with gentle but precise slow pressure and quick release to restore movement and eliminate tension in restricted areas.
Having a long-term interest in SOT work
I first became interested in SOT “sutural” work when my husband and I purchased a practice in 2007 from Dr. Shannon Owen, who now teaches chiropractors with her chiropractor husband in Chile.
She sent us to seminars and taught us — with more than a month of shadowing her patient care — what fantastic results you can get by incorporating this treatment.
Understanding the anatomy and movement patterns of the skull is essential when doing this work, as some skull bones overlap, and some sutures are small and sensitive. One example is the zygomatic arch or cheekbone, which Dr. Crestione refers to as the “keystone to the cranium.”
One example of cranial manipulation to treat chronic pain
I had a migraine patient years ago who came to our Portland clinic for several weeks. She suffered debilitating attacks two or three times per week and could not function. Although her range of motion and muscle tone improved, her migraines remained.
During a cranial session, we were working on her zygomatic arch, which was misaligned and restricted. I performed mild bilateral torsion, and we heard a small “pop!” Her cheekbone shifted into place, the muscles and ligaments loosened up, and she felt the circulation return to the area. She reported, after several weeks, that her migraines had disappeared. She had her life back!
Cranial work – a relaxing and effective treatment
Although it may sound intense, most people fortunately find cranial work, including jaw and neck release, to be relaxing. I often perform cranial work when a patient is face down or “prone” on heat and other therapies, and it feels similar to massage.
After the prone treatment, we remove the heat and therapies, adjust the spine and extremities, then have the patient lie face up to address the head bones, anterior and posterior neck muscles, and jaw.
Besides manual cranial work, jaw exercises, neck stretches, and using a proper pillow can support cranial health.
So, remember, next time you have tension, pain, or other issues in your head, neck, or jaw, “You are not a coconut head!”
Find someone who can perform this relaxing and effective treatment for you!