Sunday, July 7, 2013

Cranial Week

Cranial week was an exercise in patience. An overview of the week goes something like this:

Eight to five every day for one week we were either in lecture learning about the anatomy, embryology, axis of motion, and dysfunctions of the various cranial bones and sacrum or we were in the lab with our hands on the heads of our partners trying to feel 'cranial motion.' Inherent cranial motion is the intrinsic motion of the brain, the involuntary rocking of the sacrum, and the waxing and waning of the cranium.



The sense of fullness or the widening of the distance between your hands is termed flexion or external rotation of the cranial bones. It's opposite is extension or internal rotation and both are related to a specific positioning of the sacrum. Bert and Ernie are often used to illustrate the difference between a flexed head and an extended head.

You may wonder why you have never heard of this type of motion. An arm has an shoulder, elbow, wrist, and digits full of joints that muscles act on to achieve a desired position. You have probably never heard of this type of motion because only a subset of a subset of medical professionals practice this type of medicine. Most DOs have some training in it, but a relatively small number actually work these techniques into their practice.


The week that we dedicated to 'cranial' would have gone much better if the teachers and proctors had been more credible human beings. Cranial motion is supposed to be just above the resolution of neural sensitivity in our hands, but tuning into the minuscule motions for the first time is difficult. Throughout the week when I responded that I couldn't feel my partner's head moving I got responses like:

-"If you were hallucinating, what would you be feeling?"

-"Pretend you are making it up. After a while you will believe you feel it so that you can feel it."

-"You have a very yellow aura about you. That means you need to stop concentrating so hard, back off, and tune into your right brain."

-"Those eddies of cerebrospinal fluid that you are sending across the brain to heal that suture are weak."

-"How's your shoulder feeling? I'm sending waves of positive energy to it."

Working under the assumption that the cranial bones move lead to some interesting anecdotes where practitioners were able to cure formerly incurable headaches, some types of blindness or deafness, fussy infants, and various types of back pain. I asked what I thought was a legitimate question in response to these anecdotes:

"If you are able to cure blindness, shouldn't inexpert students be able to cause blindness if they apply to much pressure or place a finger wrong in a certain area?"

The response was no, but I was never told why. Somehow, cranial is resistant to anything bad happening and the worst that can happen is you are no better off at the end of a treatment than you are at the beginning.

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