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What is CranioSacral Therapy?


CranioSacral therapy is a complimentary and alternative health care that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, and the effect of these disorders on general health. Craniosacral care adresses the bones in the skull, the soft tissue in the skull, and their relationships with the sacrum through the dura of the spine. Although the therapy addresses the bones in the skull, the work is not “manipulating bones”. A therapeutic procedure performed by a therapist uses a sustained contact in a precise way to release compressions where the plates in the skull join, and to release tightness in the soft tissue that surrounds these plates to restore the fluidity that feeds the nervous system.

The cranium has an integrated web of blood supply and nerve branches that easily get tight, impinged, and compressed. When the soft tissue gets tight, this can pull on the plates in the skull and actually distort their shape, which then disrupts neurological communications between the brain and the cells, tissues, and organs of the body.

Because of the anatomy of the nervous system, this compression or distortion will effect the entire body of the horse. Tissue injury can be caused from a single event, such as pulling back while tied, or some other head trauma such as hitting their head in the trailer, or getting kicked. Or it can become damaged through repetitive stress such as tight nose bands, wearing head gear, rein use, dental procedures, etc. In either case, injured tissues undergo physical and chemical changes that can cause inflammation, pain, and diminished nerve function. Relieving tightness or compression in the head, TMJ, and poll area, takes the pressure off of the nerve branches that pull on the dura and effect the central nervous system of the horse. Sometimes these injuries go unnoticed because there was no broken skin and no outwardly signs of trauma, but a good therapist can identify and open up the areas where the compressions disrupt neurological communications.

One of the most common health issues that horses face today that effect proprioception and the central nervous system, yet go highly unnoticed is TMJ dysfunction. Through craniosacral therapy and balanced dentistry, horses are finding relief and many health issues that were once plaguing are now becoming obsolete.

Equine veterinarians and osteopaths have found that up to 80% of musculoskeletal restrictions and areas of immobility that influence gait patterning, may be influenced from the autonomic nervous system. This influence is a result of pressures put on the spine, sacrum, pelvis, shoulders, and cranium bones. Relieving compressions restores the autonomic nervous system, which helps the vertebra free up all by themselves. This approaches the direct cause of subluxations that then travel down to lower limb problems. Without restoring the nervous system, simply addressing the subluxation can have a limited result due to the afferent and efferent flow of nerves.
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How Can CranioSacral Therapy Help my Horse?

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This picture of this gelding was taken before his first CranioSacral session. His posture is showing he is very heavy on his forehand, and dropped in his top line. He is also standing very croup high and straight in his hind legs. The lines drawn on his back indicate how well he uses his hind end. The top line should touch most of the back. You can see how far from the line his back is.
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This picture was taken after his 3rd treatment approximately four months later. His posture has reorganized and is much more healthy. He is using his hind end better and you can see how much his back has come up with how it is now touching the red line. His front legs are also under his shoulders and not behind like the upper photo.




CranioSacral is quickly gaining recognition in the human world as it is being incorporated in hospitals for patients who have suffered head traumas. In the horse world, it is also quickly gaining popularity as results are being seen in issues where all other modalities have been tried but unsuccessful in helping horses find relief. Head Shaking syndrome, for instance, is a devastating condition effecting horses world wide. With the only relief offered from the veterinary world being drugs or invasive surgeries. CranioSacral has been found to offer relief to horses with this condition. Below are a few other common conditions that CranioSacral is found to help.


~ TMJ Dysfunction or Disorder
~ Head and Ear Shyness
~ Sore Hocks
~ Stifle Weakness
~ Cribbing and
Headshaking
~ Poll Restrictions and Pain
~ Posture Imbalance
~ Restricted Pelvis Movement
~ Back and Neck Pain
~ Decreased Athletic Performance
~ Abnormal Hoof Growth
~ Shying and Spooking
~ Difficulty Catching
~ Crookedness
~ Dull Expression and Lethargy
~ Gait Asymmetries

CranioSacral can also be beneficial in helping your horse recover from accidents, injuries, and surgeries. Shea can assess your horse and help you put them on a rehab schedule that is best suited for the individual needs of your horse. To read more about
TMJ-D or Head Shaking Syndrome, click on the link to visit those pages or go to the drop down tab. Visit the PHOTO page to see other examples of some of Shea's CranioSacral clients.

Shea is one of the few equine craniosacral therapist in the U.S. who has studied advanced horse and human techniques. She has also taken numerous head and neck dissection workshops, and gross anatomy with Dr. Deb Bennet which covered full body dissection and functional anatomy



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This photo was taken before his second ECS session. This is a 4th level dressage horse who had postural imbalances from TMJ tightness and cranium compression. He had a dull expression, and restriction in pelvic movement. The photo shows his pelvis is pulled tight, top line and back are dropped, and base of his neck is dropped and taking too much weight of his forehand.
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This photo was taken 5 sessions later. Relieving the compressions in his cranium and around his TMJ has allowed his body to reorganize to a healthy and balanced posture. Shoulder angles are softer, top line is up, and his pelvis is in a neutral position. He is bright and full of expression in his eyes, more engaging with people, and more curious about his surroundings!
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