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Healing children

From Aug. 12-15, 2004, I served as a teaching assistant at a CranioSacral Pediatrics Workshop outside Boston. On the third day, the three dozen students paired off, each team treating one child in the morning and one child in the afternoon. On the fourth day, while being observed by the students each of the five teaching assistants worked with three children in the space of an hour, 20 minutes for each child. Among the physical conditions of the children to be addressed by the therapists were autism, developmental disabilities, arm weakness because of an in-utero stroke and post-auto-accident blindness. The ages of the children ranged from 6 months to 11 years.

What an honor it was to work with both the children and the parents who volunteered their offspring to receive the free treatment in the furtherance of the education of the CranioSacral therapists. What a learning experience it was to work back-to-back-to-back on three different young clients, to engage them in conversation and song and engage the parents in the treatment as well while I applied hands-on therapy and facilitated the healing process. What a privilege it was to talk with and listen to therapists of different healing modalities as we shared in our mutual pursuit of CranioSacral healing.

And what an affirmation it was to have a young North Jersey mother call me while I was at the workshop and later set up an appointment for her 2-year-old son. It makes the learning all worthwhile to apply it in my practice and to help in this therapeutic way to make childhood a more fluid and healthful time for my young clients.

Technique of the Month

Hamstrings (Technique developed by James Waslaski,

The three muscles popularly called the hamstrings are biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus. They all extend the hip, flex the knee and posteriorly rotate the pelvis. Originating at the ischial tuberosity, they extend down the back of the thigh and over the posterior knee.

With the client prone, the therapist works from the client’s glutes to his knees, using a couple of drops of Prossage lotion on his hands to perform myofascial spreading 45 degrees down and out on the hamstrings. The therapist lightens up behind the knee and continues on to the gastrocnemius, pushing the calf muscles away from the hamstrings. This will create space around the knee joint by decompressing the tibia away from the femur. Then, staying away from the back of the knee again, the therapist applies slow, rhythmical compressions over the hamstrings to increase blood flow to the area.

Finally, with the client’s knee bent 90 degrees, the therapist separates each of the hamstring muscles. Working the medial side of the biceps femoral on the outside of the client’s leg, the therapist starts above the back of the knee and uses his thumbs or knuckles to pin and traction the tissue as he works toward the ischial tuberosity, doing this several times. Then he goes to the inside of the client’s leg and works between the other two hamstring muscles, semimembranosus and semitendinosus, pinning and tractioning the skin in several sweeps of the area as he works toward the ischial tuberosity.

Stretches of the Month

Single Leg Pelvic Tilt, Double Leg Pelvic Tilt

(Both are described by Aaron Mattes in his Active Isolated Stretching,

As in all of Mattes’ stretches, the person should breathe out while doing the stretch, hold the stretch for no more than two seconds (“one one thousand, two one thousand”) and breathe in while going out of the stretch before doing the next repetition.

Single Leg Pelvic Tilt

Muscles stretched: sacrospinalis (low back) and gluteus maximus.

Muscles contracted: Hip flexor and abdominal muscles.

Caution: If condition is post-operative, if there is disc involvement or if there is severe pain, the person should flex the nonexercising knee 25 degrees or more. If these conditions do not apply, then the nonexercising knee may remain straight and in contact with the ground or floor.

Method: In a supine position, flex the exercising knee and pull it toward the armpit by contraction of the hip flexor and abdominal muscles. Place the hands behind the thigh to prevent pressure on the knee and provide slight assistance at the end of free movement. Return thigh to vertical position and repeat.

Repetitions: 10 each side.

Double Leg Pelvic Tilt

Muscles stretched: gluteus maximus and sacrospinalis (low back) muscles).

Method: Lying on the floor, begin with knees and hips flexed at a 90-degree angle, thighs pointing vertical. Exhale and contract hip flexor and abdominal muscles, pulling the thighs toward the armpits. Place hands under the thighs and assist the contracting muscles in the stretching movement. Return to the starting position (thighs vertical and attempt to move closer to the armpit with each repetition.

Repetitions: 10.

Go vegetarian, live longer

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluated six studies on vegetarian diet, and found that four of them showed that vegetarians live longer than their carnivorous comrades. One study followed a group of Seventh Day Adventists for a dozen years and found the vegetarians had a 15 percent lower mortality rate than their meat-eating peers.

It might be that vegetarians exercise and smoke and drink less than other groups. They’re leaner, too, with fewer obesity problems. And that has to do with what they eat: vitamin-rich produce, fibrous legumes and whole grains — unprocessed food from the earth.

The heart-smart benefits: lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood lipids.

For the nation’s 18.2 million diabetics, a vegetarian diet provides lots of fiber by way of complex carbs, low or no cholesterol and better control over blood sugar.

One down note: all six studies show the benefits of vegetarian diet seem to wane once vegetarians hit their 90s.

Hike of the month

Intersecting County Route 602 west of Blairstown, N.J., the Appalachian Trail continues northward to High Point and, on an eastward angle, ultimately toward Maine.

On a sunny August morn, with a hint of a cool breeze, I parked my car on the small off-road parking area and began my sojourn. And a blessedly solitary one it was, for on this Tuesday, nary a soul did I encounter from 9:30 a.m. till noon when I returned tired and happy to my starting point.

A brief entryway into the woods soon led to a waterlily-covered pond within earshot but not eyesight of the road. A bridge over a mostly hidden waterfall directed me back into the tree-covered canopy until the only major hill of the hike brought me out into the sun and the buzzing of a powerline field. The behemoth metal structures continued toward the east-west horizon in either direction, but the trail stayed beneath them for only a short while before diverging toward a northern ridge.

Walking was decidedly rocky for a while before the trail joined what looked to be a fire lane for a softer, grassier surface. Views were inspiring, too, as the ridge overlooked Swartswood Lake, the length of which I followed before I turned around. With the lake and woods vistas below and across the way, this looks to be a lovely spot for immersion in the reds and yellows and oranges of autumn leaves. As it was in August, it was just what I needed to be alone with my thoughts and the steadiness of my breathing in the quietude of northwest New Jersey.

Until I see you again on my massage table and share my Heartful Touch with you … be well.

Dennis Sprick
The Heartful Touch
Massage and CranioSacral Therapy