The Energetics of the Neck, Throat, and Cervical Spine

I am in a bit of recovery mode after taking an intensive Biodynamic CranioSacral Therapy course this past weekend. Many of my friends, clients, and so forth know that I am a Diplomate of CranioSacral Therapy through the Upledger Institute, which is the highest degree of certification offered, and have been a CranioSacral Therapist for about 12 years now doing Upledger-style Cranial work.

For the past few years I have become extremely interested in Polarity Therapy, which merges Vedic understandings of the Energetic Anatomy of the body with understandings similar to CranioSacral Therapy and other Energetic Anatomy systems which talk about how the energies of the body form to create matter/physical structure and how we are constantly in flux vibrationally and energetically… going from negative to neutral to positive polarities and constantly contracting and expanding. This understanding very much goes along with my Chinese Medicine background and understandings, which talk about how the elements create the contractions and expansion states that we are constantly undergoing and that determine our state of health or imbalance, our thought processes, and what organs or elements we may have core issues with.

I realize that the last paragraph was likely a little dense, but for simplicity sake let me just say that for the past few years I have been taking courses to become a Biodynamic CranioSacral Therapist. This work differs from “Upledger”-style CranioSacral therapy in many ways, one of them in that it talks quite a bit about our energetic blueprints (meaning the energies that go into us being formed), how we interact with universal, “God” flows of energy, and the fact that our body constantly has rhythms and waves that can be felt and understood to come to a place of stillness, and more importantly, to release trauma from the body.

This weekend was a course in working with the spine as a whole but particularly the cervical spine (your neck), the occiput and structures associated with it (the back of your head) as well as some of the anterior neck/throat structures.

As someone who has had varying amounts of neck pain due to very physical reasons (car accident) as well as more energetic/spiritual reasons (Kundalini hitting my throat chakra and attempting to clear out a huge amount of stuff as well as Top-Down energies coming through my crown through massive waves and being too massive to make it past my throat at times to be incorporated properly) the neck has been an interest of mine for quite some time. It is also true that many of my patients, clients, friends, family, etc. have a lot of neck pain. It is incredibly common.

We all know that there are very physical reasons for neck pain. We look at the TV from an odd angle, we have a desk that doesn’t support our spine, we get in car accidents, our pelvis is out of line which screws up our whole body. There are also physiological reasons, mainly our thyroid being unhappy, or our Liver/Gallbladder system transmitting pain up into our shoulders. There are also basic energetic surface reasons for our neck being out of sorts… the biggest being that our throat chakra/communication center is not releasing properly. Basically that we are not speaking our truth, and do not have an outlet for things like creativity or our own unique individual expression in this world. This is obviously a big deal, or can be, for a lot of people, and is talked about quite a bit in many books on chakras and energy work.

But if we go beyond the surface reasons for our neck pain, throat issues, or discomfort, there are other reasons for constriction in this area.

The first and most significant is birth trauma. When you were being born it is likely something happened to your neck. It got twisted, you got pulled out by forceps or vacuumed out, or maybe you were in utero or came through C-section at a uncomfortable angle. When we have any sort of trauma we need to process it. When we are that young we are unable to, and the primary force (being pulled or yanked out of your mother, for example) can be a huge trauma for us… and our necks. I have done in-utero and birth processing before, but this weekend every single class member through focused gentle attention (without any sort of agenda) at some point released birth trauma from their neck. And in doing so released a minor or significant amount of long-standing neck pain that they had experienced.

The second reason is that we are a “thinky” culture. This means that we are so wrapped up in our heads, in thinking, in intellectualism (well, some of us), or in the type of new-age “spirituality is up there I can’t think of anything negative let me open my third eye and crown and focus on angels” type of spirituality that it is rare that any of us are embodied. We have a lot of energies in our head, basically, and are disconnected from the rest of our bodies. The neck connects our head to our heart, it is a gateway to who we vitally are as people and embodiment in our physical beings. Most people have so much trauma or have made a conscious choice to not be embodied, which equals neck pain, headaches, and other issues like mental illness or delusional type understandings of the world I won’t go into right now.

The third reason is that the back of the neck is an important energetic gateway. There are a few major energy gateways in the body known as “spirit doors”. The back of the neck is one of the largest. This means that if you are in the least bit sensitive that information, energies, spirits, thoughtforms, beings (you get the drift) are coming at you to be processed through this doorway. This means that for most of us who are unskilled (basically meaning sensitive or having psychic capabilities but are untrained), this area is congested.

The fourth reason is that we are out of line with what we know we should be doing on this Earth. This means that we have lots of thoughts and societal conditioning that tell us that we should get normal jobs, have a normal life, that we need to make a certain amount of money and need to be doing certain things with our lives. The societal grids, or energies, are stored in our throat chakra. When we are doing things to get by when we know as a vital human being that we should be on another path, or doing something else with our lives, our heads get out of line with the rest of our body. Our neck twists and turns the further we get away from the awakened understanding of who we are and what we should be doing with ourselves, if only we were free from what society tells us we need to do.

The last reason is that this is one of the areas that is most energetically surface in the body. In the Chinese Medical system, this area is one of the areas that has the most surface channels in the body. This means that it is susceptible to things like wind (for example) going directly from the surface/ skin level to the channel systems (energetic pathways that are typically a bit deeper in the body). We instinctively protect this area, even without this knowledge, because we know subconsciously that this area is somewhat delicate and is not only a “spirit door” but also a place where things like cold, illness, and other environmental factors that can throw us of balance take hold.

There are other reasons for neck pain, and again, I am not ignoring the physical here. When we look at any disease, any area of the body, it is important to understand not only the spiritual factors, the energies, the mental/thoughtforms, but also the physical/physiological, and emotional reasoning behind an imbalance. Although it can certainly be a sort of “missing link” to understand the spiritual and energetic factors of something like neck pain, mainly because it is not discussed or really treated in our culture unless you are fortunate enough to have done enough research to find a really well trained CranioSacral therapist, Acupuncturist, Spiritual Healer etc (and many practitioners are barely trained out there, sad but true).

If you are experiencing neck pain, and have tried other methods (or even if you haven’t, but it is typical that most of us have long standing neck pain after visiting doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, and the like) I encourage you to find a CranioSacral therapist who has been well trained (meaning has taken Advanced Coursework/the Advanced Class through the Upledger Institute and is preferably certified through them, or has taken a 3-4 year Biodynamic CranioSacral training- you will see the initials RCST or BCST after their names). I would not really recommend any other Cranial practitioners or training institutes except for practitioners who have completed the Visionary program through the Milne Institute, which is also a three year program, or “old school” Osteopaths that are are interested in cranial work (as opposed to being an allopathic-type physician) and do not scoff at the words “energy” or “spiritual”. Ask your potential practitioner if they can consider the energetic and spiritual elements- such as Birth trauma, of your neck issues, how long they have been practicing, and if they are certified, advanced, and have been so through one of the above licensed bodies. I am so adamant about this because of the amount of “weekend warriors” who have taken a class or two and say they do CranioSacral therapy, or the amount of “teachers” out there who have taken a few classes and then decided to teach lengthy programs and “certify” people without being certified themselves. CranioSacral Therapy is an art, and it can be a profound place of healing on a level that very few modalities can touch if you can get a practitioner who is truly passionate, knowledgable, and has had good teachers on the subject. Although a basic practitioner or one who has been poorly trained or “certified” through a teacher who may or may not be certified themselves can certainly help a bit with some of the basic physical and surface emotional energies, a well-trained practitioner can consider and hold space for the type of deep transformation and resolution that the neck often requires.

Treating Fibromyalgia with CranioSacral Therapy

133721 © Abdone | Dreamstime Stock Photos

133721 © Abdone | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Karen (name changed) was a 42 year old woman who complained of pain, fatigue, and emotional stress that had persisted for the last 13 years. Formerly an active woman who had headed her children’s school organizations and described herself as Type A personality- always on the go, looking for a better solution, very self critical and a perfectionist, with a career as a marketing coordinator and three children, Karen found herself at a point where she was no longer able to keep up with her lifestyle.

Fifteen years ago, Karen’s life had changed. Her husband asked for a divorce and she had accepted a promotion at work that made her lifestyle even busier than it was. Suddenly a single mom Karen found herself exhausted on the weekends her husband had visitation, barely leaving her couch until her children came back on Sunday evenings. Over the course of the next few years her sleep gradually deteriorated, she started not waking feeling rested no matter how much sleep she got, and her fatigue and muscle pain gradually increased to the point that she had to go part-time at work. Going to a slew of doctors, Karen found herself with a full medicine cabinet of pharmaceuticals that didn’t help her symptoms- antidepressants, sleep medications, muscle relaxants, nerve blockers. She was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and when she complained that her symptoms were not improving with the medication, she was sent to a therapist. Luckily, the therapist suggested CranioSacral Therapy (CST), and Karen found herself in my office thirteen years after her symptoms first began.

When I spoke to Karen and evaluated her in my office, I noticed that she had extremely dark circles under her eyes and she spoke quietly. She went into my office, lying down onto my massage table clothed. When I placed my hands on her to evaluate, using gentle touch, I could sense that her system was very “on”- meaning that “fight or flight”- her sympathetic nervous system, was constantly firing and in a state where her body was constantly in a state of alarm and vigilance. Basically, it was as if her body had not known rest for a very long time. Evaluating further through gentle touch and traction of the superficial tissues of the body, I was brought to notice that Karen had significant digestive upset, her low back was very tight, and her upper neck, shoulders, and the back of her head felt extremely tense.

Karen and I worked together for two months, once a week, and during that time our sessions followed what many of my treatments look like for Fibromyalgia patients. First, we worked to get her nervous system to calm down and get her body to a state of rest. This state of rest allowed for her body to continue working after the appointment to process some of the pain signals and other body signals that had been backed up, allowing her pain to gradually decrease, her sleep to improve, and her digestion to start properly working again. Then we worked gently with Imagery and Dialogue, where we talked to her body and allowed for her to see what it needed to heal and what emotions it had stored. Then gently I worked with the specific parts of the body that I noticed that were out of balance through gentle traction, decompression, and simply by bringing my hands and attention gently to a body part. Gradually her body recognized that her low back, upper back and neck, and the back of the head needed releasing and started softening, lengthening, and opening without me using any force and at the rate Karen could handle releasing the tissues. And finally, I taught her some simple meditations to do at home to release her physical body, process her emotions, and calm her thoughts.

Karen still comes to see me every other week to assist with her ongoing healing, but she is now able to work full time and takes a pain killer only when she absolutely needs to (on average about once every six months). Her sleep has improved, her digestion has normalized, and she is able to relax and rest. She is off all other medications and during a flare-up she only has very mild back pain and a mild headache.

So why does CranioSacral work so well for Fibromyalgia? It is a extremely gentle practice focused on awareness. During a session I will either simply place my hands on various places in the body or will use gentle massage, traction, gentle adjustments, and very light pressure to work with the tissues, fluids, bones, and organs of the body. CranioSacral Therapy doesn’t force anything, which is key for Fibromyalgia patients, and works with the body, the way it wants to move and at the level and depth it wants to be touched. CST also benefits by getting the patient into a parasympathetic, “rest and digest” state of deep stillness, rest, and relaxation. When you body is no longer constantly “on” it can then begin to process all of the signals that are backed up in your body- signals like pain, fatigue, and overwhelm. By processing these signals and switching to an “off” state, the body will be in less pain, will be able to relax, and sleep can improve.

Where does Imagery and Dialogue fit in? When emotions are not processed, they stay in the body, eventually presenting as physical pain, discomfort, or can contribute to a whole host of imbalances in the body. Every illness has an emotional component, especially illnesses that are difficult to treat through Western Medicine, are serious, long-lasting or have the patient questioning their mortality. Potentially any imbalance or illness, no matter how long or serious it is, can be worked with through Imagery and Dialogue. In a session, areas of the body that are in discomfort are felt into by the patient. As the patient brings focus and attention to the part of the body, they will begin describing it, both how it feels physically, any images that come up about it, and any emotions that come up. We then can begin asking the body questions, such as if it needs anything, what it would need to feel better, or if it has anything to bring to the attention of the person on the table. Frequently, the body has a lot to say and quite a bit to talk about! When we dialogue and understand what the body may need or want, and what physical issues and emotions may be stored there, the body now has a change to release the emotional component, and thereby, some of the physical component of the issue. It is shocking how often this is the missing piece of healing for patients, and how simple the body’s needs and wants are.

I would encourage anyone with Fibromyalgia to give three or more sessions of CranioSacral Therapy a try. This will give you enough time to connect with your therapist, find out if the modality is right for you, and should allow you to start seeing some changes in your condition. So many times I have worked with Fibro patients who have started to get their lives gradually back and come alive again through CST treatments. Feel free to contact me with any questions, or google practitioners in your area who have Advanced training and experience with Fibromyalgia through the Upledger Institute, or have completed the Biodynamic CranioSacral or Visionary CranioSacral 1-2 year programs.