Traumatic Birth Treatment with Craniosacral Therapy

Birth Trauma Explained

For a baby, the experience of their birthing can be an incredibly pivotal event in determining their lifelong health and wellness.  An easy birth can pave the way to a happy baby, comfortable childhood and confident school years developing the skills leading to an unrestricted and fulfilling life.  However birth can also be traumatic and the underlying foundation of disabilities affecting the whole psycho-emotional development of a person.   While the spectrum of health and outcomes is vast in between these two extremes, at the end of the day to varying degrees we’re all affected by our first exposure to trauma – which is the nature of our birth.

It’s well established that the birthing process plays a role in determining our general behavioral disposition and wellness, learning capacity, emotional stability, muscular dexterity,  motor skills and more. Physical birth trauma in the form of tension, compression, and restrictions around the base of the skull (also known as the cranial base) during birth may significantly restrict blood flow to the brain.   This can result in profound implications on brain development, including whether our left or right brain develops more fully – and influencing whether we are more mathematically or artistic minded for example.  Additionally birth trauma may influence susceptibility to headaches, allergies, ear infections, torticollis, hydrocephalus a range of other disorders along with the development of all our body systems including the digestive, immune, nervous system and more.

A baby’s birth trauma can come in several ways, including forceful interventions (vacuum cup or forceps), pain relief medications, labor inductions and other interventions. These events can all shock a baby’s central nervous system, as can the rapid change in pressure of a cesarean birth, a cord wrapped around the baby’s neck or post birth incubation. Furthermore as newborns don’t have any sense of space or time, even the initial minutes of separation from the womb that we all undergo can feel like abandonment and shock the newborn’s central nervous system.  For many of us if left unaddressed, these birth traumas acquired early in life are carried with us throughout our lives.  

Birth trauma is actually quite common and fortunately in most cases fairly benign. For example, cephalohematoma is the accumulation of a small pool of blood under the scalp resulting from head trauma at birth, but typically resolves itself within a few weeks after birth. Caput succedaneum is a common scalp swelling in newborns, resulting from head trauma at birth that typically resolves itself within a couple of days after birth.  Though most newborn birth traumas have favorable outcomes, they can still produce multiple problems and frustration for babies and parents.  The mildest of birth traumas can give rise to tension, disrupt a baby’s central nervous system, and be reflected in colic, irritability, latching and feeding difficulties.  As a Craniosacral therapist,  my interest is in treating and resolving the problems that don’t naturally correct themselves on their own, and which are commonly the result of 2 elements at birth.


Generally speaking, birth trauma can be divided into 2 elements:

  • The forces exerted on the newborn during birth – intense compression, distortion, rotation with pressures causing impingement on organs, nerves, blood vessels, central nervous system and brain. This commonly results in a delay of motor skill development such as using the hands and fingers, raising the head, rolling over, moving the arms, sitting up, crawling, walking or standing.
  • Shock effects the baby undergoes. The shock effects to the central nervous system, perhaps less recognized, but more significant in the majority of cases.   

Stay mindful these 2 elements are imposed upon a baby after nine months of warm, cozy, and peaceful existence cocooned safely within the mother’s womb.  The serenity of the present moment for the baby is disrupted and the baby’s central nervous system’s  “fear” mode is triggered  — worried and unsettled.  At birth babies operate under the influence of their central nervous system in high alert and in fight-or-flight response.  The shock effect that comes with being born triggers the central nervous system and a cascading of dysregulation of body systems follows affecting blood pressure, heart rate, digestive system, breathing rate, and more.   This shock effect and a central nervous system in overdrive influences almost every organ in the body, stimulating adrenal glands to secrete adrenalin to further stimulate and perpetuate the state of agitation.

This largely explains why so many babies endure colic, are restless, cry and scream, sleep poorly, have latching and feeding issues and more.  Vomiting, gas, reflux, tongue-tie are also linked to birth trauma and so are learning difficulties, depression, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyper disorder (ADHD), and even violent behavior down the line.  If these shock effects of birth are left unaddressed,  these babies may grow into hyperactive children with difficulty concentrating and staying composed, and experience difficulties educationally.  Though it may not be registered in our conscious memories, our birthing remains in our very cells, and is expressed within our subconscious – influencing our behavior, perspectives, and reactions throughout our lives.  If shock from birth trauma in the baby’s central nervous system is not treated, it stays and the longer it remains, the more ingrained it becomes, guiding habits that become increasingly difficult to change over the years.  


Craniosacral Therapy of Birth Trauma

As it’s both gentle and holistic, craniosacral therapy is perhaps the most safe and effective means of releasing the manifestations of emotional shock and physical trauma inflicted upon a baby’s central nervous system during their birth.  Consider craniosacral therapy is a type of neurological massage that releases compression and tension in the head’s cranial bones and the sacrum bone in the lower back. Additionally craniosacral therapy innervates a baby’s parasympathetic nervous system, the network of nerves that calms and relaxes the body, subsiding the dominance of the baby’s central nervous system being stuck in fight or flight response mode.  This allows the central nervous system to calm and function in a state of homeostasis or equilibrium wherein all body systems and organ functions can operate optimally.  

For example, typically babies who are unable to integrate the experience of their birth and naturally latch on to a breast have an overcharged central nervous system unable to repair itself.  Craniosacral therapy triggers the unwinding of the birth process and helps the baby and their central nervous system self-correct to the patterns formed in a baby while in the womb, prior to birth and the trauma manifested therein.

In the birthing process head first the newborn is pushed, squeezed, compressed and forced to endure passage down a narrow vaginal canal,  a process which typically lasts several hours.  The baby’s head is the largest part of its body and the bones in the skull are not fully fused together.  The newborn’s cranium is delicate and consists of soft incomplete plates of pliable bone connected by membrane and malleable growth cartilage. The extraordinary compression of this fragile structure over several hours forces the bones of the cranium to press upon each other distorting the shape of the newborn’s head.  While this is a natural and normal process, it also makes the baby’s head and fragile brain vulnerable to external force during delivery.   Just as importantly  if the cranial bones remain distorted, failing to fully decompress and reform, improper skull formation and restricted brain development can result.

While the body’s natural self-correcting mechanisms are able to remold the compressed and soft cranium back into the formation for which it was designed, along with releasing traction or compression on the cranial nerves, seldom is the remolding precisely completed.  The measure of the precision of the cranial bones reformation, resolving any nerve restrictions and compressions,  is unique to every newborn and the nature of their birthing.

Generally cranial restrictions or compression remaining out of reformation will be relatively minor.  But with a lengthy labor or difficult birth, where the baby’s cranium is aggravated by malpositioning, or intensely compressed for a lengthy amount of time, or perhaps by over-aggressive use of forceps, then the self-correcting mechanisms of cranial reformation may be unable to resolve the asymmetry.   All parts of the cranium are subject to displacement (movement) and restriction of movement can cause compression and inhibit brain development in many different ways.

As a Craniosacral Therapist, I focus on the cerebrospinal fluid flow of a baby’s nervous system palpating subtle rhythms in the body that are akin to and just as vital as the heart beat.   Craniosacral therapy helps me identify restrictions in the baby’s cranial system as well as misaligned cranial bones. 

Craniosacral therapy uses a delicate light pressure hand-pressure technique to manipulate the cranial bones and surrounding tissue in the skull and lower back.  Applying a gentle finger-pressure massage (similar to depressing an avocado checking for ripeness) improves the flow and circulation of cerebrospinal fluid by stimulating nerves and removing blockages. Increased cerebrospinal fluid circulation can reinvigorate and normalize the functioning of a baby’s central nervous system. This in turn enhances the baby’s own ability to heal itself with a fortified and healthy functioning central nervous system.  

A Craniosacral therapy session is sort of like a baby massage targeting specific areas and bones in the (the skull, jaw, temples, and lower back) and can even be performed while the baby is held in the parent’s lap.   Many parents have recognized their babies experience deep relaxation, often to the point of falling asleep after treatment while others  have described infants having a burst of energy afterwards. Research has shown and supports using craniosacral therapy in preterm infants as safe. 

While I don’t want to overwhelm or overly alarm any parent it’s important that you understand the patterns and behaviors in your child that well may be rooted in birth trauma.   As every newborn’s circumstances are unique, if you’re concerned about your child, call me – let’s have a conversation and I’ll be happy to share with you more insights on treating birth trauma issues safely and naturally.

About Dr. Kaminsky & Craniosacral Therapy

Dr. Kaminsky is a 1999 graduate of the University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic. He is licensed to practice in NY and has completed close to three thousand hours of professional continuing education since becoming licensed in March of 2000.

The primary approach used in his office is Craniosacral Therapy (CST) which is a method focusing on the cranium (head) and sacrum (a large bone at the base of the spine) scientifically proven to control life sustaining fluid flow throughout the body.

Craniosacral Therapy is a gentle, non-invasive, hands-on manual therapy approach that brings about healing via the fluidity of the body. The existence of the Craniosacral System was first discovered by Osteopath Dr. William Sutherland in the early 1900’s, calling it Cranial Osteopathy.  And later rediscovered, validated, and developed by Dr. John Upledger in the late 70’s early 80’s, who renamed it Craniosacral Therapy after doing five years of research at the Michigan State University, School of Medicine. In 1983 Dr. John, as he was fondly called, established a teaching institute in Palm Beach, Florida, to teach this cranial sacral method to all healthcare providers. The Upledger Institute is still very active today.

The craniosacral mechanism pumps fluid which is produced in the brain, called cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF), through the fascial network of the body, the purpose of which is to lubricate joints, muscles, organs, all cells and all tissues. It is the driving life force for your body’s systems to function properly, CSF also carries healing properties to bodily traumas, injuries and past surgeries.

The proper function of your cranial sacral mechanism, via CSF flow, maintains the normal tone of your muscles, provide nutrients to your organs, and keeps you out of pain. It sustains human life and allows your nervous system to stay responsive to challenges of daily living and your mind-body life experiences. The better your craniosacral mechanism functions, the better the flow of this life sustaining fluid, the better your body can handle physical and emotional stress. The uninhibited flow of this fluid throughout your body allows you to thrive, opposite of survival mode.

CSF is part of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) brain and spinal cord), which is physically encapsulated within the dural membranes of the spine and head.

One of the functions inside of your brain is to automatically generate energetic rhythmic impulses that function to pump CSF throughout your body, regulating your peripheral nerves, nervous system and organ systems, which in turn, sustain your function (physiology) and life. It is an important force that maintains everything functioning in your body. This is what we call the Craniosacral System, or Craniosacral Mechanism. It is the hydraulic, energetic and rejuvenating system of your body.

This measurable life force of moving fluid is palpable to a trained craniosacral therapist, like the heart rhythm, pulse rhythm, breathing rate, that can all be felt, so too can the Cranial Sacral Rhythm (CSR) be palpated and measured. It is the foundational diagnostic tool in real-time used to evaluate your current state of well-being (or lack thereof), and potential for health improvement and healing.

Compromises of your rhythmic impulse, correlates to CSF flow restrictions in the system which the body is unable to self-correct or overcome on its own. This is the reason why over time we develop pain, dis-ease, symptoms, conditions, mind-body disconnect and basically all human physical and psychological ailments.

When the fluid isn’t flowing optimally, your bodily rejuvenation is affected, and this is where the skill of an experienced craniosacral therapist becomes valuable. By placing his or her hands on your body, most commonly on your head and sacrum, for diagnostic purposes, the practitioner can detect, feel, evaluate, and rate the SSQAR (strength, symmetry, quality, amplitude, rate) of the rhythm; then bring forth correction of any limitations with subsequent experienced hand placements on different parts the body during a session.

A craniosacral therapist helps your rhythm reset, restore and renew allowing for healing to take place of the mind-body connection, musculoskeletal tightness and spasms, neurological deficits, autoimmune issues, organ function, many common conditions, and of course pain. Through a practitioners properly focused and attuned touch, your body is facilitated to release channels of fluid stagnation and flow restriction, which ultimately breakthrough, overcome and improve CSR and the function of vital fluid flow.

Dr. Alex Kaminsky is an advanced practitioner of Craniosacral therapy, having studied up to advanced levels including SER and pediatric courses. He has built a solid foundation with many years of experience, treating babies, children and adults.

To learn more, visit the other pages on this website. Call to schedule your appointment with Dr. Kaminsky.