The Myofascial Release Approach, Part 3
The Fascial Cranium and Intuitive Therapy
by John F. Barnes, P.T.


Touching clients with skilled hands can be one of the most potent ways of effecting positive change. Touching clients through massage and various forms of exercise and movement therapy, coupled with the gently refined touch of myofascial unwinding, creates a sensorimotor interplay. This contact and movement can reprogram our biocomputer the mind/body - the basis for learning any new skill. Myofascial release uses the skin and fascia as a handle or lever to create new options for enhanced function and movement of every structure of the body

Myofascial release can remove the straitjacket of pressure caused by restricted fascia, eliminating symptoms (pain and spasm). Then, through its influence on the neuromuscular and skeletal systems, it creates the opportunity for learning new, enhanced movement patterns.

With the emphasis on the scientific, linear, left brain mode of thought, we have become distrustful of the abilities of the right brain in both evaluation and treatment. We have been convinced that the information available at our finger tips is unreliable. Only information from the printed word, a computer or the indicator of an electronic device is valid. The conviction has been an enormous disservice both to us as health professionals, and especially to our clients.

The information available to us through our proprioceptive senses which provide an awareness of the body, including posture and movement and right brain is of tremendous value. To limit ourselves arbitrarily to the functions of our left brain is not only stifling, but can lead to substantial error. We tend to go through life viewing situations as "facts," through the prism of our prejudices and conditioning. We are all so bright that we can rationalize ourselves into or out of anything. The more we experience, the more we realize that we are going in endless circles, becoming more and more rutted in our habitual ways. It is not until we begin to use both our left and right hemispheres in a harmonious blend that we can experience our full potential and enhance the quality of our lives and those of our clients.

Appreciating and understanding the differences and abilities of the left and right hemispheres of the brain is developing rapidly, ever since split-brain research on human subjects began in the 1960's at the California Institute of Technology. Rodger Sperry, a psychologist at the institute, won the 1981 Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine for his studies on the functions of the two hemispheres of the brain. Under Sperry's guidance, his student Michael Gazzaniza carried out the testing of the patients. Neurosurgeon Joseph Bogen, M.D., conducted neurologic tests and Phillip Vogel, M.D., performed the split-brain surgery. These men, working with many others, are responsible for demonstrating the differences between the hemispheres.

It was discovered that the corpus callosum serves as a communications network between the hemispheres. When severed, on side of the brain cannot communicate with the other side, and literally has no idea what is happening inside its partner. In addition, it was found that each side of the brain has its own area of specialization and processes information in its own way. The corpus callosum enables hemispheres to work together for almost every activity, although one will predominate for a specific task.

We live in a society that shows the most respect for people who are left brain dominant. Most children learn early that conformity and retention are more praiseworthy than creativity, a right brain function. Just as a muscle will atrophy from lack of use, the right hemisphere of the brain also suffers when its use is not encouraged. Although these creative gifts may be underdeveloped, that does not mean they cannot be revived. The first step in restoring the full power of the right brain is to learn what to expect from each hemisphere.

The left brain, the logical hemisphere, is verbal-- that is, it is involved in language skills. However, it understands only the most literal interpretations of words. It is linear, processing information one step at a time, sequentially. The left brain evaluates factual material in a rational, logical way, and comprehends numbers and symbols. Finally, it controls the motor functions of the right side of the body.

The right brain, the intuitive side, is nonverbal. Its knowledge is achieved through images, not words. It processes many kinds of information simultaneously, and is able to achieve great leaps of insight. It evaluates the whole problem at once. The right brain also perceives relationships having to do with vision and space. It responds to music, and drawing, painting and sculpting are its natural talents. The right brain is speculative, imaginative and capable of fantasy. It wonders, " What if...". It is a metaphoric, internal poet that creates dream images. It also is in touch with feelings. For example, making love is a right hemisphere experience, unless one is overly concerned with technique or performance. Finally, the right brain controls motor function on the left side of the body.

My myofascial release seminars emphasize the development of the proprioceptive senses and the right brain to be able to perceive the feel of the restricted fascia and when it releases. These abilities are also necessary to feel the physiologic motions of the dural or craniosacral system.

When learning and doing myofascial release, it is necessary to turn off the input from your left brain for awhile. Allow your skills to develop without the left brain chattering at you, telling you that what you are feeling is just your imagination. Ignore this criticism and give your right brain the time to develop confidence. The talents and information that are suppressed in your right brain may astound you. Your intuition will develop quickly if you give it a chance. After you have developed these innate abilities, you will then have plenty of time to critically consider the information gathered from your senses.

Do not rush or try too hard-- those who do tend to jam their own gears. Relax and allow it to happen in its own time and in its own way. Accept what you sense as real. Then use the logical, linear left brain as a powerful partner to the ultimate benefit of your clients. When we allow both hemispheres to function properly, the cooperation between them is the perfect partnership. There is harmony in their goals, and they complement each other in almost all activities.

When we are properly trained, our hands, eyes, senses and brain become a superb computer capable of raising our sensitivity and skills to the highest levels, thus tremendously increasing our effectiveness. Like talented athletes or performers, our physical abilities, intuition and intellect (art and science) are used to reach our full potential for the benefit of our clients.

Massage and myofascial release are highly effective when done with skilled hands and mind. they are designed to be used together to enhance the total effect. One is specific, the other is a whole-body approach designed to discover and rectify the fascial restrictions that may have caused the effect or symptoms.

The skin has many ways of perceiving the universe. It is the largest organ of the body, covers approximately 18 square feet and weighs about eight pounds; that is six percent to eight percent of total body weight. It has about 640,000 sensory receptors that are connected to the spinal cord by over half a million nerve fibers. The tactile fibers vary from seven to 135 per square centimeter.

The tactile surface of the skin is the interface not only between the body and our world, but it is also the interface between the mind's thought process and our physical existence. This is also the interface by which therapists can facilitate incredible changes in the patient through the amazing plasticity of the central nervous system and the brain. The skin and the nervous system are produced by the ectoderm. Is the skin the outer surface of the brain or is the brain the deepest layer of the skin?

The proprioceptive senses are little understood or consciously used. When developed through the awareness and use of the right brain, they open up vistas of untapped intuitive potential. The development of our remarkable proprioceptive senses also allows us to detect the quality and quantity of the very fine motion inherent in our bodies. I have discovered that when we quiet our minds and bodies, our proprioceptive senses act like a mirror image, detecting the subtle motions occurring in our clients bodies. This activity allows us to discover fascial restrictions, feel when they release and feel the motion that will take the patients bodies into the three-dimensional position necessary for structural release or for bringing disassociated memories to a conscious level.

Effective therapy for the cranial and dural system depend upon finely developed proprioceptive senses.

The fascia encases the cranium as the outside covering of the cranial and facial bones through attachment to the periosteum. The dural membrane attaches to the inside of the cranial bones by the endosteum, surrounding the brain, cranial nerves and blood vessels. The brain and spinal cord pulsate rhythmically. The cerebrospinal fluid the most vital fluid of the body bathers, protects and nourishes the central nervous system, fluctuating in a wave like motion approximately six to 12 cycles per minute under ideal conditions. this phenomenon is called the craniosacral motion.

The dura (fascia) supports and protects the brain, cranial nerves and blood vessels. It attaches strongly to the foramen magnum in a continuous sheet, with firm attachments on the second and third cervical vertebrae, and continues down as the dural tube surrounding the spinal cord until it ultimately attaches firmly to the second sacral segment, the balance point of the body. The dura then continues down to form a firm attachment into the coccygeal area, making the sacrum and coccyx functionally one.

The sacrum, connected and influenced by the cranium through the dural tube ( which can move about six mm), responds to fluctuation of the cerebrospinal fluid and the pull of the intracranial and the intraspinal membranes. The sacrum also provides an important pumping action of the cerebrospinal fluid, assuming the pelvis is balanced to allow for this. Experience has shown that large percentage of patients have a torsioned or unbalanced pelvis. This means the sacrum is not free to move and its gentle rocking motion between the ilia is limited. Compensations must then occur throughout the system that over time, will produce symptoms far from the original site of dysfunction in this semi closed hydraulic system.

The fulcrum point, which can be used for biomechanical leverage of the dural system, is located at the junction of the straight sinus, which is created by the falx cerebri, the tentorium cerebelli and the falx cerebelli.

The meninges surround, support and protect the central nervous system and move with the cerebrospinal fluid. The skull is not a rigid structure. The 28 bones that make up the living cranium and face move rhythmically six to 12 times per minute governed by by the pull of the dural membrane, the fluctuation of the cerebrospinal fluid, and the inherent mobility of the central nervous system.

The dural system is critical to the proper functioning of the central nervous system. Restrictions and imbalances in the system can cause dysfunction throughout the whole body. It is also essential to recognize that this craniosacral system does not hang in suspended animation, but is an important component within a much larger fascial system.

Extradural fascial restrictions, muscular spasm and osseous restrictions act as anchors on the dural sleeves, pulling the dura of the craniosacral system into imbalance and dysfunction. That is why the combination of whole body myofascial release with proper craniosacral therapy is important. Otherwise, just treating the craniosacral system with a person in the supine position may give the false impression that the system is balanced and functionally well. When the patient stands up, untreated extradural fascial restrictions pull on the dural sleeves which will, over time, pull the craniosacral system into imbalance and dysfunction again unless the whole structure is treated and returned to a three-dimensional balance. A number of books are recommended on the outstanding work that has been done on the system, including historical aspects, biomedical research, cranial anatomy and function, and treatment.

Cranial techniques are most effective when light pressure is used. Once you have learned to " read the body" more pressure may be indicated at times. Start lightly on the mechanical level. Through time and experience, your awareness and sensitivity will increase to the point where your results will dramatically increase in consistency and effectiveness.

Many people performing cranial therapy use direct technique. Although I started this way, trail and error finally taught me that indirect technique was usually far more productive for lasting results. It is non-traumatic and extremely effective.

With the direct technique, each cranial bone is aligned according to how it appears in an anatomy book. this is a logical system--however, just because something is logical does not mean that it works or has anything to do with reality. The problem with direct technique is that it does not pay attention to the fascial system.

It is not until we begin to use both our left and right hemispheres in a harmonious blend
that we can experience our full potential and enhance the quality
of our lives and those of our clients.


It is the fascial system, firmly attached to the cranial bones by the endosteum, that determines the three-dimensional position of the cranial bones and , eventually, their function. Indirect techniques use the fascial system as a handle or lever to realign the cranial bones, or other osseous structures throughout the body, into their correct physiologic position so that they achieve maximum function. This technique avoids the guesswork of mimicking pictures of anatomic structures or the need to use the arbitrary statistical average approach. Rather, it is truly physiologic therapy that allows the body to self correct.

A helpful way of viewing the difference between direct and indirect techniques is to imagine a screen door with a stuck latch. Direct technique is the equivalent of trying to pull forcefully against the latch in order to open the door. If we use force in treatment, the body's protective mechanism responds by pulling back. If we then tug a little harder, the body pulls back to an even greater degree. Indirect technique is the equivalent of gently closing the stuck screen door a little more and then opening it. Almost always, it will open easily and non-traumatically. Applying this concept to the body or head, one exaggerates the lesion (shut the screen door a little more) and then decompresses (unlatch the screen door).

My experience has shown that while the direct technique is excellent as a last resort or finishing technique, especially when the dysfunction is primarily an osseous restriction, it is usually most effective to start with indirect technique. It seems that when we compress lightly and follow the body part three-dimensionally where it wants to go (the direction of ease), we will reach the exact position where the body must be in order to release itself.

A still point, that is a shutting down of the craniosacral rhythm, occurs at that position. This is a feeling of complete stillness. During the still point, a reorganization of the neuromuscular system occurs and the holding or bracing patterns change. A new balance or reference point is found and positive therapeutic event involving structural, emotional and intellectual improvement occurs. This change, or release, then allows us to decompress. We again follow where the tissue wants to go, barrier upon barrier, until all is released and balanced.

I believe the confusion about what techniques to use has arisen because we were taught to differentiate between flexion and extension, side-bending or rotational lesions, and how to correct them mechanically. The problem with this lies in the realization that, in vivo, there is no such thing as a strictly side-bending and rotational lesion. These are simply linear labels of the most predominant part of the lesion-- although they are convenient teaching tools, they are illusions. In life, all lesions are three-dimensional, having a component of either flexion or extension, side-bending and rotation. No machine or person is intelligent enough to figure out what degree of any of these dimensions is necessary to find the exact position of the body to release. Only the wisdom of the body's self-correcting mechanism can do this. Quieting the mind and following where the body wants to go naturally (the myofascial unwinding principle) will take the therapist exactly into the degree of flexion or extension, side-bending and rotation that the individual needs, barrier to barrier, until the individual is released and balanced. This can then be followed by direct techniques for a comprehensive release of the fascial restrictions and osseous structures.


When we are properly trained, our hands, eyes, senses and brain become a superb computer capable of raising our sensitivity and skills to the highest levels, thus tremendously increasing our effectiveness

This was the third in a series of articles discussing a context for treating the entire fascial system and all aspects of the person, producing profound, consistent and lasting results.