Cranial facial release is a technique that uses a balloon inserted into the nose to adjust the cranial bone with the goal of restoring and improving brain function.
What is cranial facial release, and how does it work?
Dr. Greg Olsen: All right, that’s a great topic. I love talking about cranial facial release and giving people an understanding about how it works.
So, cranial facial release is an advanced intracranial adjustment. Intracranial means we’re working on adjusting or helping to move and mobilize the cranial bone. So cranial facial release is an intra nasal, balloon-assisted, cranial adjustment. So, from what the description is, basically what we’re doing is inserting a small balloon into the nose, into what’s called the nasopharynx. Some people think we’re going in to the sinuses. We do not go into the sinuses. It’s an area in the nasopharynx. So, the nasopharynx is that passageway from the nose to the back of the throat. The lining of that cavity is very richly backed by the different cranial bones.
One of the most important ones is the sphenoid bone. The sphenoid bone is like the cog in the wheel. Basically, it stretches across through the middle of the cranium. You have plates that go to the outer side that you can feel but in the inner part there, this sphenoid bone forms the cog or the balancing mechanism for what can drive cranial bone movement. One might ask, who cares about cranial bone movement? And I understand, but from a clinical standpoint that cranial bone movement is basically driving brain function. If we look at imaging studies, we can see how with your breathing that that drives the pumping of the cranial motion, and through that it’s called cerebrospinal fluid. Basically, that innervation, that movement and vibrant energy that the brain needs.
There was a recent conference that I was at. They were showing an open brain surgery for somebody who had a stroke. This was post stroke and you could see that the brain was lying still. There was basically no pulsating, no movement to it. Which in any form of life no movement is not good. So once that clot was cleared, you could see the brain again begin to pulsate, and you could see the vibrancy and you could picture how that pumping of the brain tissue would be vital for getting just the movement, the nutrients and the cerebrospinal fluid to the brain to supply that proper function. So that was fascinating. And additional advanced imaging with regard to MRI studies have also shown that in live motion, how that movement is occurring.
So just like in other areas in the body, if we have restrictions on how the body is able to move, we’re going to see problems with that. So, in the cranial area, when that restriction occurs, we can see everything from restrictions in breathing capacity. One of the areas I tend to focus on is neurological function. I’ll talk about that in a little bit. But the basics of this, and how it works, is that by inflating the balloon into that nasopharynx area, it helps to release restrictions in that sphenobasilar junction and respiratory mechanism, allowing the cranial bones to move, allowing the dural tension, or the tension of the membrane around the brain and the cerebrospinal fluid to move more freely allowing that brain to be optimized in its function.
What symptoms, or conditions, does the cranial facial release technique help improve?
Dr. Greg Olsen: That is a great question. Cranial facial release can impact the body in many different ways. Again, as I was mentioning earlier, the most common reason that I work with that is that I’m looking at neurological impacts. When I do a neurological evaluation, there’s times when we could see different areas of the brain may not be working properly and through evaluation determine that that’s being caused by, or associated with, restrictions in that cranial bone movement, restrictions in cerebrospinal fluid, and dural tension that’s in that area.
So, that is what can it help improve. So, the different terms with it. There’s patients that I work with that have had head injuries and result in what’s called mild traumatic brain injury. There’s patients who have more severe trauma and we’ll call it traumatic brain injury. So, when those occur, we actually see brain related symptoms and that can be a movement dysfunction, different types of palsy or inability to move certain muscles and patterns. Very commonly, we’ll see sensory abnormalities, people being overly sensitive to light or sound, or not being able to process them properly, and that can produce ADD/ADHD type symptoms in kids and adults.
So, direct mechanically in those, sometimes it can be temporomandibular or TMJ type problems can be associated with that. Facial pain, head pain, breathing obstruction. So, older patients who experience some type of sleep apnea or restricted blood flow will see great improvement in their breathing and air flow with that. MMA fighters or UFC fighters, even boxers who get that head trauma, getting hit the face will definitely get those restrictions. Many times they’ve had broken noses and they have trouble breathing. They also get great relief with this and very commonly just go, “Wow, I can breathe. I can breathe again for the first time in years.” Often times, it helps many of these areas that have never been touched by other therapies or treatments.
And is this treatment appropriate for people of all ages?
Dr. Greg Olsen: Cranial facial release is definitely appropriate for people of all ages. The younger the ages are less likely to need it, and so that has to be carefully evaluated. So more commonly, it’s going to be people who had head trauma. But if we look at head trauma that can be as early as the birth process with the head being pushed through the birth canal. That can create assymetry, that can create imbalances in that cranial bone movement, and so it could be as early as the very early infant ages all the way up to somebody in their 80s or 90s. So definitely can be evaluated for, and appropriate, when we determine that it’s necessary.
Do people commonly receive this treatment in conjunction with other chiropractic treatment?
Dr. Greg Olsen: Cranial facial release is often times done with other chiropractic treatments. It is a specialized treatment. There are very few doctors that perform this treatment, but in my practice, I will commonly do the cranial facial release with other treatment. Depends upon what we’re working with, with the patient, but that is definitely something that is usually done in conjunction with to support the process and getting everything working together.
For someone new to this technique, what is a typical treatment session like, and how often would someone need to receive the treatment?
Dr. Greg Olsen: That’s a great question. If you’re new to this and wondering what it’s like, the description is, is there’s definitely an odd feeling when you have a balloon inserted into the nasal area. Once the treatment is actually done where the balloon is inflated, the most common way of thinking about it is if you were diving into a pool and you feel that pressure buildup in your face or head. That’s the kind of bump that it feels like except it happens much more quickly. So, the treatment, once the balloon is inflated typically, is two to three seconds. It’s inflated and then removed.
And then as far as how often someone needs to receive this treatment, it can go a couple of ways. There’s patients who we do it once with and that’s all they need. A very common start with it is there are three chambers in the nasopharynx on each side and we will do an initial treatment plan of doing four sessions. Each session, one cranial facial release is done on each side so we cover each of the three chambers, and the fourth treatment would be going back and treating the most restricted or worst area on each side, and then evaluating what kind of progress was made.
To speak with Dr. Greg Olsen, visit www.askdrolsen.com or call (949) 859-5192 to schedule an appointment.
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