Home Table of Contents



Laurance Johnston, Ph.D.

Sponsor: Institute of Spinal Cord Injury, Iceland



1) Craniosacral Therapy

2) Chronological Controlled Developmental Therapy

3) Massage Therapy

4) Chiropractic Therapy

1) Craniosacral Therapy: Dr. John Upledger (Florida, USA) (photo) developed craniosacral therapy a gentle hands-on procedure for evaluating and enhancing the functioning of the craniosacral system. Because the system surrounds the brain and spinal cord, it affects the entire body and, as such, the therapy has the ability to treat a wide-range of disorders, including SCI. Therapists use a light touch to feel the rhythmic motion of the cerebrospinal fluid within the craniosacral system (click on illustration) and, in turn, to treat any restrictions. Because a restriction in one area can affect the entire system, treatment may involve working at a point distant from the overt symptoms.

Many treated patients with SCI report improvements, ranging from modest to fairly dramatic, involving motor function, bowel and bladder control, spasticity management, and overall well-being and ease. 

2) Chronological Controlled Developmental Therapy (CCDT): Ed Snapp, (Mississippi, USA) a physical therapist who acquired polio in his youth, developed CCDT, a bodywork therapy that targets various neurological disorders, including SCI (photo of Snapp by hydrotherapy tank). It consists of a number of fairly standard physical therapies performed in a defined sequence, including pressure stimulation, hydrotherapy, light-touch massage, movements on an oil table, and rest in a sling apparatus that mimics a fetal position.  The therapies are done to the patient, who exerts no effort, and carried out in a distraction-free environment.

Under CCDT theory, turning on dormant neurons requires a sequence of cues that mimic events from our early fetal and infant development, which, in turn, reflect a genetic memory of our evolutionary development.  If a fully developed neuron has been turned off, its reactivation requires that it receive and sense external cues in a defined sequence that are correlated to the neuron’s initial development. There is no avenue to deliver these cues except through the peripheral senses. Out-of-sequence cues will not work.

3) Massage Therapy: Dr. Tiffany Field and colleagues (Florida, USA) have shown that subjects with cervical level (C5-7) injuries benefited from a five-week program of twice weekly, 40-minute massage sessions (Diego MA et al, Intern J Neuroscience 112, 2002). After stratification by range of motion, 20 subjects were randomly assigned to either a massage therapy or exercise group. Fifteen were males; average age was 39, and all had been injured for at least a year – i.e., chronic injuries. Results indicated that the massage-therapy group compared to the exercise group had less depression and anxiety and increased muscle strength and range of motion.

4) Chiropractic Therapy: According to a Kessler Institute (New Jersey, USA) study, 23% of people with SCI with chronic pain had used chiropractic (Nayak et al, J. Spinal Cord Medicine, Spring, 2001). Chiropractic therapy usually focuses on areas above the injury site, although more passive mobilization may be applied to areas below the injury such as the pelvis, low back, and lower extremities. The overall goal is to enhance the range of motion often compromised by excessive shoulder and arm use often associated with frequent wheelchair transfers and which can lead to more serious repetitive-use injuries. Chiropractic adjustments, muscle work, and exercises keep the spine, shoulders, ribs, and shoulder blades moving as they should in a painless, full range of motion.  These methods keep the joints lubricated, discs between the vertebrae from deteriorating, and muscles and ligaments strong and balanced.