Treatment F.A.Q.

Cathy Pliscof Holway, PT, DPT
Neurovascular Integration: Frequently Asked Questions

What is this therapy?

Neurovascular Integration has evolved from light-touch therapies similar to  craniosacral therapy, which originated as an osteopathic treatment story. Various forms of craniosacral therapy have involved the use of light touch to mobilize the bones and membranes of the cranium, vertebral column and sacrum so that the fluids around the brain and spinal cord move with more vitality. Neurovascular Integration moves beyond this fluid flow to focus on the elegant dance of the nervous system that regulates our sensory and motor functioning. A balanced, enlivened nervous system enhances the self-corrective mechanisms of the body and allows body, mind and spirit to flow with more ease.

Neurovascular Integration is based on the principles of Profound Neutral® palpation, which specify that

1. We use the gentle supportive touch of Profound Neutral, not imposing any force on the tissues.

This neutral palpation engages the autonomic nervous system, allowing the patient’s brain to register new “safe” input from the body and generate spontaneous, corrective movement patterns.

2. We hold a respectful boundary and do not seek to “blend with the patient’s energy.”

3. Our focus is on what corrective motion is trying to occur in the body – we do not focus on restrictions, but rather support the body in finding its own spontaneous corrective patterns.

This gentle, neutral touch allows us to connect with the nervous system through the skin and provides different stimulus to the processing centers in the spinal cord and brain. This facilitates regulation of sensory processing and may help the body process pain as well as pleasant stimulus in a more balanced way.

What is a session like?

We spend the first few moments discussing your medical history and the condition that brings you to treatment. You remain clothed for the treatment session, and you will be positioned comfortably on my treatment table, which is padded with an air mattress and cushions for under your knees and head. I begin at your feet, assessing the patterns of ease and restriction through your legs, spine, head and entire body. Then, using the same very gentle touch, I follow the pattern of ease through your legs, hips, back, shoulders, arms, neck and head. In this way your body has the opportunity to show patterns of tightness from previous injuries or diseases that may be contributing to your current complaints of pain or dysfunctions. Some patients ask questions or remember incidents as we move through the body; others doze off into a very relaxed state that enhances the treatment process. Most patients agree that the hour goes by very quickly!

What exactly are you doing?

My hands gently feel for the movement of the fluids in your tissues, assessing nervous system integrity and generalized organization through the organs and structures of the body. In this manner I can faciliate nervous system function by providing a light stimulus to affected areas, encouraging a more regulated sensory experience that lets the brain  unravel the tissues that might  “stuck” or painful. The patient frequently experiences warmth, or a sense of relief, and spontaneous corrective movement patterns.  This helps the body’s nervous system to assess “danger” in the body more accurately, generate an appropriate body “output” signal, and in general, to work more efficiently.

Why does it feel like your hands are just resting there?

My hands rest very lightly on your body because I am working with the sensitive nervous system that is communicating directly with your brain. A small amount of stretch or touch wakes up the nerves and allows the brain’s sensory processing centers to recalibrate to acknowledge safe, soothing sensations. This helps the brain unlock from chronic pain signaling and lets local tissues remember ease of movement.

Why do I feel warmth where your hands are working?

When tissues have been tight or painful, circulation may be impeded.  The stimulation of this work helps to enliven appropriate nervous system function to these local tissues, which also improves regulation of the vascular function to the area. As arteries are reset for proper dilation and contraction, the skin may flush and a sensation of local warmth may follow.

How can this be helpful with such a light touch?

Too often our dynamic bodies have encountered harsh forces that impose insurmountable obstacles in our tissues. Sometimes the force of an injury is greater than the body can dissipate on its own. I have never found much success, or common sense, in employing a therapy technique that introduces MORE force into an already-stressed body. What I have found is that if I support the nervous system in reorganizing itself, other systems (including vascular and visceral) reorganize as well, and the body resumes its inherent self-corrective functions.

What kind of changes can I expect from this treatment?

Some patients get up from their first session “feeling better” but not able to describe specifically how. Some feel a distinct relief of the pain that they came in with. Others might feel a little “foggy” and unclear. All are signs of the body engaging in the healing process. The important thing to remember is that your body is going to continue working with the nervous system connections that we have facilitated, for a few hours or more after you leave the treatment table. Please be gentle with yourself and your schedule following your treatment (no heavy workouts!). Some patients enjoy a gentle walk, some feel like they need a nap, and others might be enjoying a sense of energy and vitality that has been missing for a while. Occasionally an old ache or pain might surface, again, this is your body doing its “clean-up” job and if you breathe with it (rather than clenching tightly around it), what surfaces will pass. The body processes its healing at its own pace; injuries that you sustained years ago might take a longer course of therapy to dissipate.

Is it normal to feel emotional during or after a session?

This is a very normal part of the healing process. Sometimes we have emotional stories associated with tissue injuries, and as the brain recalibrates safety signalling to the area, old stories can be released and new assurances of health and movement are affirmed. Allowing expression, and finding the breath and relief that comes with that release let us create new stories and new neurochemical pathways that promote ease. In our work we honor these emotions as they arise and support the resolution of lingering questions so we may find our sense of peace and wholeness in this moment.

How often should I come for a session?

Most patients come in once a week for their hourly session. However, it is not uncommon to schedule a two- or even three-hour session. Some therapists, or patients seeking to do intensive work, may schedule up to three hours a day for several days in a row. This does help the body move past old patterns of compensation and find a new level of freedom and healthy movement.

How can I explain this to my spouse/family/friends?

You are receiving this light-touch therapy to restore appropriate nervous system function, which will help your body, mind and spirit move with more health and ease.

 

The Neurovascular Institute

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