Dr. Doug Hanner

Dr. Doug Hanner

Dr. Hanner is particularly interested in how the chronic effects of trauma and prolonged stress impact both our mental and physical well-being. He has seen first-hand how resolving and integrating the effects of trauma in an individual, can have miraculous effects on both physical and mental illness.

Neurofeedback and Craniosacral Therapy in the Treatment of Trauma

Trauma comes in many forms. What is traumatic to one person may not be traumatic at all to another. Trauma is a highly personalized experience that originates in the individual’s nervous system, not in the event itself. Could trauma have occurred and not even be recognized by the traumatized individual? Absolutely. 

Regardless of the cause, trauma can have damaging and long-lasting effects on our mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Neurofeedback and Craniosacral Therapy have emerged as powerful tools for restoring health and vitality in traumatized individuals.

Types of Trauma

Psychological Trauma is the state of severe fright that we experience when confronted with a sudden, unexpected, potentially life-threatening event over which we have no control, and to which we are unable to respond effectively. This leads to feelings of intense fear and helplessness. Similar symptoms can develop from a wide variety of events. New York hospital research by David Levy in 1946 showed that children’s responses to hospitalization were similar to, and as severe as, the experience of shell-shocked veterans.

Physical Trauma occurs when we sustain an injury from things like a car accident, or a slip and fall. If the healing process does not restore proper tone and balance to the tissues of the body, what began as a purely physical injury, could eventually affect the tone and resilience of the nervous system. Physical Trauma is especially problematic when it occurs in an emotionally charged state.

Trauma from Prolonged Stress occurs over time, and its’ effects are much more insidious. Still, the result can be physiologically the same as the PTSD resulting from a sudden traumatic event. Removing the stressors is critical to healing. Unfortunately, that alone is often not enough to restore health.

Trauma from Biologic and Environmental Toxins generally occurs through a heightened and prolonged activation of the immune system. This immune hyperactivation causes damaging inflammation throughout the body and can set the stage for autoimmunity. Identifying the trigger(s) can be tricky because they are often prevalent in our modern lives (i.e., detergents, perfumes, lotions, certain foods). Again, removing the triggers is important, but may not be enough to restore health.

Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

The ANS regulates all the essential functions of our bodies, including our visceral system (the internal organs). The ANS operates automatically, without our control, and is the source of our survival responses.

The two branches of the ANS are the Sympathetic Nervous System and the Parasympathetic Nervous System. In many regards, they are mirror images of each other – controlling opposite physical and emotional reactions, depending on the external environment in which we perceive ourselves to be at any given moment. Our bodies should possess the resilience to move back and forth between these two states as needed freely.

Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)

The PNS is generally active when we are in a healthy, calm state. It is the branch that is commonly referred to as “Rest and Digest.” It directs our body through all of the physiological processes that occur in a state of ease. These processes include things like digestion, tissue repair, hormone production, and sleep. The PNS is also critical in helping us to “reset” after a stressful event. It assists us in muscle relaxation, lowering heart rate, slowing and deepening breathing, normalizing blood flow, and reestablishing immune system regulation. The parasympathetic branch acts like a brake pedal for our nervous system. It helps us to relax, unwind, and ultimately discharge the arousal of sympathetic activation.

Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS)

The SNS gets our whole body ready for action. It regulates arousal. It is the branch that is commonly referred to as “Fight or Flight.” It increases activity during times of stress and arousal, whether positive or negative. It is active when we are alert, excited, or engaged in physical activity. It prepares us to meet emergencies and threats by increasing our heart rate/respiration/blood pressure, shifting blood away from our digestive system and skin towards our heart, lungs, and the muscles of our extremities, and dilating our pupils. The sympathetic branch acts like the gas pedal of our nervous system. It gives us energy for any action we plan, and it helps to prepare us for threats.

Healthy Nervous System Activation

A healthy nervous system allows us to quickly transition from a state of rest and ease to a state of heightened activation, ready to face the task at hand. This response has been critical to the survival of our species over millions of years.

Experiencing a sudden trauma or the effects of prolonged stress causes our system to contract as we instinctively adopt defensive postures. Breathing becomes quicker and shallower, our digestive systems shut down, and our thinking becomes unclear as we enter into ‘survival’ mode.

The key is that what goes up, must come down, which is what happens in a healthy nervous system response. The energy associated with the heightened level of activation is later discharged when no longer needed. The individual then returns to a normal resting state.

Traumatic Nervous System Activation

Trauma can cause an extreme activation of the nervous system that becomes chronic. The individual is unable to discharge the energy and complete the process causing the nervous system to become “stuck” in that state. This causes that individual’s physiology to respond as if there is a constant threat present.

When there is extreme activation of the SNS (‘Fight or Flight’), the PNS kicks in like an emergency braking mechanism, which dramatically slows all body processes, resulting in the ‘Freeze’ response. This causes a superimposed shutdown over the hyperarousal of the SNS rather than the proper completion of the process, which is a discharge of energy.

Being stuck in a state of nervous system hyperactivation can show up in many different ways. Some of the most common include:

  • ADD/ADHD
  • Anxiety and Panic Attacks
  • Depression
  • Chronic Pain
  • Mood Disorders
  • PTSD
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Migraines and Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • GI Issues
  • Hormone Imbalance
  • Autoimmunity

 

Neurofeedback & Craniosacral Therapy in Brain and Nervous System Regulation

Neurofeedback

Thanks to advancing technology like Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, much of what used to be thought of as strictly physical, mental, or behavioral conditions, we now know are actually brain conditions. These are conditions where brain Dysregulation (altered/impaired regulation and function) is the underlying cause. The symptoms and disease process are merely an outward expression of that dysregulation. This is not a rare occurrence. In fact, at some level, it is universal.

 

Neurofeedback is a computer-brain interface technology often referred to as EEG Biofeedback or Brainwave Training. It is a type of biofeedback in which individuals train to improve their brain function. Based on the patient’s specific needs, the clinician identifies the sensor placement and training frequency to best optimize brain function. Within seconds of beginning the training, the brain gets to work establishing new neural connections. These new networks and firing patterns are initially transient, but after enough training, can become permanent. The resulting new brain organization and resilience often leads to significant improvement and even resolution of common conditions such as the ones listed above.

Craniosacral Therapy

Craniosacral Therapy (CST) is a light-touch manual therapy that primarily focuses on releasing tensions and imbalances within the tissues of the body and restoring healthy tone and resilience to the Autonomic Nervous System. This can involve examining the membranes and movements of the fluids in and around the central nervous system. However, changes in tone and restrictions in any of the body tissues can be problematic, so evaluations are not limited to axial regions. When tensions or imbalances are detected, they are gently released, allowing the body to find its way back to wholeness and fluidity.

The exact mechanism of action is not well understood, but CST has a profound regulating effect on the central nervous system. It moves the system from fixity/fixation to flow. As this physiologic change takes place, often a significant shift occurs in mental and emotional state through the connections of the limbic region and prefrontal cortex. People receiving CST report improvements in emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing.

 

What to Remember

Trauma can come in many forms. The effects of trauma can lead to a chronic hyperactivation of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). That altered state of function wreaks havoc on the mind and body of the individual over time. Neurofeedback and Craniosacral Therapy have emerged as a clinical powerhouse in the restoration of ANS function, leading to health and vitality.

 

Dr. Doug Hanner

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