What is Cerebrospinal Fluid?


What exactly is Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF)?

Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) is the clear fluid that surrounds, protects, cleans, and nourishes the brain and spinal cord. It has many functions in our bodies, but we will only briefly discuss a few here.

Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) protects the brain from injury (acting as a cushion during trauma), maintains buoyancy for the brain to support its own weight, and has been shown to clean out the natural metabolic toxins and waste from the brain and spine each day. Furthermore, CSF regulates the distribution of neuroendocrine (hormone) factors through the blood-brain barrier, decreases intracranial pressure (pressure inside your head and brain), and facilitates more blood flow to the brain when needed. In short, it is a very important substance in our body, and proper circulation of CSF fluid is vital to balanced health and healing. 

What is the Circulation of Cerebrospinal System?

Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) flow is a complicated multidirectional system of pumping with the aid of the circulatory system (heartbeat) and of motions of the body. For our purposes here, we will simply discuss the basic movements of CSF in the body.

CSF is produced in ventricles of the brain and flows in a somewhat circular system. CSF is pumped around the brain, through the base of the skull, and into the dural sac that surrounds the spinal cord. This sac or tube contains the CSF as it flows all the way down to the base of the spine to the sacrum (the big triangular bone above the tailbone). Then with the subtle pumping motion of the Sacrum, it is pumped back up to the skull and out into the circulatory system.

This CSF Circulation is important for a number of reasons. We like to make an analogy of the dural sac being like a hose. If a hose is free of obstruction then the water flows freely and easily. Putting tension on the outside of the hose or kinking it will not only affect the flow but also the amount of water flowing out of the end. When we restrict the flow of the dural sac the body will respond, if possible, by reducing production of CSF as to make sure there will not be a back up of fluid creating pressure on the brain. It seems self explanatory that reducing the amount of a fluid that cleans, nourishes, and supports our body would not be a good thing!

Disturbances or restriction in the CSF rhythms, amounts, and/or circulation have been seen in many types of neurological conditions; such as, MS, Hydrocephaly, Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson’s Disease, and more. 

How Can the AO Technique affect CSF Flow?

The Atlas Orthogonal (AO) technique focuses on the upper most vertebra of the spine, C1, and is arguably the most significant and important area of the spinal column. A misalignment of the atlas can essentially create a “kink” in the spine resulting in altered CSF flow. As discussed above, a restriction of the CSF flow can have affect an individual’s body in many different ways.

Using complex x-ray analysis, the AO technique uses an instrument to properly and precisely align the C1 vertebra. A properly functioning cervical spine can reestablish CSF flow, release restrictions throughout the remaining vertebrae of the spine, and relieve nerve restriction.

A case study about the affects that the AO technique can have on CSF flow shows not only how CSF flow increased after an AO Adjustment, but also how that increase of flow helped those in the study find relief from their MS symptoms. We hope more studies will be done soon, but until then, feel free to read the above mentioned study here. For more information about the AO Technique, check out our What is Atlas Orthogonal page.

How Can Craniosacral Therapy Affect CSF Flow?

Craniosacral Therapy uses gentle techniques to help the body increase balanced motion by releasing restrictions in the connective tissue of the body, called fascia. By relieving restrictions, or tightness, in the connective tissue the needed mobility for the body to efficiently “pump” CSF fluid increases.  There is a very subtle pumping motion created in the tissues of the cranial (head) and the sacrum (base of the spine) that when not restricted work to help move CSF through the body.

One common area that we see this restriction in an individual’s body is when a child or adult is constantly rocking or moving back and forth when sitting in a stable chair. That motion can be the result of the sacrum being too restricted to assist in the pumping of the CSF and by rocking those individuals are actually manually assisting that needed movement! We have seen many people come in and find relief from that type of sacral restriction, and then they no longer feel the need to keep rocking back and forth.

In children, sometimes hitting their heads against objects of even hitting with themselves in the head with their hands is a way to try to facilitate the pumping in the cranial system. Craniosacral Therapy can have great affects with releasing the tension in the head and thus restoring the natural flow of CSF. For more information, check out our What is Craniosacral Therapy page.

Want Even More Information About CSF?

We could geek out all day about this, but realize not everyone wants to learn about it as much as we like to talk about it! If you would like to learn more, we would suggest trying the link below. Wikipedia can be an awesome source of information; try this link for more in-depth details of the Circulation of CSF.

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