As a survivor of a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in 1997, I experienced all of the negative judgments many disabled persons experience. These judgments are very debilitating to one’s psyche. While in a rehabilitation center for persons with TBI, I voluntarily gave fellow clients and students a neck and shoulder massage. I had no real clue as to what I was doing, just that it felt good and let the other know he or she is cared about. These students encouraged me to become a massage therapist.

Utilizing the center’s vocational director, I sought out massage therapy schools, located one, toured it, and applied for attendance. I graduated in 2001 and became an LMT. Later that year, I volunteered my skills as an inspiration to others at the rehabilitation center. My volunteer services were rejected, yet I was challenged to seek training as a cranial sacral therapist.

I attended the Upledger Cranial Sacral Therapy 1 workshop in Nashville in June 2002 then followed that up with the CST II workshop in 2004. By applying these learned techniques to my clients, I realized that my skills were needed by many but received by few. Therefore, I began marketing my self and skills to the disabled community. One agency upon hearing of me offered me a full-time position as a Direct Support Provider (DSP).

After training, I was assigned to support “N,” a 37-year-old, 20-year post-TBI SCI (Spinal Cord Injury) survivor. This individual is nonambulatory, nonverbal, and unable to feed himself. Knowing of the benefits of CST for TBI-SCI, I began providing “N” CST every night after tuck-in.



“N” is a nonverbal, nonambulatory survivor of TBI with severe damage to his brain stem. His vision was impaired in the accident and the cranial nerves became constricted. To accommodate this impairment he keeps his head hyper tilted to the left which cause him to drool and be unable to work his tongue.

By providing CST and getting him an appointment with a neuro-ophthalmologist, “N” has lost his right side facial droop, is actively moving his tongue and has even began to swallow, not upon command but upon encouragement. One can imagine the stress his parents have been under attempting to care for him alone these many years.



“N’s” Mother, “M,” had been under such stress and one morning during a transfer strained her Right Quadratus Lumborum muscle. This strain caused her to accommodate the pain by tilting her body to the left, which in turn caused the left piriformis to constrict, causing even more pain. Seeing the results I was having with “N,” she asked if I could help her. One night after tucking in “N,” I directed “M” to lie supine on the floor. I then began the CST evaluation that starts at the dorsal foot, or Achilles heel. Tracing the constriction through the various listening stations, I located the primary problem. I began the 10-step protocol and upon completion began deep tissue work on the (D) QL muscle and upon the (S) piriformis muscle. The very next day her feedback was that she had slept better than ever before and that she had no pain and no longer felt off center.

The power of human touch is indescribable, especially when combined with in-depth training or technique modalities such as Cranial Sacral therapy, myofacial release, or reiki. As a TBI SCI survivor and trained LMT, I encourage other practitioners to give as much of themselves in the healing process as they gave to the learning process.


Kelly Sanders, BS LMT, RT CDSP, is a 2001 graduate of The Institute Therapeutic Massage and Movement in Nashville, Tenn. She provides therapy from her home-based office. She can be reached through her Web site,