As Structural Integration practitioners, our primary focus when working within the body’s structural core is on the radial and vertical alignment of the transverse planes and respiratory diaphragms. It is the vertical and radial alignment of these transverse planes that in turn support the structural integrity of the core and its ability to transfer motion through the body’s inner vertical center. And it is the mobility and alignment of these transverse diaphragms that support our clients’ abilities to be grounded and centered.
When working within the body’s uppermost structural core, our focus is on the alignment and mobility of the plural diaphragm / thoracic outlet, the floor of the mouth / cranial base, the maxillary dome / roof of the mouth, and the transverse plane of the body and greater wings of the sphenoid.
The structural integrity and mobility of the plural diaphragm is most obviously affected by torsional forces between the uppermost portion of the thoracic cavity and shoulder girdle, and chronic flexion of the cervical spine and throat. Good indicators of the structural balance across this transverse plane are the horizontal plane crossing between the first and second ribs and spine of the scapula, and the radial alignment between the neck and thorax.
The horizontal alignment of both the plural diaphragm and the floor of the mouth / cranial base are important considerations when seeking to support the balance and long-term stability between the thoracic and cervical spinal curvatures. Additionally, the neurovascular implications of anterior / posterior and radial imbalance between the cranial base and cervical spine cannot be overstated. It will be difficult to adequately address Trigeminal and Vagus nerve compression without addressing misalignment between the cranial base, cervical spine and plural diaphragm.
The inability of the cranial base to fully retract and of the basal portions of the temporal and occipital bones to easily glide both forward and back is a major concern when attempting to address trauma to the neck and head. It is critical that the cranial base can easily retract without causing the cervical spine to flatten or rotate before normal cervical alignment and mobility can be reestablished!
It will, of course, be difficulty to align and support cranial base retraction and protraction without first releasing the myofascial layers adhered to the internal surfaces of the mandible. Adhesions of the longus colli to the anterior surface of the cervical spine, of the suboccipital layers to the occipital base, and of the myofascial layers to the inferior portions of the sphenoid and temporal bones must all be addressed.
The roof of the mouth / maxillary diaphragm, in many respects, functions like the keystone of an archway, and its position and ability to move reflect the structural alignment and functional integrity of the head’s structural core. Torsion between the cranial vault and maxillary diaphragm, side-to-side imbalance between the temporal arches and temporal bones, temporomandibular joint imbalance and cranial base strain will all significantly affect the position of the maxilla and the sphenoid’s ability to pivot at its greater wings.
The transverse plane through the center of the head and the sphenoid’s ability to pivot on its horizontal plane at its greater wings are primary concerns when assessing the structural and functional integrity of the entire core. The inability or inability of the sphenoid to pivot at its greater wings reflects its ability or inability to shift forward and back at its lesser wings, and to retract with the cranial base. It also reflects its ability or inability to resist being forced to rotate at its lateral margins with the maxillary and temporal bones, and to move at its ethmoid and lacrimal bony margins.
Before sphenoid mobility can be reestablished, it must be freed to move at its attachments to the ethmoid and lacrimal bones, at its pterygoid attachments to its lesser wings, at its basal attachment to the cranial base and at its attachments to the lateral margins of the maxilla and temporal bones.
While these efforts may seem overly complicated and burdensome, they are, in fact, a realistic assessment of what it will take to achieve alignment and mobility of the upper core. All of these bones are like pieces of an interlocking puzzle, and all must be able to move without constraint. When they do, and the sphenoid is freed to function optionally, amazing things can happen!