Craniosacral Therapy (CST) is an alternative therapy that involves a gentle technique of evaluating and enhancing the functioning of a physiological system of the body called the Craniosacral system. Cranium is the part of the skull that encloses the brain, and the sacrum is a part of the lower spine. Thus, the Craniosacral system is comprised of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.
Using a soft touch generally no greater than 5 grams, practitioners release restrictions in the Craniosacral system to improve the functioning of the central nervous system. By complementing the body's natural healing processes, CST is increasingly used as a preventive health measure for its ability to bolster resistance to disease, and is effective for a wide range of medical problems associated with pain and dysfunction, including migraine, neck and back pains, central nervous system disorders, chronic fatigue, Fibromyalgia etc.
Craniosacral therapy was originated after the work of osteopath William G. Sutherland in America in the early 1900s. He published his first article on this subject in the early 1930s. Sutherland discovered intrinsic movements of the bones in the head and his further research revealed inherent rhythms in this system. After detailed clinical observation he claimed that these movements can be measured with delicate scientific instruments and that they are a direct expression of health, and offer a way of working with the physical as well as the more subtle aspects of life. He further observed that these movements are inextricably linked with mental and emotional health. Restriction of movement corresponds to a reduction of the natural capacity to self-heal.
Today's leading proponent of CST is John Upledger who operates the Upledger Institute in Florida. John Upledger conducted extensive scientific studies related to CST from 1975 to 1983 at Michigan State University, where he served as a clinical researcher and Professor of Biomechanics.
The rhythm of the Craniosacral system can be detected in much the same way as the rhythms of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. But unlike those body systems, both evaluation and correction of the craniosacral system can be accomplished through palpation. Proponents of CST claim that
- The human brain makes rhythmic movements at a rate of 10 to 14 cycles per minute, a periodicity unrelated to breathing or heart rate.
- Small cranial pulsations can be felt with the fingertips.
- Restriction of movement of the cranial sutures (where the skull bones meet) interfere with the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord) and cause disease.
- Diseases can be diagnosed by detecting aberrations in this rhythm.
- Pain (especially of the jaw joint) and many other ailments can be remedied by pressing on the skull bones.
In a typical craniosacral session, you will usually lie (or sometimes sit) fully-clothed on a mat or a couch. The therapist will make contact by placing their hands lightly on your body and tuning in to what is happening by ‘listening’ with their hands. Contact is made carefully so that you will feel at ease with what is happening. The first thing you will probably notice is a sense of deep relaxation, which will generally last throughout the session. With subsequent treatments this release of tension often extends into everyday life. The work can address physical aches and pains, acute and chronic disease, emotional or psychological disturbances, or simply help to develop well-being, health and vitality. Sometimes the benefits are not immediately noticeable but become obvious on returning to a familiar environment.
Most practitioners are osteopaths, massage therapists, chiropractors, dentists, or physical therapists. The other terms used to describe what they do include cranial osteopathy, cranial therapy and bio cranial therapy.
Side effects to the therapy have been reported to be rare. These include diarrhea and headache. Because a manipulation of bones are involved these have to be done very gently and only a trained practitioner should do the treatment.
- The Upledger Institute
- Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America
- Craniosacral Therapy Association