Updated: May 9
What is Craniosacral Therapy?
Craniosacral therapy (or CST) is a treatment approach directed at normalizing the mobility of the craniosacral system which can have a beneficial effect on improving the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid to the nervous system. Techniques used in craniosacral therapy are based on initial discoveries of the skull by a man named Dr. William Garner Sutherland in the early 1900's. John Upledger, considered to be the modern founder of CST, further developed the techniques in the 1970's into a practice that thousands of practitioners now offer to clients worldwide. The craniosacral system includes the cranium or skull cavity, spine, sacrum (the triangular bone between the two pelvic bones) and fascial membranes connecting those structures as well as the cerebrospinal fluid within. The nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord, is also housed within this system. Cerebrospinal fluid bathes the brain and spinal cord. It supplies nutrients and removes metabolic waste products as well as toxins from the nervous system tissues. The cerebrospinal fluid is rhythmically exchanged with the venous system in the ventricles of the brain at a rate of roughly 6-12 cycles per minute.
CST is a non-invasive, gentle manual therapy performed at the head and face, spine and sacrum. The practitioner will evaluate these areas to determine the quality, rate, symmetry and amplitude of the craniosacral rhythm in order to detect what areas might be contributing to pain or tension. Subtle corrections are then performed to aid the client in releasing these tension points which can then allow a more balanced craniosacral rhythm to occur.
Craniosacral therapy and self healing
One of the foundational principles of CST is the idea that the human body is capable of self healing. In other words, self correction can occur given the right circumstances and the body will return to a state of balance or homeostasis.
The impact of stress on health and the importance of a balanced autonomic nervous system are widely accepted concepts and well documented within the current literature. The autonomic branch of our nervous system governs digestion, respiration, heart rate, blood pressure and also impacts hormone balance and immune function. In order to better access self-healing and repair mechanisms, it is critical that the nervous system be able to return to a parasympathetic state ( the "rest and digest" state). CST allows the client to gain a greater understanding and self awareness of internal stress signals and sensations that may be impacting the balance of the autonomic nervous system.
What conditions can be treated successfully with CST?
CST has been studied for treating fibromyalgia, TMJ disorders, migraine headaches, dementia, multiple sclerosis, post concussion syndrome, chronic low back pain, chronic neck pain, autism, anxiety, depression and even colic in infants.
What are the benefits of CST?
CST helps to promote relaxation and can reduce tension in the body. In a 2011, a descriptive outcome study was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reviewing the effectiveness of Upledger Craniosacral therapy. Patients sought help for headaches/migraines, neck and back pain, or anxiety and depression. The results showed 74% reported an improvement in their presenting problem, 67% reported an improvement in general well-being and secondary symptoms, and 70% were able to decrease or discontinue use of medications.
CST may reduce neck pain. A 2016 study published in Clinical Journal of Pain compared CST to sham light touch therapy and found that CST offered more benefit.
CST can contribute to improved quality of life, sleep and decreased anxiety, pain and depression in patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia according to a study published by Evidence Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine in 2011.
The use of hands on therapy approaches for the treatment of symptoms associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) remains controversial, but there is some evidence that patients respond well to CST. More research is still needed, but positive outcomes have included a reduction in symptoms associated with ASD including decreased irritability, hyperactivity and sensory abnormalities as well as improved motor coordination.
CST can assist with symptoms of post-concussion syndrome and is defined by the World Health Organization as persistence of three or more of the following symptoms: headache, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, concentration or memory difficulties. Sleep and heart rate variability (HRV) have also been shown to be negatively impacted by concussion. HRV is a reflection of the parasympathetic-sympathetic nervous system balance. Current estimates are that up to 8% of high school athletes suffer concussion. It was originally thought that children were less affected by concussion. However, children and teenagers are more likely to have more diffuse injury to the brain as well as prolonged brain swelling due to an increased sensitivity to changes in cerebral blood flow and metabolic dysregulation. CST has been show to assist in the healing of the neurological, vascular, and autonomic components of post-concussion syndrome
CST can offer help to infants dealing with discomfort or other signs of physical and mental stress and is sometimes recommended as a treatment following foreceps or an emergency C-section extraction. Colic, teething symptoms, breast feeding difficulties and constipation are other issues that have been known to improve with CST. CST is considered safe for infants due to how gentle and non-invasive the treatments.
Please reach out for further information to find out if Craniosacral Therapy is right for you or Book a session online here.
Craniosacral Therapy for Depression, Neck Pain & Headaches. Dr. Axe Website. Accessed March 3rd, 2023 <https://draxe.com/craniosacral-therapy>
Wetzler, G, Roland, M, Fryer-Dietz, S, Dettmann-Ahern, D, 2017, Craniosacral Therapy and Visceral Manipulation: A New Treatment Intervention for Concussion Recovery, Medical Acupuncture Volume 29, Number 4
Chernick, Y, Concussion and Post-concussion Syndrome, Massage Therapy Canada, Accessed March 3rd, 2030 <www.massagetherapycanada.com/content/view/1982/132/>