Craniosacral therapy is a gentle form of bodywork massage that focuses on the upper and lower regions of the spinal cord—the sacrum and the cranium. Practitioners of craniosacral therapy claim that adjustments of the skull’s cranial bones can affect the flow of cerebrospinal fluid to prevent the onset of disease.
Since its arrival in the United States in the 1970s, craniosacral therapy (CST) has gained in popularity. Today, hundreds of licensed therapists treating thousands of patients for a wide variety of physical and mental health ailments practice CST.
CST is a non-invasive therapy that elevates the body’s internal healing capabilities. Read on to find out more about craniosacral therapy and how it might be able to help you manage pain and heal from trauma.
CST At A Glance
Before delving into the specifics of CST, it’s essential first to provide a high-level craniosacral therapy definition. Craniosacral therapy is an alternative medicine with roots in osteopathy. CST involves the gentle manipulation of the bones of the skull to alter one’s “craniosacral rhythm” (i.e., a pulse of 8-14 cycles per minute).
The theory of the cranial rhythm is at the heart of most craniosacral therapy training courses. Based on the speed and strength of one’s cranial rhythm, the practitioner can sense whether their patient’s central nervous system is in good health.
CST combines the benefits of massage, physical therapy, osteopathy, and relaxation training to provide wide-ranging benefits. It is one of the fastest-growing forms of alternative medicine in the United States practiced by hundreds of licensed practitioners worldwide.
What is Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy?
The word “biodynamic” refers to a form of therapy involving the therapist’s monitoring of feedback from the patient’s body. Biodynamic craniosacral therapy requires careful oversight. The therapist must ensure the inner structures of the patient’s skull and nervous system (e.g., the Dural tube) does not sustain any injury in the process.
Biodynamic forms of therapy are holistic. In other words, they allow the therapist to use the body’s natural resources to encourage the free flow of energy throughout the body.
A skilled osteopathic physician will adjust the patient’s autonomic nervous system to release more cerebral spinal fluid. In turn, conditions such as excess stress and chronic fatigue can heal with greater expediency.
Does CST Work?
Cranial sacral therapy is one of the most effective hands-on treatment options for several chronic and acute health conditions. The time it takes to cure a patient of their health condition effectively will depend on the patient’s injury or medical history.
Many patients find immediate success within 1-2 visits to their therapist’s clinic. It may take several more sessions if the patient’s health condition is extensive. Examples include a longstanding traumatic brain injury or recent temporomandibular joint fracture.
Evidence Supporting CST
There is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports CST as a legitimate form of medicine. In one study1, the authors found that CST is effective in treating tension headaches, joint dysfunction, and migraine prophylaxis. The study concluded that the treatment was most effective when combined with exercise other forms of therapy.
A 2015 paper contains one of the most comprehensive studies2 on the efficacy of cranium manipulation for treating tension-type headaches. Alternative forms of treatment, such as CST, are especially recommended for patients who do not respond well to conventional medication.
What Is Palpation?
The term “palpation” refers to the gentle hand movements that practitioners of CST perform on their patients. The biodynamic craniosacral therapist performs palpations on the synarthrodial joint of the cranium. This process triggers myofascial release and stimulates connective tissue throughout the nervous system.
Palpation is a soft, rhythmic movement that is intended to induce relaxation and curb stress. When correctly performed, palpation of the skull will soothe the central nervous system and restore a higher state of overall health and well-being in the patient.
Benefits of Craniosacral Therapy
There are countless well-substantiated benefits of craniosacral therapy. A shortlist of the most common benefits of CST is found below:
• Improved flexibility and bodily mobility
• Normalized digestion and sleep patterns
• Reduced-intensity (and duration) of headaches
• Superior calmness and clarity of mind
• Full muscular and central nervous system alignment
• A greater sense of well-being
The most profound evidence in favor of CST is anecdotal. Although medical science is beginning to take note of the benefits associated with craniosacral therapy, many researchers have yet to explore CST extensively.
To learn more about the benefits of CST, consider speaking to a qualified craniosacral therapist or a former CST patient. Everyone from older adults to infants has successfully undergone CST and led a healthier, liberated life as a result.
The power of therapeutic touch often puts patients in a state of deep relaxation. It’s common for CST patients to fall asleep after a 30-60-minute session of gentle massaging.
Is CST Right for You?
Given the soft, gentle, and non-invasive nature of CST, the therapy is safe and effective for most healthy adults and minors. You should always consult a pediatrician or your family doctor before enrolling your infant child in craniosacral therapy.
There are numerous health conditions that CST may be able to treat. If any of the symptoms or conditions below describe you, consider seeking out craniosacral therapy as an alternative treatment option:
• Chronic fatigue
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Spine trauma
• Traumatic brain injury
• Chronic pain
There’s no harm in trying craniosacral therapy. If you’re unsure about whether this treatment option is right for you, you can book a 30-minute session to see if it can help manage your symptoms.
What To Expect From Craniosacral Therapy
Unlike conventional massage therapists, craniosacral therapists do not use essential oils when performing palpations. They may, however, burn essential oils in the clinic to help set the mood and create a more welcoming and relaxing environment for the patient.
Craniosacral therapy is integrative medicine3. It is not a standalone cure-all. Instead, CST manipulates the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to engender changes in the body and mind. If you find that craniosacral therapy doesn’t manage your symptoms to your satisfaction, consider combining it with another form of treatment. Alternative options include osteopathy and chiropractic therapy.
The word “craniosacral” is a portmanteau of the words “cranium” and “sacrum,” which refer to the upper and lower endpoints of the human spine. This relationship explains why CST professionals fixate on palpating the hip and pelvic girdle, as well as the skull and cranium.
What Is CST’s Relationship with Osteopathy?
Indeed, CST and traditional osteopathy4 are closely aligned. CST was invented in the 1970s by John Upledger, an osteopathic physician who wanted to advance the existing state of cranial osteopathy.
Cranial osteopathy is a refined approach to the bodywork techniques of osteopathy. However, cranial osteopathy focuses on using rhythmic movements to fluctuate the level of cerebrospinal fluid in the sacrum, spinal cord, and Dural membranes. CST is sometimes erroneously conflated with cranial osteopathy, despite being distinct medical practices.
Whereas a materialistic philosophy governs cranial osteopathy, craniosacral therapy takes a different approach by asserting that a biodynamic “life force”5 exists within the human body. CST therapists believe that the release of cerebrospinal fluid can allow this “force” to flow within us and, in turn, result in health advantages.
Start Your CST Transformation
If you need help managing pain, chronic fatigue, or severe illness, consider seeking the services of a craniosacral therapist. Since CST is within the scope of practice for some licensed massage therapists, employer healthcare plans often cover craniosacral therapy.
Speak with a craniosacral therapist or cranial osteopath today about how subtle manipulations of your body’s spinal tissues can create lasting effects regarding your body, mind, and overall sense of well-being.
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