How Craniosacral Therapy Works
What is Craniosacral Therapy?
The Dr. William Sutherland, one of the originators of cranial work, talked of five characteristics of the body and this is a framework that can be used to explain how and why Craniosacral therapy works:
- ‘The mobility of the cranial bones’
Medical professionals will tell you that most of the bones in the head are fused from around the age of around two. However there are two key bones in the head that are joined by cartilage. The Spheno-basilar synchondrosis – joint between the big bone at the back of the head (Occiput) and the butterfly shaped bone in the centre of your skull (Sphenoid), which your pituitary gland sits upon. The fact that this joint is made of cartilage indicates to some that it’s actually been designed to move. The edges of many other bones in the head are bevelled in a way that permits tiny movements.
- ‘The reciprocal tension of the membranes’
Membranes (or Fascia) cover everything in the body and run from the top of your head to your toes, covering organs and bones – everything is therefore connected. This is why, for example, bumping your right hip this can have repercussions in other parts in your body, you may get a pain in your left shoulder or discomfort in your left knee and so on. The reciprocal tension in the membranes is also one of the reasons working on one part of a body can have an impact elsewhere.
- ‘The motility of the Central Nervous System’
There are 12 cranial nerves that originate in the brain and brain stem. They travel out though various holes in the bones of your skull, to the face and down the neck and spine, travelling out to the organs and muscles in your body. These nerves are continually feeding messages back and forth between brain and all of the bodily systems - controlling the organs (including lungs (respiratory system); stomach, intestines & gall bladder (digestive system); kidneys, liver & bladder (excretory / urinary system), immune system and hormones (reproductive system & endocrine system)), limbs and emotions. Working with the nervous system, via gentle touch at the head and spine, can thus improve all manner of problems; from anxiety, insomnia and depression, to teeth grinding, IBS and the functioning of the urinary system.
- ‘The fluctuation of the Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF)’
This fluid is made in the brain and surrounds both the brain and spinal cord, as well as the entire surface of the central nervous system. Craniosacral therapists understand that this fluid moves up and down the spine supported by a movement of the sacrum and causing minute movements of the bones in the face and head, as long as these bones are not wedged or trapped in some way as a result of tensions in the muscles or membranes.
- ‘The involuntary motion of the sacrum’
Minute movements of the sacrum generate a wavelike motion of the CSF which bathes the nerves in the spine and brain. This motion is sometimes described by Craniosacral therapists as the ‘breath of life’ or ‘primary respiration’ as Dr Sutherland called it. If cranial or spinal bones are misaligned or there are other blockages, the motion can be inhibited and have negative effects on wellbeing. Craniosacral therapy also helps to release tensions in the muscles and body generally, which can support a well-aligned posture and flow of cerebrospinal fluid.
Craniosacral therapists work with the whole body via the bones, nervous system, fascia and the Cerebrospinal fluid. By ‘listening’ to the body through gentle touch, restrictions or blockages are identified and released. These releases of tension can maintain health, wellbeing and immunity, as well as ward off depression, musculo-skeletal dysfunction, pain and stress. It’s also great for babies, as well as many postnatal issues. Things like colic and crying are often a result of the shock and trauma associated with birth and these are commonly released and remedied by Craniosacral therapy.
Supporting the free flow of this ‘breath of life’ through craniosacral therapy often means the body is able to successfully find its own way back to health.
People often seek help with the following
Crying and unsettled babies
Problems with feeding and sleeping
Digestive issues including colic
Treatment following birth
Autism, learning and behavioural issues, and ADHD
Anxiety, sleep disturbances and nightmares
Muscular aches and strains; skeletal problems
General pain relief, including Migraine, neck pain and back pain
Sinusitis, Tinnitus, Insomnia, Fatigue
Anxiety and stress related conditions, TMJ problems and teeth grinding
Support during pregnancy, birth and postnatally
Research into the Effectiveness of Craniosacral Therapy
Here is a list of some of the research papers that exist that detail CST’s potential usefulness in the treatment of specific issues.
|ADHD & Autism||A 2017 retrospective survey explored the use of CST for persons with ASD. Participants included practitioners, parents and clients. It was found that there were positive responses observed by all three groups and that concluded that there as worth cause to further investigate how CST benefits autistic spectrum disorders.|
|General pain||A systematic review in 2012 found that "pain and quality of life/general well-being can be improved by the use of craniosacral therapy".|
|Lower back pain||A Polish study (2014) concluded that “Craniosacral therapy may effectively reduce the intensity and frequency of pain in patients with non-specific low back pain”, “Craniosacral therapy reduces the resting tension of the multifidus muscle in patients with non-specific lumbosacral pain” and “Craniosacral therapy may be clinically effective in the treatment of patients with non-specific lumbosacral spine pain”.|
|The results from an Icelandic study (2012) indicated that “Craniosacral therapy can alleviate migraine symptoms”.
2017 study showed that Craniosacral therapy is an effective treatment strategy for patients of Cervicogenic Headache as measured on HIT-6 during a 3 week treatment program.
|Neck pain||A 2015 trial showed “CST was both specifically effective and safe in reducing neck pain intensity and may improve functional disability and the quality of life up to 3 months after intervention”.|
|Quality of life/general well-being||A systematic review in 2012 found that "pain and quality of life/general well-being can be improved by the use of craniosacral therapy".|
|Fibromyalgia||A 2011 trial showed “Craniosacral therapy improved medium-term pain symptoms (and Heart Rate Variability) in patients with fibromyalgia”.
A 2009 study showed how approaching fibromyalgia by means of craniosacral therapy contributes to improving anxiety and quality of life levels in these patients.
|Multiple Sclerosis||A 2009 study looked at the effect of CST on urinary tract signs and symptoms in MS|
|Dementia||Findings of a 2008 study with 9 patients with dementia over a 6 week period–indicated a statistically significant reduction in MCMAI total and subscale scores (measures of agitation / aggressiveness) during the intervention period. This reduction continued during postintervention for subscale scores of physical nonaggression and verbal agitation.|
|Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)||A 2009 research study involving 38 Tibetan ex-political prisoners in exile concluded that PTSD could be treated with craniosacral therapy.
Results of the pilot study found that survey scores for anxiety and somatic complaints of the participants who received the Craniosacral Therapy decreased and were statistically significant. Source: American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
The craniosacral therapy association have also identified a number of studies that, taken together, provide a glimpse of how effective craniosacral therapy and cranial osteopathy can be. Please click on the links below to read more on their website.
Children & CST including colic, crying, ADHD, cerebral palsy, middle ear issues
CST Technique - a mixture of papers on the method generally and its results
CST & Neurology - Fibromyalgia, dementia, Bells palsy, brain injury, MS and the urinary system
 These were largely gathered from the Craniosacral Therapy Association Research pages and Upledger Institute website
What people say...
I have suffered from back pain for more than 20 years, not helped by poor posture and a lot of long distance travel by car and plane. I regularly saw chiropractors and osteopaths but had always been sceptical of cranial osteopathy and especially CST, until I met Lindsey. Lindsey is extremely knowledgeable about the ‘science’ behind the treatment which for a sceptic like me was really helpful. Lindsey also has a lovely way about her which instantly makes you feel at ease during treatment. I had 2 sessions with Lindsey over 2 months ago and I haven’t had back pain since despite a number of long haul flights and taking up running again, which is always a catalyst for discomfort for me. The treatment has also helped with my heartburn and even more amazingly simply makes me feel incredibly relaxed and calmer with the world.
What people say...
Lindsey is a truly holistic healer. I started my cranio-sacral therapy as part of my alternative health regime on my road to recovering from cancer. The therapy is deeply relaxing and I always feel so much better, physically and emotionally, after my treatments.
Lindsey draws on all her talent and knowledge to give an exceptional experience to her clients. If you are looking for cranio-sacral therapy I recommend Lindsey without any hesitation.