Craniosacral Therapy

Craniosacral Therapy (CST) is a non-invasive,light-touch hands-on therapy that enhances the body's natural capacity for healing. For 30 years CST has been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of physiological issues associated with pain and loss of biomechanical, systemic and emotional function/wellbeing. CST is useful both as a primary treatment method and in combination with other traditional (physiotherapy) or complementary (massage) therapeutic techniques.

The Therapeutic Value of the Craniosacral System

We are all familiar with the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Like them, the craniosacral system also influences many of the body’s functions. An imbalance in this system can adversely affect the brain and the spinal cord which can result in sensory, motor and intellectual dysfunction. The name craniosacral is derived from the system’s associated bones. Included are those of the skull, face and mouth – which make up the cranium - and of the spinal column which extends down to the sacrum. Membranes enclosing a hydraulic system connect the craniosacral system.

CST has been used successfully to relieve numerous health problems, including:

  • Migraines
  • Neck and back pain
  • TMJ dysfunction
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • PTSD (see video of Vietnam Veterans who had CST)
  • Central nervous system disorders and many others
  • Because it’s so gentle, it’s been proven effective for all ages, from the newborn to elders.

In the early 1900’s, as an osteopathic student in Kirksville, Missouri, Dr. William G Sutherland was struck by an idea. He saw that the bones of the skull were designed to provide for movement in relationship with each other. For more than 20 years he pondered the prospect of moveable bones in the adult skull. He performed experiments on himself with helmet-like devices designed to impose variable and controlled pressures on different parts of his head. 

William Garner Sutherland

His wife recorded the results of personality changes he displayed in response to different pressure applications; he described head pain, problems with coordination etc., related to the various pressures. In the early 1930’s, under a pseudonym in the Minnesota Osteopathic Journal, Dr Sutherland published his first article about his work. Based on his experiments, he developed a system of examination and treatment for the bones of the skull. With some patient success, Dr. Sutherland organized a small group of osteopaths who studied cranial work with him. His system became known as Cranial Osteopathy.

Craniosacral Therapy Laurence HattersleyCraniosacral Therapy Laurence HattersleyCraniosacral Therapy Laurence Hattersley

Craniosacral Therapy (CST)

In the 1970’s, during surgery on a patient’s neck, Dr Upledger viewed the rhythmical movement of dura mater, the outer layer of the meningeal membranes, in the neck visibly moved in and out at about 10 cycles per second. None of his colleagues nor any of the medical texts had an explanation for his observation. He concluded that the pressure in the membrane sac was fluctuating rhythmically. Two years later Dr Upledger attended a seminar which explained Dr Sutherland’s ideas and taught some of his evaluation and treatment techniques. Coupling his scientific background with a tactile sensitivity, Dr Upledger was quick to understand how a hydraulic system might function inside a membranous sac encased within the skull and the canal of the spinal column. He incorporated and refined Dr Sutherland’s techniques with success.

Craniosacral Therapy Laurence HattersleyCraniosacral Therapy Laurence HattersleyCraniosacral Therapy Laurence Hattersley

For 20 years, osteopathic physician and surgeon John Upledger has been the chief proponent of using the craniosacral system to evaluate and treat medical problems associated with pain and dysfunction. His research and clinical work with the craniosacral rhythm has led to the development of CST, a light-touch manipulative approach which as been effective with poorly understood dysfunctions, chronic pain, lowered vitality, recurring infections and PTSD, with which he has achieved great results with Vietnam Veterans).

The positive effect of CST relies to a large extent upon the patient’s natural self-corrective physiological activities. The therapist’s light, hands-on approach assists the hydraulic forces inherent in the craniosacral system to improve the internal environment. Because of its influence on many bodily functions, CST is used by a wide variety of healthcare professionals including osteopaths, medical doctors, physiotherapists, massage therapists and acupuncturists.

Why Craniosacral Therapy Matters So Much to You

Few structures in your body have as much influence over its ability to function properly as the brain and spinal cord that make up your central nervous system. And few systems have as much impact on the brain and spinal cord as the soft tissues and fluid that surround and protect them — the craniosacral system.

Every day the body endures stresses and strains and your structures compensate for them. Unfortunately, over time these compensations can cause your soft tissue to tighten and distort the craniosacral system, which in turn can put pressure on the brain and spinal cord.

The result? A barrier to the healthy performance of your central nervous system — and potentially every other system with which it interacts.

Craniosacral Therapy is designed to release those soft-tissue tensions. Practitioners use a soft touch — starting with the weight of a small coin — to evaluate how well your craniosacral system is performing. Then they use gentle techniques to release any tensions they find.

By restoring the best possible environment for your brain and spinal cord, CST naturally helps the rest of your body self-correct. It eliminates the negative effects of stress, strengthens your resistance to disease, and enhances your overall health and well-being.

People have a belief that life is difficult and healing is painful. CST helps them let go of that belief. The healing process can be much more gentle and subtle.” — S.H., Abbeville, La.