What is CranioSacral Therapy?
CranioSacral Therapy (CST) is a gentle, hands-on approach to bodywork that releases tensions deep in the body to relieve pain and dysfunction and improve whole-body health and performance. It works with the craniosacral system which is composed of a waterproof membrane filled with cerebrospinal fluid that encases the brain and spinal cord.
It was pioneered and developed by Osteopathic Physician John E. Upledger after years of clinical testing and research at Michigan State University where he served as professor of biomechanics. Craniosacral therapists focus on the removal of restrictive forces within the membrane system surrounding the surface of the brain, the bones of the skull and spinal column, including the sacrum and coccyx.
There are several ways to treat this system, most of them through bony attachments or through direction of energy or treatment of fascia, to alleviate any restrictions that might have accumulated due to injuries or illnesses. CST therapy improves the health of the brain and spinal cord, which in turn, improves the health of the whole body.
CST is increasingly used as a preventive health measure for its ability to bolster resistance to disease and its effectiveness for a wide range of medical problems associated with pain and dysfunction. CST can address issues in whatever way the client wishes: physical aches and pains, acute and chronic disease, emotional disturbances, or simply developing well-being, health and vitality. Craniosacral Therapy is so gentle that it is suitable for babies, children, adults and the elderly, as well as adults in fragile or acutely painful conditions.
How can CST help me?
CST has the capability to help everyone. It is a subtle form of healing that can have excellent results. It can help you by relaxing the nervous system, releasing any physical restrictions and dealing with emotional impacts that affect physical health. A restriction is any impairment to normal motion in the body. Usually restrictions occur in the connective tissue or fascial. People acquire restrictions in body tissue through everyday living, accidents, repetitive actions at work and home, inflammation, stress and emotional trauma without ever noticing it during the actual event. CST works to release these restrictions to reduce pain, improve mood, alleviate stress and restore movement.
CST can also be used as prevention of decreased vitality and a way to achieve and keep optimum health. This is achieved by bringing about improved balance in the craniosacral system which affects systems throughout the body. The craniosacral therapist works with the inner knowing of the body called the Inner Wisdom to help the client’s body heal itself. Many people with chronic illnesses find craniosacral therapy helps either with management of the illness or leads to a significant improvement in symptoms. As a whole-body therapy, treatment can aid almost every condition by enabling the body's own self-healing process to be utilized.
How Craniosacral Therapy Works
CST works by treating restrictions and dysfunction inside the craniosacral system and outside the system in the tissues of the body. Therapist use a soft touch, about the weight of a nickel, to evaluate the craniosacral system by gently feeling various locations of the body to test for the ease of motion and craniosacral rhythm, which is created by the cerebrospinal fluid moving within the brain and spinal cord by way of the PressureStat model. The cerebrospinal fluid holds the nourishment that the nervous system cells need to function properly in much the same way that blood holds the nourishment that body cells need to be healthy and operate for optimum health. When the craniosacral system works without restrictions, body systems can work effectively, health improves and the client feels better.
Specific techniques are used by craniosacral therapist to release any restrictions or imbalances, creating the best possible environment for the brain and spinal cord inside the craniosacral system. The craniosacral system surrounds, protects and nourishes the brain and spinal cord that make up the central nervous system. Few structures have as much influence over the body's ability to function properly as the brain and spinal cord. By normalizing the craniosacral system around the brain and spinal cord and treating restrictions in other body tissues, CST helps eliminate the negative effects of stress, strengthens resistance to disease, alleviates a wide variety of dysfunctions from chronic pain to neurological impairment and enhances overall health and well-being.
How many sessions will I need for my problem?
The number of sessions can vary with each client. It depends on how long the client has had the problem, any underlying health issues, how quickly their bodies respond to treatment and the goals of the client for the treatment. I recommend that clients come for three sessions in a one-month time because I have seen that most clients receive significant progress in symptom relief during this time. If an acute injury brings the client to my office, often the problem will resolve within two to three sessions. After three sessions with every client, the client and I review their treatment goals and re-evaluate the treatment plan. If they are satisfied with their progress after three treatments, I recommend monthly “tune-ups” to keep their systems in balance. Monthly tune-up sessions are part of a maintenance mode requiring less frequent but continuous visits to resolve new or repetitive injuries as in the case of athletes or work-related restrictions.
If after three sessions, the client desires more progress, I recommend two or three more sessions and then re-evaluate. If little progress has been made or the treatment has plateaued, it may be that they need to be referred to another therapist or another branch of medical care. It is important to include the client in the treatment review process, listen to their feedback and work with them on their treatment goals. I tell my clients that they will know when they are finished with the treatment when they won’t even think about coming to my office.
I didn't feel much, why not?
The viscous-elastic phenomenon for CST translates into lighter forces produce better results. Many clients will come into a Craniosacral therapist’s office with only the knowledge of previous body treatments. They have received heavy palpation therapies such as myofascial release, chiropractic care or deep tissue massage. Heavy palpation helped them in the past, but the pain and dysfunction has persisted. It is up to the Craniosacral therapist to educate and demonstrate how a light tough can have a profound impact on body systems. When a first-time client enters my office, I explain how CST works and how melding with their body allows the healing therapy to go much deeper than superficial tissue. My goal is to be as unobtrusive as possible in treating the body and the craniosacral system. This allows me to experience a sense of melding with the client. When the session is complete, I ask for input from the client and many say they don’t understand how the gentle touch works, but they do feel better. I explain how even though it seems as if I barely touched them, my touch permeated deep into layers of their muscles, fascia and craniosacral system. Post-session education needs to include the need to drink a lot of water, the knowledge that the body can continue to change for up to 72 hours after a treatment and an awareness of muscle soreness after treatment. Many clients marvel at the deep level of relaxation perceived during or after as session as changes occur and the body rebalances itself.
How come I feel pain in my _____ when I didn't feel it at the beginning of the session?
There are several reasons for feeling a new or different pain during a session:
CST fires up new nerve connections. As restrictions are released, energy is released and new connections can be made which creates new sensations or pain.
When a restriction is released that was a compensatory restriction, the body may feel the original pain that was being masked by the compensatory restriction. It is much like wearing a leg cast. When the cast is removed and the person starts to place weight on the leg again, the leg pain may reappear because it was splinted by the cast.
As restrictions are lifted and the body rebalances, toxins are released and improved nutrient flow occurs and nerves can function better. This process sometimes manifests itself as pain especially as toxins are released and enter fluid circulation in the body.
CST will dredge up old emotional or physical pains that had gone away. This is a positive move toward healing as the old pains had not disappeared, they were simply dormant and waiting to reappear at another time. The dredging up offers opportunity for total correction of the problem.
New improved positioning of bodily structures can involve stretching or contracting muscles as positions are corrected and this can produce some initial discomfort as proper alignment is established. Once the rebalancing is complete, the pain should decrease and the flow of nutrients and waste products occurs more freely.
Where CranioSacral Therapy falls in relation to the other types of bodywork.