Demystifying and Explaining CranioSacral Therapy

CranioSacral Therapy (CST) originates from a concept explored in the 1900’s by Osteopath Dr. William Sutherland that the bones of the cranium move amongst each other and can create pressure on the brain. With his research, he developed Cranial Osteopathy. In the 1970’s, American Dr. John Upledger noticed the craniosacral rhythm while assisting in a spinal surgery.

This observation piqued his interest and led to his study of Cranial Osteopathy and further research into the relationship of the structures between the cranium and sacrum. Dr. Upledger coined the term CranioSacral Therapy and developed the CST curriculum, which is currently taught internationally.

CranioSacral Therapy can be difficult to explain so I will break it down into several elements:
Cranio refers to the cranium, which houses the brain. Sacral refers to the sacrum, which is your tailbone and marks the end of your spinal column. CranioSacral therapy involves the evaluation and treatment of the physiological forces and structures between these two points.

The CranioSacral (CS) rhythm is essentially the pulse of the brain and spinal cord and is created by the movement of cerebrospinal fluid between the two structures. Like the rhythm of the breath or the pulse of blood from and to the heart, the CS rhythm can be felt throughout the body by anyone taught to tap into the frequency. By evaluating this rhythm, a CST practitioner can identify restrictions in the body.

The body loves to be in motion.

Every cell, tissue, and organ needs to be able to move freely in order to function correctly. With physical or emotional trauma and injury, adhesions and structural deformities can develop which lead to restricted motion of the tissues involved. Over the years, this increasingly puts stress on the adjacent structures to the restriction and ultimately affects the entire body.

The role of a CST practitioner is not to forcibly correct the body, but rather to encourage the body to correct itself, which leads to a more fundamental change and often disappearance of chronic symptoms. The idea is that if the systems of the body are balanced, then it has the ability to heal itself.
Because of the direct connection with the brain and spinal cord, CST also has an effect on the Autonomic Nervous System, often causing a feeling of deep calm or groundedness during and after the treatment. Treatment of this system enables the body to respond to stress and challenges better which can help improve a patient’s energy level.

A CST treatment can be considered effective if releases are present during or after treatment. A release can be expressed as a physical release of adhered structures or an emotional release involving thoughts and feelings surrounding an event of trauma or injury. Releases may be experienced in many different ways are often very individual.

Conditions treated by CST include, but are not limited to:

Migraine or chronic headaches, chronic neck and back pain, motor-coordination impairments, colic, autism, central nervous system disorders, orthopedic problems, traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, scoliosis, infantile disorders, learning disabilities, chronic fatigue, emotional difficulties, stress and tension-related problems, fibromyalgia, connective-tissue disorders, jaw dysfunction, immune disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, post-surgical dysfunction, digestive disorders and fertility impairments.

What to expect during treatment:

CST can be combined with other modalities (massage, chiropractic, acupuncture etc.) Therefore there may be requirements for positioning or undress related to those practices. If CST is the sole modality then it is performed with the patient lying, fully clothed, on their back on a massage table.

Using their hands, the practitioner will then connect with specific points on the body between the sacrum and cranium with very slight (roughly 5 grams, or the weight of a nickel) of pressure. The treatment and evaluation can be very much entwined, often involving the same or similar hand positioning.

The patient is encouraged to relax, breathe and connect with their body in order to facilitate the unwinding process. A belief in or understanding of CST is not required for benefits, but it can help to make the process more efficient. Your practitioner should guide you through the process, helping to give you a deeper understanding of what your body is trying to tell you.

What to look for in a CST practitioner:

While many may practice CST, it is not regulated by provincial or national guidelines, therefore it is important to look for a practitioner that is registered by another provincial or national College and has a background in anatomy, physiology and medical conditions. This may include a Registered Massage Therapist, Chiropractor, Naturopath, Physiotherapist, or Dentist just to name a few.

– Article Prepared by Lisa Schneider, RMT

*The information contained is intended for educational purposes and is not intended to diagnose, treat or prevent illness or disease.