Craniosacral therapy (also called CST, also spelled CranioSacral bodywork or therapy) is an alternative medicine therapy used by osteopaths, massage therapists, naturopaths, and chiropractors.
A craniosacral therapy session involves the therapist placing their hands on the patient, which allows them to tune into what they call the craniosacral rhythm. The practitioner gently works with the spine and the skull and its cranial sutures, diaphragms, and fascia. In this way, the restrictions of nerve passages are eased, the movement of cerebrospinal fluid through the spinal cord is optimized, and misaligned bones are restored to their proper position. Craniosacral therapists use the therapy to treat mental stress, neck and back pain, migraines,TMJ Syndrome, and for chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia.
A typical craniosacral therapy session is performed with the client fully clothed, lying down with face up, and usually lasts about one hour. In the Upledger method of craniosacral therapy, a ten-step protocol serves as a general guideline, which includes (1) analyzing the base (existing) cranial rhythm, (2) creating a still point in that rhythm at the base of the skull, (3) rocking the sacrum, (4) lengthening the spine in the lumbar-sacral region, (5) addressing the pelvic, respiratory and thoracic diaphragms, (6) releasing the hyoid bone in the throat, and (7-10) addressing each one of the cranial bones. The practitioner may use discretion in using which steps are suitable for each client, and may or may not follow them in sequential order, with time restraints and the extent of trauma being factors.
The therapist places their hands lightly on the patient’s body, tuning in to the patient by ‘listening’ with their hands or, in Sutherland’s words, “with thinking fingers”. A practitioner’s feeling of being in tune with a patient is described as entrainment. Patients often report a sense of deep relaxation during and after the treatment session, and may feel light-headed. This is popularly associated with increases in endorphins, but research shows the effects may actually be brought about by the endocannabinoid system.