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Craniosacral therapy

Author/s: Leonard C. Bruno

Craniosacral therapy is a holistic, hands-on technique involving gentle manipulation of the bones of the skull, the underlying meningeal membranes, and the nerve endings in the scalp.

Purpose for Craniosacral Therapy

Craniosacral therapy is employed to treat a range of conditions from headaches, dizziness, and whiplash to sinus and ear infections. Release of abnormal pressure in the skull is believed to correct imbalances in the cerebrospinal fluid system and allow the body to better heal itself and maintain health.

Precautions before Craniosacral Therapy

Since the practitioner's hands apply only gentle pressure to the skull, this noninvasive technique is virtually without danger to the patient.


Description of Craniosacral Therapy

Cranial manipulation has existed as a therapy since the 1930s, when an American osteopath, William Garner Sutherland, first theorized that because the bones of the skull were not fused into a single piece but rather had seams and could be moved slightly, perhaps their manipulation could have some effect on a person's health. He then discovered that compression of the skull had an effect due to the pressure exerted on the cerebrospinal fluid that permanently surrounds and bathes the brain and spinal cord. He also postulated that this fluid has a natural, rise-and-fall rhythm of its own that an experienced hand can detect. He argued that the trained hand also could detect spots on the skull that cause points of restriction, leading to abnormal fluid rhythm. He believed that this irregular rhythm could lead to dysfunction and poor health.

Modern craniosacral therapists are trained to manipulate the meninges as well as the seams of the skull (and sometimes the bones of the face). These underlying meningeal membranes cover the brain and the entire length of the spinal cord, extending from the skull to the sacrum at the end of the spine. During a consultation, the practitioner usually will have the patient lie on a massage table and will palpate gently the patient's skull and spine. If the practitioner also is an osteopathic physician, a complete physical and case history is usually obtained before treating the patient. This touching is essential to the practitioner who must be able to "listen" with her hands to what is called the cranial rhythmic impulse. This pulsation is distinct from both the familiar cardiovascular pulse and the normal breathing rhythm. To the experienced practitioner, this pulse has a cycle of three seconds of inflow and three seconds of rest, averaging 10 cycles per minute. Interruption of the inflow by abnormal restrictions, such as from an injury, or by abnormal tension patterns may result in problems such as dizziness, migraine headaches, and sinus problems.

Once the practitioner identifies these patterns of congestion or resistance and locates their cause, she gently performs the manipulation, freeing the resistance and restoring the natural balance to the pulse. Patients sometimes become aware of changes immediately and feel heat and tingling accompanying their sense of deep relaxation. Sometimes, however, a patient's symptoms may become slightly worse for a day or two before the body's natural healing system takes over. Treatments are usually weekly, but patients should have no need to continue this therapy for an extended period of time.

Risks of Craniosacral Therapy

The pressure exerted on the skull by the practitioner is focused but gentle, and the sutures of the bones allow only the slightest of movement. Therefore, there is virtually no risk involved in the hands of a qualified practitioner. Although it is safe for people of all ages from newborns to the elderly, this therapy should not be used to the exclusion of conventional medicine in case a serious disease is involved.

Normal results

For adults, craniosacral therapy can be especially useful in treating problems of the head, such as migraines, tinnitus, and sinus problems, as well as for injuries to the head, neck, and spine. For children, it is often used after a traumatic delivery to treat chronic ear infections. Others claim it can help with problems of constant crying, colic, and hyperactivity.


This web site is intended for your own informational purposes only. No person or entity associated with this web site purports to be engaging in the practice of medicine through this medium. The information you receive is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other health care professional. If you have an illness or medical problem, contact your health care provider.


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