Craniosacral Therapy

What is Craniosacral Therapy

Craniosacral Therapy (CST) is a gentle manual therapy that works with bones in the skull (cranium), spine and sacrum, along with the membranes (dura) and cerebral-spinal fluid that protect the brain and spinal cord. By releasing tensions in this system, we improve the functioning of the central nervous system.

It uses a very light touch, about the weight of a nickel, and is gentle and safe for almost everyone.

It’s excellent for treating a wide range of symptoms that stem from stress, injury and even illness. We most often use Craniosacral Therapy to help calm the nervous system and relieve pain in the spine.

How does it work?

CST releases tension in the cranial sutures and dura mater using a gentle technique that encourages movement of the cerebral-spinal fluid (CSF). In doing so, we relieve stress and tension affecting not just structure, but also the Central Nervous System (CNS) itself. This leads to better functioning of the entire Nervous System.

Using light pressure, we use the bones in the head and spine where the dura attaches to encourage gentle movement and flow. This releases tensions in the dura and in the cranial sutures, and improves the flow of the CSF throughout the brain and spine, increasing circulation and lymphatic drainage.

The cranial sutures are the places in the skull where the bones in infancy grew together. On an infant’s head, that surprising firm tissue under the skin of the “soft spot” is the dura. As the bones grow together, it doesn’t fuse, but becomes a type of joint, similar to how your teeth attach into your head. These joints allow for the slightest movement in the skull, so it can absorb physical shock and stress and direct it away from the brain. Think of the way a parking garage has some give and bounce in it to absorb the movement of all the cars, without breaking. Think of the sutures as a kind of shock absorber. In fact, the whole craniosacral system is designed to protect the delicate tissue of our brain and spinal cord.

As tough and well-designed as this system is (dura mater means “Tough Mother” in Latin), the dura is still a form of soft tissue, like fascia or ligaments. Like all soft tissue in the body, it can get tight and restricted from injury, and trauma both emotional and physical. Over time, this can lead to pain and structural issues anywhere in the spine, and can impact the function of all the nerves leaving or entering the central nervous system.

By releasing these tensions in the craniosacral system, we can release the deepest layers of structural issues, and help the nervous system to function optimally.

What does it treat?

Craniosacral Therapy is excellent at treating structural issues affecting the whole spine, especially with upper neck issues that haven’t responded well to other therapies. Additionally, because it can affect the entire nervous system, it can help digestion, headaches, nervous tension, emotional issues and more.

Here’s the list from the Upledger Institute of some of the issues it has been shown to treat:

  • Migraine Headaches
  • Chronic Neck and Back Pain
  • Motor-Coordination Impairments
  • Colic
  • Autism
  • Central Nervous System Disorders
  • Orthopedic Problems
  • Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Scoliosis
  • Infantile Disorders
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Emotional Difficulties
  • Stress and Tension-Related Problems
  • Fibromyalgia and other Connective-Tissue Disorders
  • Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)
  • Neurovascular or Immune Disorders
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Post-Surgical Dysfunction

Craniosacral Therapy is safe even for newborn infants, and is very helpful in treating birth trauma, nursing difficulties, and colic.   We often use it with children of all ages to calm the nervous system.

Studies are finding Craniosacral Therapy to have substantial benefit in treating traumatic brain injury and post-concussion problems. Read this article for more detail.

For more details on Craniosacral Therapy, visit the Upledger Institute at


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