The craniosacral system consist of membranes, cerebrospinal fluid that envelopes the brain and spinal cord, and attached bones. It begins at the top, with the bones of the skull, face and mouth (which are referred to as the cranium), then extends down the spine all the way to tailbone area (the sacrum).
The job of the craniosacral system is to protect the brain and spinal cord from any injuries and bruising while cerebrospinal fluid provides nourishment to the spinal cord and brain.
The Origins of CST
Craniosacral therapy (CST) was first developed by John Upledger, D.O. in the 1970s after carefully studying the works of William Garner Sutherland, D.O. (1873 – 1954) who devised several manual osteopathy techniques. He was the first to conceptualize the cranial approach.
According to Dr. Upledger, “Craniosacral therapy is a very soft touch; hands-on method of treatment…This therapy improves the health of the brain and spinal cord, which in turn, affects the whole body.”
Cranial sacral therapy massage (sometimes referred to as craniosacral therapy) is one type of alternative therapy, which concentrates on monitoring the cerebrospinal fluid by increasing and normalizing its flow through the bones of the head, spine, and pelvis. When this happens, blockages are removed and health is restored to the entire body.
CST uses the power of gentle, therapeutic touch to manipulate the joints of the cranium by applying a gentle touch to the bones found in the spinal column, head and sacrum in order to release tension, stress and pain.
This type of therapy is a form of alternative medicine, which simply means it is not part of the standard care of medicine. There are many examples of alternative practices, and most of them have been in practice since the dawn of time. Many include homeopathy, traditional medicine, chiropractic, and acupuncture.
The Theory Behind CST
Not long ago the medical community believed the skull was one entity, and that its bones were one rigid piece. It was about 50 years ago when doctors proved that these bones were, in fact, mobile and must have freedom of motion for the craniosacral system to function at an optimal level.
The body has many systems working on their own, as well as in synchronization with other systems so that your body remains the well-oiled machine that it is. One such system is the craniosacral system, which is affected by many outer influences. When that effect is negative, it throws off the rhythm of the craniosacral system, thus negatively affecting other systems and, subsequently, the entire body.
Sometimes the craniosacral rhythm becomes out of sync and CST can restore its rhythm to allow the cerebrospinal fluid to once again flow properly, resulting in improved functioning of other bodily systems and reducing pain and inflammation.
Cranial sacral therapy is a noninvasive way of restoring the natural position of the bones in the craniosacral system. Part of the cranial-sacral therapy is allowing the bones in the cranium to move freely, even though their range of motion is limited this helps in alleviating any form of constrictions and pressure. In addition, it improves the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid.
Many people worldwide suffer from migraine headaches, according to the National Headache Foundation. They are triggered and of course, exacerbated by not getting enough sleep and increased levels of stress. The cranial sacral massage releases the pent-up stress and allows for the bones to breathe thus creating a healthy rhythmic flow of fluids.
One form of this massage is scalp massage. Melissa Wheeler, massage therapist and teacher training coordinator for the National Holistic Institute in Emeryville, California says,
“Many people don’t realize we have muscles on our scalp. Those muscles are responsible for making our facial expressions, and there can be a lot of tension there, especially when staring at a computer all day or when we are under a lot of stress.”
When the head is massaged, all the tension melts away.
Somato Emotional Release is another component of CST; this is a form of therapy where the mind-body connection is used in the healing process from trauma and traumatic experiences. Through SER (Somato Emotional Release), feelings and reservations have a safe way of releasing from the body. There are times when therapist and client need to talk to reach the best way to release these emotions.
Other times, a client will leave it up to the therapist who tunes in closely to the body in order to help with the process of letting go of repressed feelings and restrictions.
CST can help treat and alleviate pain of the following:
• Inflammation Of The Joint Connecting Lower Jaw To Skull (Temporomandibular Joint)
• Neck And Back Pain
• Chronic Injuries
• Attention Deficit Disorder
• Bipolar Disorder
• Birth Trauma
• Certain Nervous System Disorders
Who should not have CST?
Medical experts advise against trying CST in case of the following conditions:
• A recent stroke
• A recent concussion
• Suspicion of an aneurysm
• Bleeding in the brain or cranium
• Severe systemic infections
What to Expect
Craniosacral therapy is a full body treatment, which can last from 30 minutes to a full hour. Clients are asked to lie on a massage table while remaining fully clothed, face up. The therapist starts at the head and neck area, focusing on the cranial base located at the back of the skull.
This area is extremely important since it is where stress and blockages are commonly attributed to be the cause of many types of headaches. The jaw is also a major place for stress to accumulate. Therefore, when cranial sacral therapy is administered on this area, it helps to loosen tight joints, removes tension in the jaw, and alleviates pain and fatigue.
Another area of focus is the sacrum. Therapists focus on this area to relieve stress, general back pain, stress, an improved sense of balance, as well as chronic fatigue. The main goal is to return the craniosacral system to its natural, rhythmic flow.
Then the therapist starts looking at different areas of the client’s body where they sense the rhythm might be off. Restrictions occurring anywhere on the body can cause problems in a completely different place; in the neck could result in lower back pain; in the foot may sound in the gluteal regions; in the cranium might be causing migraines. A lack of proper flow in the cranium could also be the reason behind neck and ear aches.