What is it?
Craniosacral therapy refers to a system of diagnosis and treatment that evaluates proper function of the skull and base of the spine and the fluid that runs in the spinal column between the two. Most people are familiar with the heart rhythm and breathing rate, but are unfamiliar with the craniosacral rhythm that is a result of the increasing and decreasing pressure of the fluid in the brain and the spinal cord, known as the cerebrospinal fluid.
Therapists using craniosacral therapy detect the rhythm of the cerebrospinal fluid by lightly placing their hands on the skull. They monitor this rhythm to determine if there are any restrictions or problems in the craniosacral system which includes the brain, spinal cord, membranes surrounding the nervous system, and the bones of the head and spine.
Restrictions in the craniosacral system are thought to be the result of injury, birth trauma, reduced flexibility of the joints, or problems in other parts of the body. The goal of the treatment is to gently manipulate the restricted area and to restore the natural motion of the bones, membranes, and fluid.
The first therapy using these ideas was called cranial osteopathy and was developed in the 1930's by William Garner Sutherland, DO. This technique focuses on using gentle pressure to move the sutures of the skull, which releases stress and increases the mobility of the bones. The effect on the body is that the function of the entire craniosacral system improves. This, in turn, will improve the ability of the body to adapt and restore proper physiological function.
In the 1970's, John Upledger, DO, further refined these concepts and developed a new therapy known as Craniosacral Therapy(TM). Rather than working on the bones, this therapy focuses on working on the membranes under the bones, known as the meninges.
Tension on these membranes causes a change in the craniosacral system. The therapist feels for an abnormal rhythm and then applies gentle traction to the bones. The traction helps stretch the underlying tissues and lengthens the membranes. This is the most widely known technique used today. Dr. Upledger has trained thousands in this technique worldwide.
Craniosacral therapy is often used in newborns and infants. At this stage, the cranial bones are very soft and changing rapidly and are corrected using gentle manipulations. Common conditions treated include earaches, sinus congestion, vomiting, irritability, and colic. Craniolsacral is also used to treat head trauma and spinal injuries. Other conditions include chronic pain, headache, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), mood disorders, dyslexia, autism, stroke, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, dizziness, tinnitus, edema, and diabetes. Constipation, anxiety, impotence, asthma, cataracts, recurrent infections, hypertension, hypotension, and some types of muscular conditions may also be treated with craniosacral therapy.
A treatment usually lasts 20 to 45 minutes. Craniosacral therapy is offered by many different practitioners including alternative medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, occupational therapists, physical therapists, massage therapists, body workers, and lay persons.
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Last Updated: 4/4/2014
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