Cranial sacral therapy (CST) is sometimes also referred to as craniosacral therapy.
It’s a type of bodywork that relieves compression in the bones of the head, sacrum (a triangular bone in the lower back), and spinal column. It’s thought that through the gentle manipulation of the bones in the skull, spine, and pelvis, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the central nervous system can be normalized. This removes “blockages” from the normal flow, which enhances the body’s ability to heal. Many massage therapists, physical therapists, osteopaths, and chiropractors are able to perform cranial sacral therapy. CST is thought to relieve compression in the head, neck, and back. This can soothe pain and release both emotional and physical stress and tension. It’s also thought to help restore cranial mobility and ease or release restrictions of the head, neck, and nerves.
Cranial sacral therapy can be used for people of all ages. It may be part of your treatment for conditions like:
migraines and headaches
irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
disturbed sleep cycles and insomnia
recurrent ear infections or colic in infants
trauma recovery, including trauma from whiplash
mood disorders like anxiety or depression
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that CST is an effective treatment, but more research is needed to scientifically determine this. There are certain individuals who shouldn’t use CST. These include people who have:
severe bleeding disorders
a diagnosed aneurysm
a history of recent traumatic head injuries, which may include cranial bleeding or skull fractures
You’ll typically remain fully clothed during the treatment, so wear comfortable clothing to your appointment. Your session will last about an hour, and you’ll likely begin by lying down on your back on the massage table. The practitioner may begin at your head, feet, or near the middle of your body.
Using five grams of pressure (which is about the weight of a nickel), the provider will gently hold your feet, head, or sacrum to listen to their subtle rhythms. If they detect it’s needed, they may gently press or reposition you to normalize the flow of the cerebrospinal fluids. They may use tissue-release methods while supporting one of your limbs.
During the treatment, some people experience different sensations. These may include:
feeling deep relaxation
falling asleep, and later recalling memories or seeing colors
having a “pins and needles” (numbing) sensation
having a hot or cold sensation