Craniosacral therapy: does it actually work?
Is craniosacral therapy a cure-all or medical quackery? We investigate.
Sports injuries, stress, niggles, stiffness and other health complaints that you just can’t seem to fix might have you looking in the direction of alternative treatments that are a little off the beaten track.
Along with osteopathy and chiropractic, craniosacral therapy (CST) is considered a ‘complementary’ therapy, as any firm scientific evidence that it works is lacking. But nonetheless, CST has a huge following and a lot of people believe it has really helped them.
We asked the Craniosacral Therapy Association to explain what CST is and how it works. Beatrice Doubble, BA MA DipCST and PR Chair of the Craniosacral Therapy Association, took us through the method and practice of this popular therapy:
Origins of craniosacral therapy
Developed by osteopath William Garner Sutherland in the early 1900s, craniosacral therapy has its roots in osteopathy. Sutherland observed that cranial bones have a very subtle motion and the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes our brains and nervous systems has its own pulse, which is essential to maintaining our health.
Although the roots remain the same in the way craniosacral therapists are trained, modern craniosacral therapists probably place more emphasis on the emotions and the nervous system, including stress responses, compared to the earlier more structural osteopathic model.
A typical craniosacral therapy session
During a treatment, a case history is taken and the therapist will usually treat you on a massage table or chair fully clothed. Gentle hand-holds are carried out on the body, and sensations such as heat, cold, tingling or gentle movements may be felt by the client as the body responds to the therapist’s touch.
How many sessions of CST do you need?
Different people make use of CST in different ways. A course of treatments may be needed depending upon the condition being sought relief for. Many people also choose to have regular sessions for maintenance or to avoid getting to the point of feeling overwhelmed and stressed in the first place.
How craniosacral therapy might help
The therapist may pick up tension, restrictions or distortions in the client’s physical and emotional systems, all of which may be indicative of ill health or lack of wellbeing. These restrictions are gently helped to release, allowing the body to find its way back to wholeness, balance and its potential for full health.
The health benefits of CST
Craniosacral therapy can work well for people suffering from stress, but it is also still very much being used for physical difficulties as well.
Modern day stresses and hectic lifestyles mean that we burn ourselves out quickly and our emotional and physical health become compromised, and we may be triggered into a fight or flight stress response more often than we think.
Parts of our bodies contract as we adopt defensive postures, our breathing gets quicker, and our digestive systems shut down.
Our immune systems also become compromised and we struggle to think clearly when in ‘survival mode’.
CST can help us shift into a more relaxed state of being where we can start to function more optimally on every level.
Is craniosacral therapy physically risk-free?
Craniosacral therapy is non-invasive, involves light touch, and is suitable for babies, children and the elderly. CST is intended to work alongside the healthcare service your doctor provides. If you have a particular concern about your health we would always recommend that you consult your GP.
CST practitioners do not diagnose or prescribe medication. CSTA-registered practitioners are aware of the need to protect the safety of all their clients, whether adults or children, and abide by the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics set out by the CSTA.
Craniosacral therapy: what the experts say
In association with Meningitis Now, the CSTA is conducting a study into the impact of CST as a complementary therapy for those experiencing the distressing after-effects of viral meningitis. Common after-effects of viral meningitis include exhaustion, headaches, memory loss, anxiety, depression and balance problems. As antibiotics are ineffective against viruses, treatment is limited to symptom relief. Recent studies, along with research by Meningitis Now, suggest that CST could be beneficial to many people suffering the after-effects; research outcomes will be published soon.