Craniosacral therapy is a subtle form of bodywork that uses light touch to heal some of the primary components of the nervous system.
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About Craniosacral Therapy:
Craniosacral therapy is a gentle but powerful hands-on healing modality to support the body’s natural ability to self-regulate, self-repair, and heal. It is a technique used by a variety of practitioners including osteopaths, chiropractors, and massage therapists as well as specialist craniosacral therapists.
It uses light and gentle pressure of about 5g or less to provide pain and tension relief. This type of light touch, hands-on treatment is used to examine the central nervous system (CNS) including the membranes of the brain and spinal cord, bones of the head, neck, and lower back, and relieve tension in those areas. Hence, it helps to treat several conditions.
The rationale behind this therapy is blockages within the CNS will be cleared through gentle pressure techniques on and across the bones in the head, neck, back, and pelvis. These blockages are majorly caused by trauma during:
- Childhood injuries
- Auto accidents
- Sport injuries
- Motion injuries
- Stressful events.
Hence, CST enhances the easy flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the CNS and boosts self-healing, well-being, and immunity. The cerebrospinal fluid is a clear fluid surrounding the brain (Cerebro) and the spinal cord. It protects the two organs from injury, supplies nutrients to, and removes waste from their cells. CST is thought to improve your body’s innate ability to regulate, balance, and heal itself. It is safe and effective in both children and adults.
Craniosacral therapy is performed by chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, and osteopaths. It may be your main or adjunct therapy depending on your condition. The sessions that you will best benefit from also depend on the condition being treated, ranging from 3 to 10 sessions.
What conditions can craniosacral therapy help to treat?
Craniosacral therapy is performed to relieve pain, stress, and tension in the head, neck, back, and pelvis. This provides comfort and increased mobility in affected areas. CST can be done by anybody, irrespective of age, gender, and race.
CST can be used as primary or adjunct therapy for the following conditions:
- Chronic pain
- Headaches, including migraines
- Neck pain
- Hip pain
- Post-surgical pain
- Temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ)
- Sinus conditions
- Recurrent ear infections
- Chronic fatigue
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, etc.
- Fascial adhesions
- Complex regional pain syndrome
- Neurodegenerative diseases
- Immune disorders
- Post-concussion syndrome
- Colic in children
- Trauma recovery including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma from whiplash, etc.
- Learning disabilities
- Difficult pregnancies
How effective is craniosacral therapy in treating pain conditions?
Scientists have doubted the modality of CST. However, numerous studies have proven its effectiveness in treating several conditions.
A 2010 randomized controlled trial carried out among patients with fibromyalgia showed that CST improved medium-term symptoms. A similar study among fibromyalgia patients showed that CST reduced pain, fatigue, and anxiety symptoms. It also improved their mood, quality of sleep, physical function, and overall quality of life.
In another study, craniosacral therapy was found effective in alleviating migraine symptoms. More recent studies have shown CST to be safe and effective in relieving neck pain and improving functional disability and the quality of life, alleviating chronic pain symptoms, and improving hemoglobin oxygen saturation, systolic blood pressure, serum potassium, and magnesium level in patients with low back pain. In pregnant women, CST was found effective in relieving pelvic girdle pain (PGP) and pregnancy-related back pain.
Results from a prospective study carried out from 2015 to 2019 showed that CST greatly improved quality of life and personal resources while decreasing symptoms and disability significantly. It was used for both preventive and therapeutic purposes, treating up to 114 acute and chronic ICD conditions in the course of the study. No serious adverse effects were recorded. Overall, it was considered safe and effective in infants, children, and adults.
Is craniosacral therapy appropriate for anyone?
Anyone can benefit from CST. However, people with some conditions may not be able to use craniosacral therapy. Examples of such conditions include:
- Cerebral swelling
- Traumatic brain injury
- Recurrent concussion
- Blood clots
- Bleeding disorders
- Blood aneurysm
- Brain hemorrhage
- Structural defects in the cerebellum
- Increased intracranial pressure and any condition that may cause.
What should I expect from a craniosacral therapy (CST) session?
A typical CST session is pretty much like a massage therapy session. The only difference is in the CST session, you are fully clothed. Your doctor or therapist relates with you as an individual, that is, care is patient-focused depending on your condition.
Usually, it begins with a consultation where you may be on your back and your therapist works with you to identify troubled areas. He uses gentle pressure techniques such as gentle fascial traction (holding), compression and decompression lifts, “unwinding” techniques, and still point induction to evaluate the three major diaphragms and other areas as needed and then goes on to manipulate blocked areas. These areas include:
- The upper thorax (the thoracic inlet). This is the first major diaphragm. Here, your trained therapist places his left (or non-dominant) hand on the neck and uses his right hand to assess the sternum using light pressure. As the client breathes in and out, he feels for micro-movements to identify any restrictions in one or both sides of the body.
- The respiratory diaphragm. The therapist assesses the ribcage and the respiratory diaphragm (which is the second major diaphragm) by pulling and mobilizing the ribs.
- Lower or pelvic diaphragm. Your therapist assesses this third major diaphragm with one hand on the sacrum (lower back) under your body and the other on your lower abdomen. Light pressure may be applied to the sacrum and iliac bones to relieve pain and tension.
- Feet. Your therapist may check for your pulse in each foot. The results inform the next line of action. CST may be done to clear these blockages and improve circulation to the lower legs and feet.
- Head and Neck. The therapist moves to the head applying gentle pressure to the sutures of the skull. To relieve pain, tension, or pressure in the following parts, these are the type of gentle pressure techniques required:
- Cranial sutures- light thumb rub on sutures
- Frontal bones- pulling the ears gently
- Sphenoid- light pressure on the temples
- Sinus- light thumb pressure on the face and along the side
- TMJ- palm compression to the mandible
- Neck- gentle traction and unwinding the head, neck, and shoulders
- Neck and sacrum- still point induction at the occiput
Typically, a CST session ends with the therapist’s hold of the neck and sacrum. CST usually provides a deep sense of relaxation, partly because it makes use of light and gentle pressure, and partly because it eliminates any possible restrictions to the flow of CSF within the CNS. However, some clients report different experiences they have during the treatment. They include:
- Sensing pulsations
- Feeling numb, more like having a “pins and needles” sensation
- Falling asleep and seeing colors or recounting long gone memories
- Having a hot or cold sensation
Is craniosacral therapy covered by insurance?
Straight answer? No, it is not. If you will love to have CST, you will have to pay out-of-pocket.
There are still doubts about the modality of CST, some of which are because anatomists believe that the cranial bones cannot move because they are fused in adults, and scientists doubt a rhythm or pulse of the CSF can be picked or measured. Despite the doubt in its validity, CST has consistently been proven to reduce pain, tension, and stress in several conditions.
Craniosacral therapy (CST) requires broad knowledge and intense training about the central nervous system (CNS). Therapists need to be familiar with cranial bones, cranial sutures, meninges, and bones of vertebrae and their location. Also, they need in-depth knowledge and skills on the application of gentle pressure techniques to produce significant results and treat different conditions.
CST can be used as an alternative treatment for pains of any sort in place of drug therapy. It is more convenient, relaxing, and has a low risk of side effects. It is important you ask and make sure your therapist is licensed for CST before booking a CST session.
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