Craniosacral Therapy (CST) was originally developed by John E. Upledger in the 1970s in Florida. It utilizes a gentle, hands-on approach to release deep tensions in the body to decrease pain and dysfunction, while improving overall health and performance.


Specific dysfunctions that are proposed to be positively affected by CST include: migraines, headaches, chronic back and neck pain, stress-related disorders, and fibromyalgia.


How does it work?


It is suggested that restrictions in the soft tissues of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) affect the motion and rhythm of the cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that the brain and spinal cord are suspended in). Gentle pressure is held for long periods of time to areas of the head and back, which is intended to restore proper motion of the cerebrospinal fluid and decrease restrictions.

Skull Anatomy

Claims that “manual adjustments physically occur between the sutures of skull bones” are scientifically implausible.


That being said, other aspects of Craniosacral Therapy do seem to have plausible mechanisms within current neuro-scientific pain research. For example, Craniosacral Therapy is described as a pain-free technique. This mindfulness encourages readjustments to our sensory perceptions, which could account for non-specific effects (more on this below).


Benefits of Craniosacral Therapy


There is a massive amount of anecdotal and case study evidence claiming a wide range of benefits across many different conditions.


When no other therapy was able to resolve the chronic conditions that plagued individuals, they discovered vast improvements in their symptoms with CST treatments.


A recent, systematic review found that the benefits associated with factors outside non-specific effects are not based on evidence from rigorous randomized controlled trials (Ernst, 2012).


Improvements in research quality and quantity are needed before any claims can be made that CST is evidence-informed. Until this occurs, this non-invasive and safe technique should still be considered an option for individuals who have yet to see benefits from other therapies.


Will it hurt?


To put it briefly: No. Craniosacral therapy utilizes light pressure for long durations that are unlikely to provoke any pain at any point. Certain individuals may experience minor discomforts – or seemingly unrelated effects in other areas of the body – but pain is rarely elicited in the areas where manual pressure is used.



Works Cited:   Ernst, E. (2012), Craniosacral therapy: a systematic review of the clinical evidence.
Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 17: 197–201. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-7166.2012.01174.x
All images provided by and image authors Danilo Rizzuti and stockimages
Article written by Arnold Warkentin, RMT, BHSc

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