Dr Mark LaBeau - What is Cranial Sacral Therapy?
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. CST is noninvasive. It uses mild pressure on the head, neck, and back to relieve the stress and pain caused by compression. It can, as a result, help to treat a variety of problems. It's thought that with 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 eliminates "blockages" from the normal flow, which improves the body's ability to recover.
Numerous massage therapists, physical therapists, osteopaths, and chiropractors are able to conduct cranial sacral therapy. It can be part of an already-scheduled treatment visit or the only purpose for your appointment. Depending on what you're using CST to treat, you might benefit from between 3 and 10 sessions, or you may benefit from maintenance sessions. Your doctor will help you determine what's right for you. For the best results, book an appointment with a qualified health professional, such as an osteopath or a physical therapist.
Benefits and Uses
CST is believed to relieve compression in the head, neck, and back. This can alleviate pain and release both emotional and physical stress and tension. It's also believed 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 might be part of your treatment for problems like:
- Migraines and headaches
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Disturbed sleep cycles and insomnia
- Sinus infections
- Neck pain
- Recurrent ear infections or colic in babies
- Trauma recovery, including trauma from whiplash
- Mood disorders like anxiety or depression
- Difficult pregnancies
There's plenty of anecdotal evidence that CST is an effective treatment, but more research is required to scientifically establish this. There's evidence that it can alleviate stress and tension, though some research suggests that it may only be effective for babies, toddlers, and children.
Other studies, however, suggest that CST may be a reliable treatment-- or part of an effective treatment plan-- for certain disorders.
One 2012 study found that it was effective at minimizing symptoms in those with severe migraines. Another study found that individuals with fibromyalgia experienced relief from symptoms (including pain and anxiety) thanks to CST.
Side Effects and Risks
The most common side effect of cranial sacral therapy with a licensed professional is minor discomfort following the treatment. This is often temporary and will diminish within 24 hours.
There are certain people who shouldn't use CST. These include people that have:
- Severe bleeding disorders
- A diagnosed aneurysm
- A history of recent traumatic head injuries, which may include cranial bleeding or skull fractures
Procedure and Technique
When you come for your appointment, your practitioner will ask you about your symptoms and any kind of pre-existing conditions that you have.
You'll usually remain fully clothed during the treatment, so wear comfortable clothing to your appointment.
Your session will last about an hour, and you'll likely start by lying down on your back on the massage table. The practitioner might begin at your head, feet, or near the center 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 might carefully press or reposition you to normalize the flow of the cerebrospinal fluids. They might use tissue-release methods while supporting one of your limbs.
Throughout the therapy, some individuals experience different sensations. These may include:
- Feeling deep relaxation
- Falling asleep, and later recalling memories or seeing colors
- Sensing pulsations
- Having a "pins and needles" (numbing) sensation
- Having a hot or cold sensation
Dr Mark LaBeau - Cranial Sacral Therapy
Cranial sacral therapy might be able to offer relief for certain conditions, with the strongest evidence supporting it as a treatment for conditions like headaches. Since there's a very low risk for side effects, some individuals might prefer this to prescription medications that have more risks.