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 gentle 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 number of conditions.
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.
Benefits & Uses
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 treatment for conditions like:
- migraines and headaches
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- disturbed sleep cycles and insomnia
- sinus infections
- neck pain
- recurrent ear infections or colic in infants
- 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 needed to scientifically determine this.
Side Effects & Risks
The most common side effect of cranial sacral therapy with a licensed practitioner is mild discomfort following the treatment. This is often temporary and will fade within 24 hours.
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
Procedure & Technique
Using five grams of pressure (which is about the weight of a nickel), providers will gently hold the patient’s feet, head, or sacrum to listen to their subtle rhythms. If they detect it’s needed, they may gently press or reposition the patient to normalize the flow of the cerebrospinal fluids. They may use tissue-release methods while supporting a limb.
During the treatment, some people 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