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Alternative & Holistic Therapies

Craniosacral Therapy

"When there is synchronous movement in the craniosacral system, the physiology of the central nervous system functions more efficiently and the nerve tissue is, in general, healthier." -Robert Norret

History of Craniosacral Therapy

Craniosacral therapy (also known as Craniosacral osteopathy), involves manipulation of the head and neck to relieve discomfort and cure disorders. This form of therapy was developed by osteopath William G. Sutherland in the early 1930s. All of the 22 bones of the skull, except for the jawbone, are joined together by sutures, and while examining these sutures, Sutherland noticed that they were designed for movement. He termed this motion “the breath of life.” Sutherland believed that physical and emotional trauma  causes imbalances within the body that need correcting to restore wellbeing. He went on to develop his hands-on technique for craniosacral therapy because he wanted to find a way of ‘listening’ to the body’s rhythmic motions and relieve them of their inertia and congestion, in order to restore total health.

The craniosacral therapy that we are familiar with today was created by osteopathic physician John E. Upledger, a clinical researcher and professor of Biomechanics at Michigan State University, during the 1970s.

The three essential concepts of craniosacral therapy are:

  • Function is dependent on form and form is in constant movement
  • The body is potentially self-healing and self-regulating
  • The human system functions as a unified whole

How Craniosacral Therapy Works

A Craniosacral practitioner uses gentle pressure and manipulation to activate your body’s natural healing processes. The therapist gently lays her hands on various points of the patient’s craniosacral system and feels for the subtle energy that pulses through the body, locating blockages or unusual fluctuations. When she finds areas that are being adversely affected, she uses gentle pressure (about the weight of a nickel) to adjust the rhythm and restore balance.

Michael Shea, author of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, Volume One, describes craniosacral therapy as a compassionate form of healing that may be used by chiropractors, midwives, physical therapists and even psychologists to help patients release tension and promote physical, emotional and spiritual healing.

Functions of Craniosacral Therapy

Experts agree that craniosacral therapy is effective for the treatment a number of health problems. These include:

  • Fever
  • Migraine headaches
  • Scoliosis
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Problems with memory and concentration
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Spinal chord injuries
  • Chronic pain
  • Stress
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

A Typical Craniosacral Therapy Treatment

During your first appointment the craniosacral therapist will ask you about your medical history and will discuss your expectations of craniosacral therapy. You will then lie down, fully clothed and the practitioner will use a light touch, beginning at your feet, to assess where the imbalances and blockages exist in your body. The therapist will work through each section of your body until the examination is complete. Most patients feel very relaxed and often fall asleep early on in the session. Following the initial session, many people feel tired - though you will be able to drive - and describe the feeling of having things moved around in their body. Most people will require four or five treatments with a gap of one or two weeks in between. If you are suffering from a longstanding problem, you may need maintenance treatments at regular intervals. Once the initial session is complete, your practitioner will be in a better position to recommend a course of further treatment for you.


Although there have been very few reports of injuries from craniosacral therapy, some critics claim that even gentle manipulation could cause harm to delicate skull bones of new born infants. Before having craniosacral therapy you should consult with your medical doctor if you have ever had an aneurysm or brain hemorrhage.

How to Find a Craniosacral Practitioner

Craniosacral practitioners are most likely to be chiropractors or physical or massage therapists. Look for a practitioner who has had specific training in craniosacral methods. You can use these resources to help you find one: 

U.S. Practitioner Referral

Search International Association of Healthcare Practitioners


Groups and Organizations

The Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America

150 Cross Creek Court
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27517
Phone: 734-904-0546

The Upledger Institute, Inc.
11211 Prosperity Farms Rd., Suite D-325
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410
Phone: 561-622-4334 


What is the medical basis for craniosacral therapy?

Our bodies contain a dural membrane system which starts inside the head and extends down through the spinal chord to the sacrum. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flows throughout this membranous pathway. Every nerve in the body originates at some point along the dural membrane system. Physical or emotional trauma can cause restrictions in the flow of CSF and lead to pain and illness. The movement of the CSF creates a very slight vibration that craniosacral therapists refer to as craniosacral rhythm (CSR). A craniosacral practitioner will use gentle pressure to palpate this flow and restore a balanced rhythm to help the body attain harmony throughout the core nervous system.

Is craniosacral therapy suitable for children?

Craniosacral practitioners say that children respond well to the therapy and may even direct the practitioner’s hand to areas of discomfort. Parents are often surprised at how a hyperactive or irritable child will become relaxed and often fall asleep during a treatment session.

How long does a treatment session last?

A typical session lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Children’s sessions are usually shorter if they can lie still for a while. Children who will not lie down are usually treated as they play on the floor.

Is craniosacral therapy safe during pregnancy?

Craniosacral therapy is safe during pregnancy and is often recommended at this time because it can calm the mother’s and baby’s nervous systems and promote emotional bonding.

Why do I fall asleep during my sessions?

Falling asleep during a treatment session is common because the manipulation techniques often trigger a deep, meditative state of consciousness which allows the body to heal itself.

Does insurance cover craniosacral therapy?

Insurance coverage varies from provider to provider. It may also depend on what type of health condition you are seeking treatment for. You can ask your craniosacral practitioner what the requirements might be and how coverage might be secured.

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