What is Craniosacral Therapy Massage?


Craniosacral Therapy Massage is a gentle technique that works with the head, spine, pelvis, bones, and connective tissue (fascia) to restore the natural rhythms of the body.  The three primary systems affected are respiratory rhythm, cerebrospinal fluid pulsation, and the nervous system transmission.


When and Where Was Craniosacral Therapy Massage Developed?

Craniosacral Therapy Massage (CST) is a technique that has theoretical origins dating back to ancient shamanic teachings.  The current-day technique, however, finds its beginnings in the mid 19th century with the dawn of Osteopathic Medicine, developed by Andrew Taylor Still.  Osteopathy is a medical practice, with schooling equivalent to an MD plus additional coursework, which focuses on the body’s ability to heal itself rather than the dispensing of drugs to treat every ailment.

Craniosacral Therapy Massage was influenced by William G. Sutherland in the late 19th century by Cranial Osteopathy which focused primarily on the head.  By the mid 20th century, it was further refined and written down as a formal technique by Harold Magoun.  His student, John Upledger, recognized the pulsing of the Cerebro-Spinal Fluid (CSF) during a spinal operation and integrated that into the practice.

Magoun and Upledger developed techniques to feel and manipulate the Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF)through minor movements in the cranium (head), the pelvis, and the spine by gentle movements.  The objective of the Craniosacral Therapy Massage technique is to free up restrictions so that the Cerebrospinal Fluid can flow properly.


Pressure and Technique in Craniosacral Therapy Massage

Craniosacral Therapy Massage is a very gentle massage that enhances nervous system function by impacting the brain, spinal cord, and nerve fibers.

Using very light touch, the head, spine, pelvis, and their connective tissues are carefully released to remove restrictions and congestion and restore their normal function.


Why Craniosacral Therapy Massage Works

The body has two types of involuntary nervous system functions:  the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest, digest, and restore).  With the hectic pace of daily life, our bodies tend to get stuck with an over-active sympathetic nervous system and an underactive parasympathetic nervous system.  A couple of good examples of this are indigestion and insomnia.

As a result of restoring the normal flow of Cerebrospinal Fluid to the body, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated and is brought into balance with the sympathetic nervous system.  Once these two aspects are brought into balance, the body can effectively heal itself because it is able to relax into the rest, digest, and restore state.


What Conditions Can be Treated with Craniosacral Therapy Massage?

Craniosacral Therapy Massage can be effective in treating almost any condition, including:

  • Stress
  • Neck Pain
  • Back Pain
  • Hip Pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Pain
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
  • Arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Pregnancy
  • Spinal Curvatures (Kyphosis / Scoliosis)
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD, ADHD)
  • Autism
  • Asperger Syndrome (Aspberger)
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Multiplesclerosis (MS)
  • Whiplash
  • Constipation / Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ/TMJD)
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
  • Traumatic Spinal Injuries
  • Trauma (Accidents, Abuse, Surgery, Dental Work)
  • Optical Problems
  • Emotional Issues
  • Tinnitus (Ringing in the ears)
  • Concussions  (with consent of physician)
  • Scarring
  • Sports Injuries
  • Developmental Reading Disorder (Dyslexia)
  • Dyscalculia (Mathematics Learning Difficulty)
  • Seizures
  • Strokes (with consent of physician)
  • Ear Infections


Who Should Not Get Craniosacral Therapy Massage?

Although some of the following conditions are listed under “Conditions Treated by Craniosacral Therapy Massage,” persons with the following conditions are advised to speak with their physician before getting Craniosacral work done:

  • Strokes
  • Concussions
  • Surgeries & Traumatic Injuries (especially regarding the head, spine, or pelvis)

The questions that you should ask your doctor if you have any of these conditions are:

  • “Would an increase in inter-cranial fluid pressure be a problem?”


  • “Are there any leaks in my plumbing (meaning Cerebrospinal Fluid)?”

If the answer to either of these questions is “yes,” then Craniosacral Massage therapy should not be performed due to possible risk of further injury.


How Craniosacral Therapy Massage is Performed

Craniosacral Therapy Massage is done fully clothed with the person being treated lying on his or her back on the massage table.  The craniosacral rhythms are measured by the therapist lightly placing his or her hands on the client’s head, spine, and pelvis.

When a blockage is felt, extremely gentle manipulations of membranes attached to the cranium (head) and spinal cord are performed by carefully pushing on the bones connected to them.  The procedure is very light and does not cause pain.

The connective tissues that hold the body together often hold emotional tension, and as they are released during this therapy, clients may feel a corresponding emotional release.  Since the purpose of this therapy is to prepare the body to heal itself, it is common for clients to continue to feel results for 2-3 weeks following a session.