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Can Craniosacral Therapy Help You Reduce Pain & Stress?

Can Craniosacral Therapy Help You Reduce Pain & Stress?

Craniosacral therapy (CST) is a bodywork that has been steadily growing in popularity over the last several years. Designed to relieve compression in the bones of the head, sacrum, and spinal column, it involves gentle pressure on the head, neck and back to relieve stress and pain to treat a number of conditions, such as migraines, sinus infections, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain, and mental health issues. 

The theory behind craniosacral therapy is that through the gentle manipulation of the bones in the spine, skull, and pelvis, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the central nervous system can become normalized, reducing any “blockages.” Chiropractors, doctors of osteopathic medicine, and physical or occupational therapists are among those who can perform craniosacral therapy. 

How does a typical session go? Unlike massages, craniosacral therapy can generally be performed while one is fully clothed. Sessions usually last around an hour, and the provider will gently (with about the weight of a nickel) hold the patient’s feet, head, or sacrum to tune into their subtle rhythms. If needed, the provider will gently press or reposition a patient’s body to normalize the flow of cerebrospinal fluids. 

Sarah Clark of Stillpoint Beauty in New York City is a biodynamic craniosacral therapist. After falling and hitting her head, someone suggested craniosacral work to her. After trying it and noticing her sinuses opening up and her hips opening, Clark realized the power of the practice and began to study for her own certification.

The Benefits of CST

“This work can be so supportive for a broad range of things because the whole point … is listening to movements,” Clark told Athletech News. “When you feel those unwanted patterns or wound-up fascia, it’s really in place of my manually manipulating and adjusting it. It’s about empowering your body to shift and change. This is all about finding the health in someone’s system, regardless of the traumas, diseases, or whatever you’re going through, and supporting that process.” 

credit: Stillpoint Beauty

Despite anecdotal endorsements of craniosacral therapy, many have argued that medical research is severely lacking in proving its efficacy. Manipulating the skull bone has not yet been proven in animal models. However, a few studies have indicated the benefits of CST for some conditions, like one in 2010 about fibromyalgia and one in 2009 about multiple sclerosis. Many practitioners and customers also continue to swear by the practice for stress relief, migraines, and TMJ issues, among other ailments. 

Treating the ‘Gray Zone’ of Healthiness

“Craniosacral therapy supports traditional medicine because traditional medicine primarily focuses on disease states,” says Dr. Kate Klemer, a chiropractor who has been using cranial work in her private practice for over thirty years. “Often times people have many symptoms before they have a full-blown disease. This gray zone of healthiness is not treated in traditional medicine. When the autonomic nervous system is in balance, basically, people’s health improves in a clinical state as well as a disease state.” 

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When asked about the biggest misconceptions about craniosacral, Klemer said, “I don’t want to be crass, but people are brainwashed to orient to drugs and surgery for everything and if there aren’t answers there, then the cultural brainwashing belief is that treatment is not available. Craniosacral therapy is a subtle healing modality and often times misunderstood because of that.”

“Over time, however, patients do understand the work when they get quiet enough to feel it in their nervous system and body,” she adds. “Western medicine does not acknowledge that health issues exist unless a lab test shows it. Biodynamic craniosacral therapy would find imbalances before diseased states are in play.” 

Although there remains a lack of evidence about craniosacral therapy, practitioners like Clark believe that the practice can provide value where other medical solutions cannot. 

“Craniosacral work is really about meeting the individual where they are, and feeling where the patterns are, she says. “If you connect with an individual, it can have deeper and more lasting change than other short-term alternatives.” 

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