What is Craniosacral Therapy?

What is Craniosacral Therapy?

– Written by Amber Novak, Craniosacral Therapist in Burlington, VT

Craniosacral Therapy (CST) is a holistic technique that helps the body self-regulate and increases the capacity of the body to heal on its own.

Craniosacral Therapy began with A.T. Still in the mid-to-late 1800’s. He developed techniques that have become known as osteopathy.  In the early 1900’s Osteopathic Doctor William Garner Sutherland, who studied with A.T. Still, noticed the rhythmically changing shape of the cranial bones. As he studied and researched, he developed techniques that were applicable to the entire body. His sensing technique can be used throughout the body to help discover areas of restriction.

What we now know as Craniosacral Therapy theory and techniques were developed through the study of Dr. John Upledger, DO. He researched the human body on a deep level. He began to understand the mechanics behind the cranio-sacaral system. Through his studies he developed new techniques and brought them to the mainstream, teaching practitioners throughout the world.

What creates the craniosacral rhythm? It is the movement of cerebrospinal fluid. The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flows from the cranium through the spinal column to the sacrum and back up. Kind of like the tide as it flows from shore to shore. This fluid flows from one end of the central nervous system to the other. 

The cerebrospinal fluid is produced by siphoning plasma from the blood and specialized cells in the brain create this vital fluid. The cerebrospinal fluid is secreted into circulation around the brain and the spinal cord. 

As the fluid enters the inter-cranial space, pressure builds encouraging the bones of the cranium to flex and squeeze the fluid down the spinal column towards the sacrum. The sacrum is the large triangular bone at the base of the spine. As that area fills and the pressure builds, the sacrum flexes, moving the fluid back up the spine to the brain. As more fluid is added to the system, some is removed. The “used” fluid is sent into the lymph system for “recycling.”

The cerebrospinal fluid brings nourishment to the brain and spinal cord, removes waste products, and protects the central nervous system from impact and injury. 

  • CSF bathes the entire central nervous system with oxygen and nutrients. Molecules that the brain cannot produce (like vitamins and glucose), cross the blood-brain barrier and are brought into the CSF for distribution to the areas where they are needed.
  • CSF carries away metabolic waste products like used proteins, excess neurotransmitters, debris from the lining of the brain, bacteria, viruses, etc. If these unusable molecules build up, it can disrupt the functioning of the brain.
  • CSF protects the brain and spinal cord. It works as a shock absorber, cushioning the brain against the skull and it helps to reduce the weight of the brain and spinal cord.

The movement and flow of the cerebral spinal fluid are very important to the health of the central nervous system and therefore health and regulation of the whole body. The central nervous system controls and balances the entire body, all muscles, glands, and sensory information from the organs.

In a Craniosacral Therapy session, I will listen to the rhythm in various locations along your body. In the areas where the pattern is dysfunctional, I will use techniques to help your body to normalize itself. 

Restriction can cause the central nervous system to have less control and balance over your body. This can lead to pain, and hinder your ability to handle stress, and sleep well, cause hormone dysregulation, digestive issues, changes in heart rate, or blood pressure.

During a session, I may use a combination of several techniques such as a still point, direction of energy, guided imagery, or somato-emotional release to correct the disrupted patterns. These tools help the tissues release tension, stress, and emotions that the body is holding, allowing the CSF to flow more freely.

While the change is occurring the craniosacral rhythm may spontaneously stop on its own, and there may be heat, pulsing, tension, or discomfort in the area being worked with. There may be an emotional outburst, tears, feelings of anger, fear, grief, and shame that accompany the release of emotion from the physical tissues holding them. Many times clients report after a session that they are very deeply relaxed and grounded. Anxiety and depression are gone, their pain has decreased significantly and they are sleeping better.

The body always wants to heal and with a little help it certainly can do so.

If you have more questions, please feel free to email or call me. Schedule an appointment today to begin a new phase of healing

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