Craniosacral therapy, sometimes called cranial osteopathy, is massage that focuses on the skull and sacrum. It is rooted in the idea that the health of the craniosacral system is central to our overall health.

To understand this type of therapy, it’s helpful to have a basic grasp on how the craniosacral system works. Basically, this system provides a healthy environment for the central nervous system. The craniosacral (CS) system is composed of membranes and fluid that protects the brain and the spine. The membranes of the craniosacral system stretch from the bones of the skull and face down the spine to the tailbone and sacrum. They create a semi-closed, hydraulic environment through which cerebrospinal fluid flows.

You can think of the CS as a specialized circulation system for the spine and brain. As blood carries nutrients to the cells of our organs and tissues, so does cerebrospinal fluid carry nutrients to brain and spine cells. Cerebrospinal fluid also occupies the space between these cells.

The craniosacral system provides many functions:
–Keeping the brain afloat, thereby decreasing the effects of gravity by about 75%.
–Absorbing shock so that the brain does not hit the inside of the skull during sudden movements.
–Delivering nutrients to the brain, the spine, and two glands: the pituitary gland and the pineal gland, which are located inside the brain.
–Removing waste materials and toxins from intercellular space.
–Keeping cells lubricated so as to avoid short-circuiting in the brain and damaging friction in the rest of the CS.
–Preserving a proper ion ratio (balance of electrolytes) so that our nerves can communicate and help us think, move, and feel.

The craniosacral system has its own rhythm, as the volume of CSF pulses about six to 12 times each minute. By detecting this natural rhythm, an LMT with craniosacral expertise can assess the health of the CS, and remove any blockages that may be restricting the free flow of CSF.

Restrictions are often caused by immobility in the bones related to the craniosacral system. The skull, spinal column, face, and pelvis contain the CS. A craniosacral therapist can help alleviate any blockages in these areas that may be slowing CSF flow. For instance, head injuries can immobilize the sutures, the joints between the cranial bones. (For many years it was understood that the cranial bones fused together in adulthood, but we now know that cranial bones are constantly shifting—opening and closing at the sutures—so as to accommodate the flow of CSF.)

Here is a smattering of the benefits craniosacral therapy can bring:
Improving overall health and immunity. As CS circulation improves, the body is better able to heal and balance itself.
As a treatment for chronic conditions. The craniosacral system encompasses brain health, which in turn impacts every other system in our bodies. So craniosacral therapy may be a helpful “boost” for overall health, a very good thing when dealing with chronic conditions.
–The American Cancer Society has said that CST can help cancer patients relax and let go of stress.

In a craniosacral therapy session, the client lies on his or her back, fully clothed. The CST practitioner uses his or her hands to release restrictions in the craniosacral system. The LMT also uses physical touch to encourage flow of cerebrospinal fluid.

Accredited massage schools such as East West College provide in-depth education on how to provide craniosacral therapy. In our LMT program, students have the opportunity to select craniosacral therapy as an elective course. If you’re interested in a massage career including craniosacral therapy, come to one of our Massage Career Preview events to learn more.