Some 20 years ago I (Tom) heard of Craniosacral Therapy (CST) and was so intrigued by it, I investigated it further and had the fortunate opportunity to study it firsthand with the man who developed it, osteopath Dr. John Upledger. Dr. Upledger allowed me to follow him on clinical rounds at his Upledger Institute in Florida, where I observed his work and received a couple of treatments from him. I was extremely impressed by the patience and focus he demonstrated with his patients, and subsequently took workshops with him to learn the skills that are the basis of his art.
What is Craniosacral Therapy? CST uses a very light pressure, about 5 grams, or the weight of a nickel, to evaluate and treat the craniosacral system. The craniosacral system consists of the cerebrospinal fluid and the membranes (meninges) that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.
The craniosacral system pulses at a very subtle level, named the “craniosacral rhythm,” or CSR. The practitioner learns to listen through his/her hands for the pulsing of the cerebrospinal fluid as it flows through the ventricles of the brain, and circulates around the spinal column back to the brain. This pulsation can be observed in a MRI, but feeling it requires training and practice on the cranial bones and on specific areas of the body. Over time, a skilled practitioner can feel it anywhere on the body.
What does it feel like to receive CST? Years ago, suffering from headaches caused by job-related chemical exposures and stress, I (Carol) received a CST treatment quite by accident from an advanced LMT. I had no idea what she was doing, and she didn’t give me a clue as to what to expect. It seemed as if she barely moved, but I could feel a slight tug here, and shift there, and each time I let go, she knew it and moved on to the next area. It was as if we were having a non-verbal conversation.
What does CST treat? I (Tom) use CST as an adjunct with acupuncture mostly for migraine and chronic headaches, and chronic neck and back pain. Dr. Upledger claims many other benefits, including motor-coordination impairments, autism, disorders of the central nervous system, orthopedic issues, traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, scoliosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, stress and tension-related problems, TMJ, immune disorders, and PTSD.
In a nutshell, what does a CST treatment entail? The practitioner feels the CSR and gets a sense of any imbalances in the craniosacral system. Then, using gentle techniques, the cranial bones are adjusted, which releases restrictions along the meninges. These restrictions can affect the spinal nerves, releasing them to allow nerve conduction to flow more freely once again. It’s extremely subtle method, but the results are palpable and long-lasting.
While I have just touched upon this therapy in this article, its depth and benefits are truly amazing. I would certainly recommend experiencing CST if you have tried other treatments and haven’t seen any results.
I (Carol) second this notion, for I found with a few sessions the headaches subsided, and have found nothing beats it in patients who present with stubborn headaches borne of tight neck and/or shoulder muscles.
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