Understanding CranioSacral Therapy Part 1

Cran­ioSacral Ther­a­py (CST) is the most gen­tle form of hands-on heal­ing. It uses a light touch – some­times an extreme­ly light touch – to bal­ance the flow of move­ment and infor­ma­tion in your body.

The tech­niques of Cran­ioSacral Ther­a­py can be traced back to the 1920’s when manip­u­la­tive prac­ti­tion­ers (osteopaths and doc­tors of chi­ro­prac­tic) began to apply the prin­ci­ples of man­u­al ther­a­py to treat­ment of the bones of the skull.

craniosacral therapyMore recent­ly, John Upledger, D.O. has been a major pop­u­lar­iz­er of Cran­ioSacral Ther­a­py. The man­u­al treat­ment tech­niques of CST are now used to address imbal­ances not only of the skull but through­out the body.

Despite the many clin­i­cal suc­cess sto­ries attrib­uted to Cran­ioSacral Ther­a­py, it has yet to acquire a sol­id enough research foot­ing to estab­lish it as an “accept­ed” med­ical pro­ce­dure.

Even among prac­ti­tion­ers who use it, there isn’t a con­sen­sus about the mech­a­nisms through which CST has its effect.

In my efforts to under­stand the work­ings Cran­ioSacral Ther­a­py, I’ve evolved a sci­en­tif­ic mod­el of its effec­tive­ness that makes sense to me. That’s what I’d like to share with you in this arti­cle.

Eight Steps to Understanding CranioSacral Therapy

  1. Your body is most­ly water.
  2. The flu­ids of your body are divid­ed in sep­a­rate com­part­ments bound by con­nec­tive tis­sue mem­branes.

A stiff con­nec­tive tis­sue wrap­ping – the sub­cu­ta­neous fas­cia – holds your whole body togeth­er so that water doesn’t gush out.

Inside of your body, con­nec­tive tis­sue mem­branes divide you into flu­id-filled sub-com­part­ments – the abdom­i­nal cav­i­ty, the tho­racic cav­i­ty, the skull, the right arm, left arm, right leg, etc.

Then, with­in each sub-com­part­ment there are sub-sub-com­part­ments. In the abdom­i­nal region, for instance, there are con­nec­tive tis­sue wrap­pings that keep the flu­ids of the liv­er sep­a­rate from those of the stom­ach, spleen, pan­creas, etc.

With­in the liv­er there are small­er com­part­ments still – the sep­a­rate lobes of the liv­er. And with­in each lobe, small­er group­ings of cells, and with­in them, small­er sub-sub-com­part­ments still, and so forth, until you get down to the flu­id of each indi­vid­ual cell, and even with­in the cell, the sub-cel­lu­lar organelles, and so forth.


Connective Tissues of the Abdomen



3. The waters of your body are con­stant­ly rock­ing or undu­lat­ing, like waves in the ocean.

When your heart beats, it sends a pulse of undu­la­tions through­out your flu­ids, just like the rip­ples that spread through a pond when you drop in a stone.

Move­ment of your arms or legs, and the rhythm of your breath also ini­ti­ate rock­ing of your flu­id com­part­ments.

4. Because of all the sub-com­part­ments, the flu­id undu­la­tion can be chop­py and noisy.

5. There are nerve end­ings in your con­nec­tive tis­sues con­stant­ly being stim­u­lat­ed by the flu­id move­ment.

6. If the flu­id undu­la­tions are chop­py or noisy, the feed­back to your brain will also be chop­py and noisy, and your brain will have a hard­er time stay­ing focused and cen­tered.

7. Cran­ioSacral Ther­a­py works to damp­en the noisy undu­la­tions in your con­nec­tive tis­sues.

8. The result is bet­ter-inte­grat­ed nerve feed­back and a calmer, more cen­tered brain.

Deepen Your Body of Knowledge

Anoth­er blog post about the brain effects of Cran­ioSacral Ther­a­py

Arti­cle on Dr. Lavine’s web­site about Cran­ioSacral Ther­apy

Home page of the Upledger Insti­tute


About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty five years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods. His website, askdrlavine.com, provides more information about his approach. Please contact him at drlavine@yourbodyofknowledge.com or at 212-400-9663.
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One Response to Understanding CranioSacral Therapy Part 1

  1. George Blomme says:

    Great that you con­tin­ue tak­ing your read­ers into the inner depths of the body and in this case treat­ments for it. I found it a good read. Thanks.

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