What is it?

Craniosacral therapy (CST) is a form of therapy which, through light touch, facilitates the body’s natural powers of self-healing. At the core of the craniosacral understanding are the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord and which are a fundamental part of subtle motions and pulsations throughout the whole body. These tide-like pulsations are an interface enabling the therapist to make a connection with the organising forces of life (sometimes called ‘the breath of life’). In craniosacral therapy, palpating these pulsations enables therapists to make a therapeutic relationship with the body-mind through their hands. Thus therapists can gently release tensions and restrictions from past (or current) illnesses, accidents, emotional trauma etc.  It is a non-manipulative discipline that has developed from the same origins as cranial osteopathy.

How does it work?

The therapy is based on observations that, for the healing process to develop spontaneously, it is vital to really listen through palpation. To do this the therapist puts preconceptions to one side. As well as listening, cranial therapists are also trained to make a variety of gentle interactions when appropriate. By focusing on the body’s internal rhythms and allowing restrictions to change, therapists help the client to learn, on both a conscious and sub-conscious personal level, how to recognise and release areas that may be causing illness or hindering recovery. The therapist is also aware of the anatomical structure of the person he or she is working with and uses that to guide the treatment. Therapists recognise a number of different rhythms or ‘tides’; the slower tides are thought to be more related to deeper levels of healing.

What does it involve?

Clients usually lie down, or sometimes sit, fully-clothed on a comfortable treatment table. The therapist uses his or her hands to ‘listen with the hands’ to the body’s subtle movements. The hands may be still for quite long periods of time. It feels different for everyone – you may feel heat or cold, tingling sensations, gentle pulsing or sense of deep relaxation. Sometimes people have a clear sense of significant physical or psychological reorganisation. Traumatic memories or episodes can be released via low-level emotional releases. Sometimes the therapist may ask questions about what the client is feeling to assist the process. The number of sessions required depends on the reason for treatment, varying from one or two sessions, to regular treatments over a long period of time in difficult conditions. This therapy does not involve manipulation or massage.

What is it good for?

A wide variety of disorders: from back pain, headaches and migraines to stress-related and emotional problems, including difficult conditions such as post-operative complications. Some practitioners have become specialists with particular conditions such as tinnitus and autism. CST is particularly suited to helping babies and young children and is effective in helping problems arising from a difficult birth.

Who can benefit?

Anyone can benefit, but because it is so gentle, craniosacral therapy is suitable for children and elderly people, as well as those with acutely painful conditions that are difficult to help with other hands-on therapies. It is also often appropriate when other therapies may be contraindicated, for example, during pregnancy or after an operation.

What are the side effects (contraindications)?

There are no side effects as such but therapists exercise caution when working with women in the early stages of pregnancy or people who have recently suffered a stroke (although CST can also be very helpful for people in both these groups).

Where can I have this therapy?

There are practitioners in many parts of the country, mostly working independently or at natural health clinics and similar centres. Find therapists near you using our directory of therapists.


With thanks to Mij Ferrett and Roger James: The Craniosacral Therapy Association, Monomark House, 27 Old Gloucester Street, London, WC1N 3XX. Tel: 07000 784735 www.craniosacral.co.uk.

Craniosacral Therapy Links:

The Craniosacral Therapy Association of the UK

Institute of Craniosacral Studies

The Karuna Institute

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