Navigate Up

Craniosacral Therapy 

What Is Craniosacral Therapy?

  • Craniosacral therapy involves two forms of gentle manipulation.
  • The therapist may exert a slight pressure on the sutures or connections between the cranial (head) bones.
  • The therapist also places a small amount of pressure to distract the head, neck, or spine.
  • These adjustments are believed to restore balance to the nervous system and surrounding structures that support it.

What Is the Background of Craniosacral Therapy?

  • Two doctors of osteopathy are generally credited with the development of the theories and techniques that we now know as craniosacral therapy.
  • In the 1930s and 1940s, Dr. William Sutherland developed the concept of cranial osteopathy, noting that gentle manipulation around the head and neck could have a profound benefit for people with a wide array of problems.
  • In the 1970s, Dr. John Upledger rediscovered this technique and has helped to advance the therpeutic approach and scientific basis.
  • There is evidence that slight play or movement exists between the cranial sutures (connection between the bones that make up the skull).
  • There is evidence of a rhythmic flow or rhythm of the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), the fluid that cushions the brain and spinal cord.
  • While it is difficult to show scientifically, our understanding is that with certain physical or emotional problems there may be a disturbance in the movement of the sutures and normal rhythmic flow of the CSF. The hope is that gentle manual treatment by a therapist can restore the normal pattern of movement in these areas.

What Are the Indications for Craniosacral Therapy?

Experience at UPMC and elsewhere have found benefit for several groups of problems including:

  • Migraine and tension headaches, temporomandibular joint pain, and other facial pain problems
  • Neck, shoulder girdle, and lower back pain
  • Posttraumatic injuries of the head and neck and whiplash
  • More generalized problems such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Problems with alertness, concentration, or memory
  • Anxiety and stress-related problems

What Are the Contraindications for Craniosacral Therapy?

  • There are no specific contraindications to craniosacral therapy.
  • Craniosacral therapy, like other complementary approaches, should not be used in lieu of standard medical treatments.

​Contact Us

UPMC Center for Integrative Medicine
Shadyside Place
Suite 310
580 S. Aiken Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15232

For general information or to schedule an appointment, call 412-623-3023.

For information about our research studies, please call 412-623-2374.

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com