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Craniosacral Therapy

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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.
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