Fact Checked

What does a Craniosacral Therapist do?

Cate Gee
Cate Gee

A craniosacral therapist is a practitioner trained in craniosacral therapy, an alternative medicine based on the belief that cerebrospinal fluid in the spine and skull affects overall health because of what practitioners believe to be its inherent craniosacral rhythm. These therapists may come to the practice from a variety of training backgrounds including family practice, physical therapy, massage therapy, osteopathy, naturopathy, homeopathy, dentistry, or chiropractic medicine. In a typical craniosacral therapy session, the client discusses his medical history and goals for the treatment; these may include stress reduction or care for conditions including migraine headaches, chronic pain such as fibromyalgia, connective tissue disorders, auto-immune disorders, circulation problems, or temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ). The client is treated while lying clothed on a massage table, which allows the craniosacral therapist to manipulate the head, neck, spine and shoulders as needed.

A craniosacral therapist is trained to "listen with the hands" to detect rhythms within the client's craniosacral areas, which they say can be felt by applying gentle touch to areas of the body containing cerebrospinal fluid. By using massage therapy techniques to locate areas of weaker fluid motion or blockages, the craniosacral therapist manipulates this fluid movement to restore balance and health to the body. Practitioners also perform craniosacral release, which addresses what a craniosacral therapist might say is the inherent tension created in cerebrospinal areas because of the fluctuating movement of fluid and blood across bony channels in the skull and spine. The therapy is designed to calm the client and restore a sense of peace and order to his mind and body.

Woman reaching upward
Woman reaching upward

Craniosacral therapy originated in the early 20th century after William Sutherland, an osteopathic physician, developed the theory that small cranial sutures in the brain have a degree of mobility that creates tension in the brain, spine, and central nervous system. Other practitioners and researchers have developed their own theories of practice based on this initial theory. That means the practice of any craniosacral therapist is tempered by his research and training in this field.

As an alternative form of medicine, craniosacral therapy is controversial. There are numerous published reports questioning and investigating the scientific value of this treatment, and critics point to studies that fail to show evidence that craniosacral therapy has measurable benefits to health. A craniosacral therapist may be self-employed as a solo practitioner, or he may be employed by a physician's practice or other provider group. The controversy surrounding the therapy means many health insurance plans do not cover it outright, but it is sometimes possible for practitioners to bundle the treatment with other approved care so it is more affordable for clients.

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Woman reaching upward
      Woman reaching upward