Craniosacral therapy (CST) is a form of healing which, through light touch, facilitates the body’s natural powers of self-healing. At the core of the craniosacral system are the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord and which create subtle motions and pulsations throughout the whole body.
These different 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 access the breath of life and 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 roots as cranial osteopathy.
The therapy is based on observations that, for the healing process to develop spontaneously, it is often enough to really listen through palpation. To do this the therapist puts preconceptions to one side. Cranial therapists are also trained to make a variety of interventions if 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 subconscious personal level, how to recognise and release areas that may be causing illness or hindering recovery.
The therapist will always also be aware of the anatomical structure of the person he or she is working with and use 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.
Clients usually lie, or sometimes sit, fully clothed on a comfortable treatment couch. The therapist uses his or her hands to ‘listen with the hands’ to the body’s subtle rhythms and then engages the tissues of the client's system. 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.
A wide variety of disorders can benefit from CST: from back pain, headaches and migraines to stress-related and emotional problems, including difficult conditions such as autism. It is particularly suited to the treatment of babies and young children. CST is effective in treating problems arising from a difficult birth.
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 treat with other hands-on therapies. It is also often appropriate when other therapies may be contraindicated, for example, during pregnancy or after an operation.
There are no side effects as such but therapists would exercise caution when working with women in the early stages of pregnancy or people who have recently suffered a stroke (although it can also be very helpful for treating people in both these groups).
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