Craniosacral Massage: The Healing Gentle Touch

Smiling woman relaxing during her massage treatment at the spa.

Craniosacral massage –or craniosacral therapy (CST)–is an extremely gentle treatment used to relieve pain and body dysfunction.  As the name suggests, CST focuses on the top and bottom of the spine, where it meets the cranium (head) and sacrum, the triangular bone in the lower back between the two hipbones of the pelvis. The therapist uses a touch estimated[1] to be about the weight of a nickel. The goal is to improve the flow of cerebrospinal fluid around the brain and spinal cord, relieving neck and lower back pain.

How does craniosacral massage work?

Every day we subject our bodies to stress and strain that can cause our muscles and tissues to tighten.  As a result, these tight tissues put pressure on our spine and craniosacral system, which can result in neck and back pain.  Significantly, these conditions have increased in recent years as we hunch over computers and smart phones, resulting in pain often described as “tech neck.”

In the 1970’s Osteopath John Upledger, a clinical researcher and Professor of Biomechanics at Michigan State University, developed CST after observing a neck surgery in which he saw movement in the patient’s cranial membranes. As a result, he reasoned that gentle manipulation of the membranes by a therapist could be beneficial.

During the treatment the therapist feels different parts of the body to determine if there are restrictions or tensions.  Next, he or she gently uses “soft touch” to release any restrictions that can impact the craniosacral system.

What to expect

When you have a craniosacral massage you lie face up on a massage table while your therapist applies extremely light pressure and traction along your neck and skull. You might also sit while she treats your lower back. Generally speaking, you wear clothing during your massage, which makes CST an easy lunch hour treatment.

Good to know

A craniosacral massage can produce results after just one session. However, some people require multiple treatments over several weeks.

Craniosacral therapy or massage is not recommended if a change or slight increase in intracranial pressure could cause instability.  For example, small pressure changes could affect an aneurysm, cerebral hemorrhage or other preexisting severe bleeding disorder.[2]

Fans of craniosacral massage treatment say it stimulates the body’s healing mechanism. It also addresses conditions such as migraines and chronic fatigue.

Find spas offering cranialsacral massage here.

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[1],  “FAQS: What is Craniosacral Therapy?
[2] Ibid