What is CranioSacral Therapy?

CranioSacral Therapy (CST) is a manual therapy involving gentle but consistent massage and manipulation to balance the craniosacral system in the body, which includes the bones, nerves, fluids, and connective tissues of the cranium and the spinal area to reduce physical and psychological tensions. Like the pulse of the cardiovascular system, the CranioSacral system has a rhythm that can be felt throughout the body. Using a touch generally no heavier than the weight of a small coin, a therapist can monitor this rhythm at key body areas to pinpoint the source of an obstruction or stress. Once a source has been determined, they can assist the natural movement of the fluid and related soft tissue to help the body self-correct. This simple action is often all it takes to remove a restriction.

CranioSacral therapy developed from the work of an American osteopath, Dr William Sutherland in the early 1900s. He discovered intrinsic movements of the bones in the head and his further research revealed different rhythms in the body. As a result of detailed clinical observation it has become clear that these movements, which can be measured with delicate scientific instruments, are a direct expression of health and offer a way of working with the physical as well as the more subtle aspects of life. 

Further observation showed that these movements are also inextricably linked with mental and emotional health. Restriction of movement corresponds to a reduction of the natural capacity to self-heal. Using the hands to feel these movements allows CranioSacral therapists to facilitate change in areas of restriction. A limitation or absence of the movements implies a reduction in the expression of health which may result in, for example, numbness, a sense of something missing or disease. 

A practitioner using CST can evaluate a patient to help locate restrictions in the body, such as the CranioSacral Rhythm (CSR) where the practitioner feels the strength, amplitude and quality of the CSR in different places in the body to track down areas where the rhythm is impaired, and the Fascial Evaluation, where the practitioner looks for adhesions, and restrictions by feeling for areas that do not move as easily as others. 

In a typical CranioSacral Therapy session, the client remains clothed and lies on their back (if possible) on the treatment table. The therapist may place their hands on key evaluation areas such as the ankles, head, neck, lower back, assessing the state of the client's CranioSacral system. The treatment itself involves the application of very light forces applied by the therapist's hands. Limbs may be picked up and moved gently and slowly as the body tissues are allowed to 'unwind' themselves. A typical session lasts approximately thiry minutes to an hour depending on individual needs. 

The first thing you will probably notice is a sense of deep relaxation, which will generally last throughout the session. With subsequent treatments this release of tension often extends into everyday life. The work can address physical aches and pains, acute and chronic disease, emotional or psychological disturbances, or simply help to develop well-being, health and vitality. See the list of conditions CST has shown to be helpful with. 

CranioSacral therapy is so gentle that it is suitable for babies, children, and the elderly, as well as adults and people in fragile or acutely painful conditions. Treatment can aid almost any condition, raising vitality and improving the body's capacity for self-repair.

CranioSacral Therapy Principles

the cranial rhythmic impulse

a more superficial rhythm expressed at an average rate of 8-12 cycles per minute

the mid-tide

a tidal rhythm that carries ordering forces into the body expressed at a slower rate of approximately 2.5 cycles per minute

the long tide

a deep and slow rhythmic impulse expressed about once every 100 seconds. The long tide is considered to be the first stirring of life and motion as the Breath of Life emerges from a deeper ground of stillness at the center of our being

Life expresses itself as motion. At a deep level of our physiological functioning, all healthy, living tissues subtly “breathe” with the motion of life, a phenomenon that produces rhythmic impulses.
— Michael Kern, DO., R.C.S.T., M.I.Cr.A., N.D.

Dr. Michael Lipelt, founder and practitioner at Stillpoint Family Health Services received a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University of Naturopathic Medicine in Seattle, WA in 1989 where he received training in western herbs, one of the tools of Naturopathy. He received his Naturopathic Medical License for the state of Hawaii in 1990 and his Naturopathic Medical License for the State of California in 2004. Note that in 2003 the California Naturopathic Doctors’ Act was passed that permits a Naturopathic doctor to diagnose and treat disease, similar to an MD. Dr. Lipelt has practiced naturopathy now for over 20 years.