Anyone who has taken an interest in the art of massage, either as a client or as a professional, will be able to tell you that there are massages for everything. If you are suffering from anxiety, there is a technique that will benefit you, if you are experiencing pain from an old injury, sports massage therapy will undoubtedly bring you relief, if you know your discomfort is originating from a different part of your body, trigger point therapy will help you discover where the source of your tension is. What hardly anyone stops to think about is the benefits of taking the time to massage your scalp! Let’s talk about Cranial Sacral Therapy!
What Is Cranial Sacral Therapy?
Cranial Sacral Therapy (CST) is a noninvasive massage technique that focuses on applying light pressure to the bones in your head, spinal column and sacrum, a triangular bone at the base of your spine; CST is even used to improve the pressure and circulation of the cerebrospinal fluid, which cushions the brain and spinal cord. Practitioners of this technique explain that it is meant to restore the bones in your skull to their natural position; paying such delicate attention to these bones has helped decrease stress from injuries and even brought relief to clients suffering from migraines. Cranial Sacral Therapy, or Craniosacral Therapy, has also been applauded by patients for easing their neck and back pain and discomfort caused by temporomandibular joint disorders. People who have undergone sessions of Craniosacral Therapy have claimed to experience better sleep and far fewer migraines.
What many people don’t realize is that there are muscles in our scalp that require care and nurturing just as the rest of our muscles do. The muscles in our scalp are responsible for our facial expressions, which means they are constantly in use. They can even be put under stress while sitting in front of a computer screen for extended periods of time. Because people are unaware of the muscles hidden away in our scalp, they tend to go uncared for.
Something You Should Know
According to John Upledger, the modern founder of Craniosacral Therapy, this massage technique works with the body’s natural rhythms to pinpoint problems and ease stress. Although many clients will praise CST for improving their sleep cycles or decreasing the frequency of their migraines, painscience.com suggests that there may not be enough scientific research to support the effects of Cranial Sacral Therapy.
Paul Ingraham with painscience.com points out in his article “Does Craniosacral Therapy Work?” that CST is praised for applying gentle pressure to restore cranial bones to their original positions when the bones in our skulls are actually stagnant; they are not capable of moving. Ingraham explains that though cerebrospinal fluid does circulate, its circulation is based on respiration rather than bone movement. Ingraham also goes on to point out that if the cranial bones do not move in order to compensate for pressure from dangerous swelling in the cranium after head trauma, they probably won’t move when a therapist applies light pressure to them.
Although there is very little scientific support for craniosacral therapy actually affecting the movement of bones in our heads, or cerebrospinal fluid circulation, we cannot discard the numerous clients who have experience the benefits of this technique. Ingraham himself can attest to how relaxing and comforting the experience of allowing your scalp to be massaged and taken care of can be. Though science has not been able to provide concrete evidence of the benefits of CST, it does not mean that benefits cannot be reaped from the technique. Ingraham does point out, however, that therapies that are unproven by research should not be sold to clients without acknowledging how scientifically uncertain the massage’s true benefits are.
What to Expect
According to Ana Gotter with healthline.com, Craniosacral Therapy sessions can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. During this time, your therapist will use no more than five grams of pressure, about the weight of a nickel, to gently explore your feet, head and sacrum in order to listen to your body’s natural rhythms and detect where there may be an imbalance in your body. As lavidamassage.com explains, areas like your cranial base, located at the back of your skull, are commonly where stress will build up and cause migraines; by focusing gentle ministrations on this area, therapists will be able to open up the tissues to alleviate pain. Therapists may also pay close attention to the sacrum; focus on this area allows cerebrospinal fluid to flow more easily which will help ease back pain, stress and even chronic fatigue. Your jaw may also receive attention as there is a lack of fluid in your jaw joints which can lead to temporomandibular joint disorders.
What It Treats and Who Should Avoid CST
As we discussed above, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from various CST clients, praising the technique as an effective treatment to a wide variety of ailments. Ana Gotter explains that CST is appropriate for all ages and can provide relief for individuals suffering from migraines, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), disturbed sleep cycles, fibromyalgia and much more. Not only can craniosacral therapy relieve physical stress, but it can contribute to easing emotional tension as well. Even women struggling with difficult pregnancies have reported experiencing benefits from CST.
Like any massage, mild discomfort may be experienced during your treatment but will often fade within 24 hours. Though appropriate for all ages, people with certain conditions should avoid Craniosacral Therapy. If you suffer from severe bleeding disorders, aneurysms or have recently experienced traumatic head injuries that included fractures or cranial bleeding, you should refrain from experimenting with this technique.
Though there is a limited amount of scientific evidence that this massage therapy provides any real benefits to clients, there are countless patients who swear by this particular technique. If nothing else, this massage is calming and relaxing; anyone who has ever had their hair styled by a stylist or barber will tell you how soothing it is to have your scalp massaged and given proper care. If you enjoy having your hair played with or find getting your hair washed at the salon or barber shop relaxing, give craniosacral therapy a try! As always, consult your doctor and make sure that your massage therapist is licensed in craniosacral therapy before making an appointment.
We and Fremont College do not offer courses on this particular technique, but we do have a number of programs exploring other forms of massage therapy, sports therapy, rehabilitation therapy and physical therapy. Visit our website and learn more about the wide variety of programs we have to offer and how you can help patients looking for stress and pain relief find some comfort.