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What is CranioSacral Therapy?

CranioSacral therapy (CST) is a light touch therapy carried out with the client is fully clothed. We normally treat whilst the client is lying down, face up, or lying on their side. Sometimes we treat people with mobility issues whilst they are sitting in a chair. It is a subtle system of natural health care that uses gentle non-invasive touch that supports the body’s innate ability to heal. It is a powerful therapy that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) to assist in improving function throughout the whole body. By listening to the body with our sensitive and practiced hands we assess and create a picture of where restrictions sit in the body. We assist the body by following tissue movement held in restricted patterns towards release. Once the central nervous system has tissue and fascia restrictions released from around it, it creates space for more fluid flow, tissue repair and self-healing in the body.


Where does CranioSacral Therapy Come from?

In the 1970’s Dr John Upledger discovered the CranioSacral System (CSS) whilst assisting a surgical operation. He developed and expanded an understanding of the CSS with help from the findings of Osteopath Dr.G Sutherland and a team of anatomists and physiologists. He described the structures that produce and contain the cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. 


What is CranioSacral System?


The Cerebrospinal fluid is produced in the ventricles of the brain. It is a magical liquid which cleanses and brings nutrition to the areas of the central nervous system it contacts. It flows between the structures that enable the craniosacral rhythm, between the meninges of the brain and up and down the dural membranes which surrounds the spinal cord.  It is contained within this tadpole shaped system with a feedback mechanism controlling the levels of production and reabsorption. The bones of the head attach to the meninges at the brain and the sacrum at the base of the spine connects to the dural membrane.  These are the handles within the craniosacral system which allow us, the therapist, to perform specific techniques to improve fluid production, movement, circulation and drainage. The rhythm is transmitted and experienced through the connective tissue and it is the continuous web-like connective tissue, otherwise known as fascia, which connects and supports the muscles, blood vessels, nerves and organs. As such connective tissue restrictions have an effect upon the different systems of the body, such as digestive, hormone (endocrine) and circulation to name but a few.


How does CranioSacral Therapy work?

When we place our hands on the client’s body, we can tune in to the rhythmic motion of the cerebrospinal fluid, a deep fluid pulse produced deep inside the brain. We compare the rhythm in one leg to another, we can feel differences in strength and movement. We can compare the rhythm at the hips, the shoulders, rhythm at one side of the head to the other. By doing so we build a picture of where we think the cerebrospinal fluid movement is restricted. Perhaps the areas with restricted flow correspond with areas experienced as pain or injury by the client.

These restrictions and lines of tensions may be caused by physical trauma such as trips, falls, accidents, operations and repetitive strain injury or emotional trauma, such as bereavement. It can be likened to the lines of tension you see if you press on a pillow. The restrictions spiral throughout the body tissue often creating problems at a distance from the original cause. So you may experience a release at the jaw as we work at the hips/pelvis area. Since we treat the body as a whole connected unit the client may experience releases and a relaxation throughout all the systems of the body. This can mean the area we treat by following tissue movement very gently, is sometimes different from the area in which the symptoms are experienced as our bodies can be very clever in how they adapt to stresses and strains. CST complements and stimulates the body's natural healing processes and therefore can be used as a tool within a preventative health approach.


Who and what does it treat?

Everybody has a CranioSacral System involving brain membranes which extend from the head down the back, surrounding the spinal cord. All of us produce cerebrospinal fluid in our brain. We all live lives which are asymmetrical, left-handed, right footed, sitting with one leg crossed over the other and our bodies compensate for the events in our life, falls, injuries, giving birth, operations. We make physical adaptions and for a time perhaps all is well, but as time passes symptoms may develop. These are the sources of restriction in our connective body tissue, the fascia as it twists, kinks and pulls out of shape. Once the restriction impinges on blood supply, nerve supply, or one of the body systems, we lose function and symptoms develop. The accumulation and layers of physical or emotional challenges have reached a threshold and tipped over into being symptomatic. Perhaps it is at this point when the person asks for help. When changes can be made in the soft tissue structures housing the brain and spinal cord, the levels of tension held in any area drop and it can lead to extraordinary changes in people’s health and symptoms. Therefore it is effective for a wide range of problems associated with discomfort, pain and dysfunction.


How many treatments will I need? 


The number of sessions a client will require depends upon the presenting complaint. Everyone is different and they often arrive with a variety of complaints. Some are recent and acute, some are long term and chronic. Until the client has had their first treatment, we don’t know how well they will respond and so we review the treatments as we go along.

It is good to use the momentum of the first treatment and have a second treatment quite soon after. By then we would have a clearer idea of how well the treatments are progressing. For pain symptoms I often ask for values out of ten for intensity and frequency to have a clearer picture of whether there is positive progressive change. It can be hard to tell if the pain levels of one week are at the same level the following week. In my experience I find clients can forget how bad their symptoms were when they first came.

The treatment provokes a change to the symptoms so an awareness of how the body is feeling and making note of any changes for feedback at the next treatment is useful. Our aim is to help the client to reach a state of well-being, the place below the pain threshold where one too many adaptations or issues create symptoms.

Commonly clients haven’t experienced CST before and so it is our job to help them understand how we work. It is a very different approach to most therapies which ‘do’ to the client. It involves educating them to pay attention to their body mind signals, perhaps to limit their activity whilst their body is in a state of healing and repair. To learn to pace themselves and gradually return to a normal level of activity. If the client overdoes it in their eagerness to return to ‘normal’, their body may not be strong enough to support them to return to a fully functioning state.

Therefore we suggest an initial set of 3/4 treatments, with the first 2 in quick succession, perhaps a week apart, then the next 2 at fortnightly intervals. It depends how much input the client wants. To commit to 4/6 treatment may mean that the client is far below the threshold for symptoms to show themselves. Whereas a fewer number of treatments may mean the symptoms return much sooner as some of the restriction patterns held so deeply could not be resolved in 3 sessions.


Do you treat children?


Yes I am trained to treat children and have a variety of younger clients with a range complaints, some originating from the birth process to teenagers with sports injuries. It is a gentle method to improve their focus, attention, and emotional self-management. 

When a parent brings a child for treatment, after their first assessment and treatment, a treatment plan is discussed with the parents. It is helpful to receive feedback between treatments so we point out which movements or behaviour we are assessing and how to observe them, for example a 4 month old baby with restricted neck movement after a ventouse delivery. Once the initial complaints are resolved it is a good idea to return every 6 months (after their last treatment for a follow-up) as they are growing so fast. It is a preventative approach whilst they are growing to ensure there are no restrictions to prevent a smooth transition from baby to toddler, toddler to young child and beyond into teenage years. 


Tell me more about SER


SER uses and expands the same principles as CST. It allows suppressed emotions and the effects of physical and emotional trauma to be released by working with restrictions in the body’s connective tissue. It is not something which we as therapists aim to achieve but rather it is the client’s inner wisdom which decides to let something be released in a safe and supported environment. We use different techniques to connect the client to their body, known as imagery and dialogue, when it is appropriate. It allows the possibility of re-connecting and integrating parts of the Client’s Self which often disconnect when experiencing distressing situations. Done with integrity and respect, at a comfortable pace for the client it can offer profound change to people’s constricting beliefs and behaviour patterns opening their lives to change and renewed possibility.

I didn't feel much, why not?


Different levels of awareness will produce different levels of feeling. As you experience more treatment you may tune in more to the subtle movements and changes in your body. Just because you didn't feel much doesn't mean that nothing is going on. You may not realise the subtle tingling in different parts of your body are signs that something is changing. The changes you are feeling in the tissue, the muscle, the fascia between these areas may feel like a softening, lengthening, pulsing or heat emerging. 

Sometimes clients experience an altered state during treatment where they are neither awake nor asleep and it feels like they are emerging from a dream. So it can be hard to recall any changes felt. After the treatment it is worth paying attention to signs and symptoms in their bodies. They may notice more change after the event than during.

Through practical experience it has been observed that the body becomes more attuned to CranioSacral Therapy with subsequent treatments and your awareness of releases and change within the body will increase accordingly.


How come I feel pain in my when I didn't feel it at the beginning?


Due to the body’s ability to adapt and compensate, the body is in a state of organised dysfunction. By treating with CranioSacral Therapy, we disorganise the body and ask the dysfunction to organise more functionally. For example, a client arrives with a knee problem, a compensation for an earlier problem at the shoulder. By releasing the restrictions in their connective tissue related to the shoulder problem, the knee has also been worked upon. This is the reason they were originally unaware of a restriction in the shoulder as it was their “normal”, but now post treatment they may have a readjustment type pain there. That is why it doesn't always make them feel better straight away. This is normal, drink plenty of water to flush out the toxins which the treatment will have promoted the release of. We advise a soak in the bath with some magnesium salts when appropriate. Take it easy and pace yourself for the next few days whilst your body is settling into a new-found position. The pain is the body’s new realignment settling in. A shortened contracted muscle has re-found its original length through tissue release, so for a short while it may ache.

Essentially the treatment will address compensation patterns that have helped the body to function up to a point. Once these aren’t working any longer, symptoms appear. The hidden restrictions will present new aches or pains you weren’t aware of at the beginning, but it offers the opportunity for total correction of the problem at that time.

For example, a client arrived with a spinal inflammatory condition who feels sore after treatment at the dural membrane surrounding the spinal cord. A warm bath will soothe the aches and pains. The discomfort is a sign of change around the neural sleeves, where the nerves emerge from the spinal cord. Depending on the level at which the restrictions were felt upon the spinal cord, our explanation may include more detail about facilitated segments and how target areas or organs innervated may also be affected. Working at the level of the 9th thoracic vertebra (T9) may affect the area around the Gallbladder and noticing any adjustment aches in that area would be normal after such a treatment. I explain it is best not to arrange too much after a treatment, to go home and rest. For the next day or two they may feel they have been “worked on” but then any discomfort should ease. If they have any concerns, they can contact me during working hours.

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