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What Are the Benefits of Craniosacral Therapy?

By Danielle Hill ; Updated July 18, 2017

Craniosacral therapy is an alternative or complementary healing modality that uses gentle touch to manipulate the bones of the skull and the lower spine and pelvis. The technique was developed by an osteopathic physician and professor of biomechanics, John E. Upledger. If you are considering treatment through craniosacral therapy, consult your doctor first about the potential benefit for your own condition and for referral to qualified practitioners in your area.

Theoretical Basis

Craniosacral therapy is intended to increase and normalize the flow of cerebrospinal fluid through the bones of the head, the spine and the pelvis, thereby restoring health to sufferers of a range of health conditions. Like traditional Chinese medicine, the healing method aims to remove blockages in healthy flow, which result in the manifestation of disease. However, instead of working energetically, craniosacral therapy works with the tissues and fluids surrounding the central nervous system.

Potential Benefits

According to craniosacral therapists, the treatment may relieve pain, joint problems, chronic fatigue, depression, hyperactivity and various diseases affecting the nervous, immune or endocrine systems. However, given the dramatic difference between a craniosacral framework and the scientific medical model, these results are not necessarily borne out by scientific trials. According to the American Cancer Society, the therapy has not been proven to treat cancer or any other disease, but may relieve stress and tension.

Scientifically Demonstrated Benefits

In a 2009 study published in "Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine", researchers found that individuals with fibromyalgia experienced a significant improvement in pain, quality of life, sleep quality and anxiety after 25 weeks of craniosacral therapy. In a 2009 study published in "Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice", researchers studied the effects of craniosacral therapy on the condition of the lower urinary tract among patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). The study found that regular craniosacral therapy relieved the lower urinary tract symptoms and improved the patients' quality of life considerably.

Debate and Contention

As craniosacral therapy does not fit within the model of health used in western medical science, its benefits are open to widespread contention among medical doctors and scientific researchers. Relatively few studies have demonstrated the modality's effectiveness. The University of Minnesota acknowledges craniosacral therapy's benefits in reducing chronic pain and healing stress or trauma-related disorders, as well as improving the rate of recovery after surgery. However, western science has not conclusively affirmed the craniosacral model for health, that cerebrospinal fluid has an optimal rhythm or wave of movement. If you are interested in using craniosacral therapy to alleviate a health condition, ask your primary care physician to refer you to a reputable complementary and alternative medical center. Many hospitals have such centers on-site for patients with serious chronic diseases.

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