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Craniosacral therapy

By Katherine M. Kraft, OTR/L
Craniosacral Therapy Practitioner

Craniosacral therapy Craniosacral therapy is not a treatment with which many people are familiar.  However, it is not new.  In fact, it has been around since the early 20th century when investigation was being made into the movement of cranial bones at their sutures or connections.  In the mid 1970s, researchers, led by Dr. John Upledger, DO, further investigated movement of cranial bones. Dr. Upledger continued his research, which included information on the membranes attaching the brain to the skull and the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, and developed the techniques used today taught through the Upledger Institute where I received my training.

I am an occupational therapist and was introduced to craniosacral therapy (CST) back in 1999 by my clinical supervisor.  Over the years, I both experienced sessions and took CST courses. I have been a pediatric occupational therapist most of my career adding experience working with adults just in the last few years.  My passion as a pediatric OT was always to address the root cause of the problem or dysfunction and not just treat the symptoms.  This passion kept leading me back to craniosacral therapy.

So what is craniosacral therapy and what are the benefits?
Craniosacral therapy is a gentle, light touch technique that releases restrictions in our body’s tissues.  We all have stress from our everyday lives – from work, family life, and keeping up with busy schedules.  In addition to that, some of us may have experienced some physical trauma – whether as a result of a fall, an accident, surgery, etc.  And some of us, if not all, have emotional stresses and trauma as well –  dealing with difficult individuals in our families or at work, depression, anxiety, and, in extreme cases, abuse whether it be physical, sexual or verbal.  All of these stresses and trauma do not just pass through our body.  They become part of us.  So much a part of us that they immerse themselves deep in our body’s tissue.  The body attempts to compensate for dysfunction as best it can.  However, over time, when it can no longer compensate, symptoms may appear – this can be visible as pain, fatigue or more emotional signs.

One of my first CST sessions in which I was the client illustrated this perfectly.  When I was much younger, I took ice skating lessons and fell as I was attempting a jump.  Although I knew I did something to my collarbone, I had no pain or lack of range of motion.  Nine years later I could only raise my arm to 90 degrees before it became painful.  Thankfully, I knew a CST practitioner.  It took a very painful 1-1/2 hour session, but after a few weeks, as my body reorganized, I had full range, no pain and no further problems.

Craniosacral therapy releases the restrictions that we have in our tissue for the simple goal of rebalancing the central nervous system and restoring it to optimal health and wellness – something we all should want, right?  As a practitioner, I place my hands on clients with no more than the weight of a nickel and feel for the rhythm of the cerebrospinal fluid – that fluid which surrounds the brain and spinal cord and whose job it is to nourish the nervous system.  Asymmetries and imbalances in that flow let me know where the restrictions are in the body.  By placing my hands at various points on the body and the head, to release the cranial bones, this fluid rhythm is restored to a symmetrical flow indicating the optimal function of the central nervous system.

For children, CST is effective in helping improve conditions such as ADD/ADHD, autism, sensory processing disorder, speech delays, and motor incoordination just to name a few.  The same principle and techniques apply.  However, because children will not lie still for an hour, the treatment session looks a little different.  The practitioner may work on the child while they are sitting on a parent’s lap, playing or lying on a massage table if they will tolerate that position.  Sessions are shorter, again depending on their tolerance.  The goal of treatment is still the same:  to release the imbalances in their nervous systems which may be causing the hyperactivity, behavior outbursts, speech delays or incoordination, etc.

As a pediatric OT, the more I learned about CST and how powerful and effective it can be, the more I knew I wanted to pursue becoming a practitioner as this treatment allows me to address issues in the central nervous system – I can’t get any deeper for a root cause than that!

Craniosacral therapy is also very helpful for all newborns.  During the birth process, the cranial bones are able to slide over and under each other to allow for compression in the birth canal.  After birth, they should return to their normal position.  In some cases, they do not, and this can lead to the child having difficulties down the road.  Because babies born via C-section do not have the benefit of the journey through the birth canal, they can also experience dysfunction in the nervous system.   CST is helpful in giving newborns the best start they can possibly have as they begin their life.  Other conditions such as torticollis, plagiocephaly and feeding difficulties can also be improved with craniosacral therapy sessions.

For further information on craniosacral therapy and articles regarding the benefits of it for a variety of conditions, go to www.upledger.com.  I am currently seeing clients at the All Life Community Center, 123 Hyatts Road in Delaware.  Check out my website for further information, www.katherinecst.com, and feel free to contact me via email or phone to schedule a session for you or your child.