Cranial Sacral Therapy (CST) is a gentle, meditative form of bodywork.  It’s comprised of bones in the head, spinal column, and sacrum.  The cranium and the sacrum are the endpoints to what is also known as the craniosacral system.

CST is a hands-on approach were the therapist focuses on the system and centers their awareness to the client’s body through what is called “listening stations”.  These stations are:

  1. Feet
  2. Thigh
  3. Pelvis
  4. Shoulders
  5. Head

Palpating at the listening stations may sharpen the skills of the therapist by tuning in to the cranial sacral wave.  Dr. Sutherland originally coined the term “cranial rhythm”, along with other variations of the name from others in the field.  As a student of osteopathy, Dr. Sutherland learned to palpate the tissues of the body and develop the ability to sense with his hands the motion of these tissues.  He became intrigued with the skull and its formations, and its movement and the connection with other bones of the system.

PHYSICAL ANATOMY of the Craniosacral System

  • The Central Nervous System (CNS) – The brain and spinal cord comprise the CNS and are very important parts of the craniosacral system.
  • Meningeal Membranes – Comprised of three layers:  Dura mater, Arachnoid & Pia mater that envelop the brain and spinal cord in cerebral fluid.

Benefits and uses:

The goal is to give compression and allow decompression in areas that may help alleviate stress and pain.

Learning to feel the movement of the cranial rhythm enables therapists to identify any restrictions and compressions.  These restrictions and compressions are likely caused by injury or trauma and if not corrected, can cause dysfunction and disease in the body.

Once a therapist determines an area of restriction or compression, a gentle, non-intrusive technique is applied to release the area where tension may occur.  We are dealing with is a physical system and use energetic techniques to do the work.

Studies indicate that CST may be an effective treatment — or part of an effective treatment plan — for certain conditions. One 2012 study found that it was effective at reducing symptoms in those with severe migraines. Another study found that people with fibromyalgia experienced relief from symptoms (including pain and anxiety).

By incorporating CTS in to your massage session, you can reduce an array of symptoms like:

  • Chronic pain
  • Sinus/vision pain
  • Depression
  • TMJD
  • Headaches/whiplash
  • Low back pain/pelvic stiffness
  • Sciatica

Signs of Restriction or Compression Releasing:

  • Heat
  • Fluid releasing
  • Softening
  • Body movements or twitching
  • Body relaxing
  • Swallowing
  • Breathing changes
  • Rapid Eye Movement (REM)
  • Somato-Emotional Release (SOM)


Before applying CTS, a brief history is needed from the client.  If your client suffers from any of the following, abstain from this work.  When in doubt whether or not CS should be performed, consult the client’s physician before proceeding.

  • Localized acute injuries
  • Acute intracranial hemorrages
  • Intracranial aneurysms
  • Recent skull fractures (six weeks)
  • Severe grand mal seizures (acute)
  • Recent stroke (six weeks)
  • No compressive techniques on children under the age of nine







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