What is cranial-sacral therapy?

January 2, 2014

cranial-sacral therapyMost days it goes something like this….. “Cranial-sa what?” or “I don’t know what you just did, but I think I might need to take a nap”…

… or “How exactly do I explain this treatment to my friend who wants to know what’s been helping my (fill in the blank with your condition or symptom) so much?”

To clarify, the term craniosacral or cranial-sacral-therapy came from John Upledger.

I studied Cranial Osteopathy and Core Synchronism through two different schools (neither one through the Upledger Institute). Cranial Osteopathy stemmed from the teachings of William Sutherland, DO in the 1930’s and I studied with Paul Lee, DO. Dr. Lee is an amazing healer (right here in Durango, Colorado!!) and I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from him. He has been an amazing mentor and I especially love the fact that we work in the same office everyday!

The other school I trained in is Core Synchronism, which was started by Robert Stevens and is based on the blending of both Polarity Therapy and Cranial Osteopathy, and I learned under Anne Hill, ND in Portland, OR. I’ll use the term cranial-sacral therapy as it is unattached to any specific style of schooling or branding. Details, details, details…

I am asked on a nearly daily basis what is cranial-sacral therapy? Great question. One I struggle every day to explain. It doesn’t come in a neat, little, easy to deliver, package. In general, it is outside of most people’s realm of possibilities. But, I assure you, it is not. Yes, I may sit there at your head for extended periods of time, moving my hands from your forehead, to your neck, then down to your sacrum, with a pressure that could barely move a grasshopper. And yes, you may feel like you’ve left your body for an hour, or fallen asleep, or had vivid images of color flashing under your eyelids.

And then you may realize that your headaches had subsided, or your knee pain is gone, or your heartburn has improved. So what exactly happened?

First of all, it’s not just about the cranium, or just about the sacrum. It’s about every tissue in the body, including bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, blood vessels, nerves, and the brain.

Dr. Sutherland said that all life is manifested in energy or motion. Motion of what?

Of body fluids, including blood, lymph, and cerebrospinal fluid. The fluid in the body contains the vital force, which can be equated to chi, or prana. This vital force delivers health to the body through a subtle, rhythmic, motion to all the aforementioned tissues.

When this motion is halted it creates tension, restrictions, and/or strain within the body. This can result in physical, mental, emotional, and pathological problems to arise. To better explain with examples, a restriction of the movements within the facial bones may result in sinus congestion. Strain within the cranium may cause pressure on the cerebellum, affecting its function, thus causing vertigo. Or tension within the uterus could cause a woman to experience infertility.

This motion is not one that you would notice when watching the person’s head in front of you in line at the grocery store. It is much more subtle than that. It verges on being an energetic motion, although, not entirely. There is documented proof that the cranial bones, thought to be fixed in place by sutures, have mobility to them. This has been documented through modern imaging techniques.

When I feel this motion, I feel it in a more exaggerated motion than what is demonstrable on an MRI, thus bringing in the energetic aspect. Anyone can learn to palpate, or feel, this motion. It’s not just for the chosen few.

And why do these structures stop moving?Scalp message

Trauma is a big one. Impact or force that comes into the body through falls, injuries, excessive pressure on a newborns head during childbirth, or even repeatedly poor posture, are all great ways to stop motion.

And Dr Lee explains in his book, Interface (2005), that “distortions of the energetic aspect also occur through emotion, thought, and behavior that are not harmonious with balance, health, and love. These energetic influences perturb function as much as physical influences. We usually consider these disturbances of health to be in the realm of psychology and not treatable by osteopathic approaches.”

The goal of this work is to restore the halted motion within the tissue, bringing balance and function back to the body, allowing you to be free of your symptoms and achieve a better state of health. One of the tenets I vowed as a Naturopathic Doctor is to treat the root of the cause, and I’m grateful to all of my teachers for giving me this tool that not only frees you of your symptoms, but can resolve or cure the reason for your symptoms.

That’s true healing.

<h3>Dr Jennifer Letellier Smith, ND</h3>

Dr Jennifer Letellier Smith, ND

Naturopathic Doctor

As a naturopathic doctor, I help patients facilitate their journey in healing, bring awareness to a model of health and shift it away from a model of disease, strengthens respect and relations across all medical professions, and in due course, contribute to the healing of our planet.
Phone: (970) 247-3717