Craniosacral Massage:
Fact or Fiction?

You are considering craniosacral massage after having a burning sensation that has stuck in your shoulder for days.  The sensation is not quite bad enough to justify going to a doctor and popping some pills.

However, that burning sensation is just on the edge of your consciousness all day long.  It is annoying.

Your friend tells you more about this complementary alternative medicine treatment he knows that might help.  You decide to check it out on the internet.  Some people have wonderful experiences, and other people have very bad experiences. 

You don’t know who to believe.  So, you decide to book a craniosacral massage session with your friend just to find out for yourself. 

Your friend begins working on you.  You find the session very relaxing and comforting.  Maybe you even release some sadness or anger.  You leave the session refreshed and rejuvenated.

My craniosacral massage session was similar to the scenario above.  In my case, I think I needed deep tissue massage or acupuncture to get rid of the burning sensation inside of my shoulder. 

craniosacral massage

However, what was interesting is that my friend found an energy imbalance on my left side.  A Reiki Therapy practitioner later released that energy imbalance.

My friend also supplemented the session using craniosacral release (or somato-emotional release) to help me release the stuck emotions in my body.  I felt a sadness that I hadn’t felt in a long time.  And, I allowed myself to cry on the table.  By the time I left, I was relaxed and at peace.

You can share your own experience below. Did you find it effective or ineffective?

Another Example Where Craniosacral Massage Helped

sacral cranial therapy olympic diver

Craniosacral massage assisted an Olympian in dealing with vertigo.  A wrenched knee had caused her pelvis and lower back to compensate for her injury. 

This caused the spine to twist a bit to support her and then as a result her neck was out of whack (i.e. twisted). 

After using craniosacral massage, myofascial release, knee and spinal alignment and rebalancing the 

pelvis, thevertigo went away and the diver was able to train for the Olympics again.

Where Else Can Craniosacral Massage Make a Difference?

Craniosacral massage has made a difference with a number of ailments like:

Arthritis Preventing and recovering from stroke AFTER there is no more danger of hemorrhaging
Migraines and headaches After a person has surgery – can reduce or eliminate complications and facilitate faster recovery
Chronic neck and back pain Autism – patients have improved social behavior among other things
Reflexive sympathetic dystrophy Chronic fatigue
Scoliosis In some cases – cerebral palsy
Instability in the lower back Learning disabilities
Disc compression Motor system issues
Complications after surgery In some people – endrocrine disorders
TMJ Brain and spinal chord injuries

Cranial sacral massage can improve the ability of other therapies to have a lasting effect.  Ultimately, the use of this type of therapy can result in the reduction of the risk of disease and increase quality of life.

When NOT Use Sacral Cranial Therapy

Sacral cranial therapy should NOT be used if you have acute intracranial hemorrhage, intracranial aneurysm, recent skull fractures, herniation of the medulla oblongata. 

Further, there are times when you could have emotional traumas stuck in your body.  If you are not ready to deal with strong emotions from past traumatic experiences, this therapy may not be for you. 

sacral cranial therapy stressed person

If you are ready to deal with strong emotions from past traumas, like post-traumatic stress disorder, please make sure that the person you are working with is very experienced in supporting people as they go through the emotions. 

There are people who are very qualified to work with people who are recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder or terrible things like rape. 

However, not all practitioners are qualified.  In some cases, as you can see from the comments below, the person ended up being surprised and upset by a bad experience.  Some people then had to work with a mental health professional after having a sacral cranial therapy.

How Does it Work?

The craniosacral system is considered the brain, spinal cord, and related structures.  Imbalances in these areas can directly affect some or all parts of the nervous system performance.  It goes from skull and face down to the sacrum and coccyx.

Practitioner uses techniques to test for ease of motion and rhythm of cerebrospinal fluid that is said to pulse between the membranes.

What is this rhythm of cerebrospinal fluid?

First let’s use some familiar examples. Just for fun, would this rhythm be like the beat of music?  Maybe, and here is a better example...

cranial sacral massage music rhythm

When your heart beats, you can feel the heartbeat rhythm as a pulse in the neck and wrist.  There is also your breathing rhythm which you can feel by the rising and falling of your ribs. 

There is another rhythm called the craniosacral therapy rhythm.  Your head and spine gently expand and contract as the cerebrospinal fluid moves through your brain and spine. 

This fluid supplies nutrients to the brain and spine and carries waste away.  It also protects that area.  The craniosacral therapy rhythm can be felt in the head, legs, sacrum, and shoulders, etc.

A practitioner uses techniques to sense the craniosacral therapy rhythm and ease restriction they may sense in bone sutures, membranes or any other tissues that can influence the craniosacral system.  This allows the body to return to its normal state and allows the central nervous system to function optimally.

The therapist will wait for releases.  A release can show up as a twitch, a cough, pulsing, or even gurgling in the stomach. 

When you are having a release, the rhythm stops, and your body moves into the position it was in when you got hurt (ex: accident, slip, fall, etc.).  Then, you have a release. 

Further, the body can hold onto memories of injuries, traumas and emotions.   As a result, other releases could show up as tears, laughter, anger, memories, etc. 

Restrictions may be freed up in one session or may require several sessions.  Each session will allow the therapist to get closer to the primary source of the health issue the person is dealing with.

At some point, the source of the patient’s health issues is found and removed.  Then, the patient can move to a state of self-healing that is facilitated by the practitioner. 

The patient is then operating at a level where his or her well-being is being enhanced.  You are no longer fighting disease, but rather allowing your body’s health to naturally occur.

Somato-Emotional Release

By now, you may already be wondering what somato emotional release is or does. Somato means muscle.

There is a belief that trauma, emotions, and physical injury can become locked or stuck in the body. In other words, the body retains memory of the trauma, emotions, or physical injury.

A good example of emotions getting locked into the body (or tissue memory) is the following:

Let’s say you have a traumatic accident like a broken ankle. The breaking of the ankle stays in the tissue memory.

craniosacral release ankle

After the ankle heals, you subconsciously contract the muscles in the ankle as a protective measure. A small strain in that area may result. The body compensates for this strain.

If this is not treated over time, then the muscles in the ankle may impact other surrounding areas that lead to a chronic problem.

If the underlying cause is not treated (i.e. the subconscious contracting of muscles), then the effectiveness of therapy will be limited or non-existent.

A skilled practitioner will release emotional trauma, in the body, layer by layer.  The therapist may start by guiding you with questions about images and feelings.   The body will begin to release the emotional trauma. 

As your body releases the trauma, the practitioner would work with the contractions in the ankle (continuing my previous example). Once the contraction is worked with, the memory of the injury is released. The muscle strain disappears, the body begins to readjust, and any chronic problems disappear. 

A full somato-emotional release occurs at the physical, verbal, and emotional level.

Who Offers Cranial Sacral Massage?

Professionals who offer CST are physical therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, some MDs and some ODs, and other bodywork specialists.    

What Can You Expect in a Session?

Craniosacral massage is noninvasive and a session will last a minimum of 30 min and can last up to an hour.  You will lie on a massage table fully clothed.  Whenever the therapist is about to do something, they will let you know what they are about to do. 

At least that is what happened when I had a session.  When the therapist let me know what he was going to do next, I was completely at ease.

DISCLAIMER: This website was created to share the benefits of alternative health, and is for educational purposes. What is written is not a substitute for medical care. It is not designed to treat, cure, or diagnose any medical condition. Please consult with your doctor if you have a medical condition.


Upledger, John E. CranioSacral Therapy: What It Is, How It Works. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2008. Print.

Your Experience of Craniosacral Massage

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What Other Visitors Have Said

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Craniosacral Therapies Trigger PTSD Flashbacks...but Ultimately is Healing 
As a victim of childhood sexual abuse, the idea of being touched is very stressful for me. I sought out craniosacral treatment after bring referred …

Dangers of Craniosacral Massage Therapy 
Craniosacral massage therapy has caused me to have flashbacks. What was described as a gentle, massage technique is one of the most dangerous practices …

Dangers of Craniosacral Therapies & Somato Emotional Release 
As a survivor of terrible childhood trauma, CST has caused horrible problems that I am working to resolve today. My friend, who was also my therapist, …

Cranial-sacral Therapy is Wonderful!! Not rated yet
Cranial-sacral therapy (CST) has helped me learn so much about what my body needs. I am a physical therapist and started studying CST in 2007. The …

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