Vail Health Insights column: Craniosacral therapy offers many benefits |

Vail Health Insights column: Craniosacral therapy offers many benefits

Deborah Wiancek.
Special to the Daily |

Craniosacral therapy is an excellent treatment option for concussions, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, pain and temporomandibular joint issues. It also gives your body a complete alignment, which is especially useful after any injury, such as an auto, bike, ski or head injury.

You are probably aware of the many systems that make up our bodies, including the respiratory system, digestive system, cardiovascular system, etc. The body also has a very subtle system unrecognized by science until fairly recently which is known as the craniosacral system.

The system

The craniosacral system consists of the membranes that form the meninges of the brain and spinal cord (down to the sacrum at the base of the spine), the bones of the skull to which the membranes attach, other structures related to the meninges, the cerebrospinal fluid and the structures that produce, contain and reabsorb the cerebrospinal fluid. The cornerstone of the craniosacral system is the finding that the bones of the skull are able to move as the cerebrospinal fluid moves through the membranes.

The clinician will correct the rhythm with gentle, subtle movements of the skull, the sacrum and other areas where fascia is restricted.

Cerebrospinal fluid is made in the brain and travels through the craniosacral system. It is then reabsorbed into the blood via the venous system. Production of this fluid is halted when a certain pressure level is reached. As the pressure then drops, the craniosacral fluid production begins again. This ebb and flow of fluid through the meninges of the brain causes there to be a craniosacral rhythm unique to that system.

Since the membranes through which the craniosacral fluid flows are attached to the skull bones, they move in response to the increase and decrease in pressure. The movement of these bones forms the basis of the craniosacral diagnosis and treatment.

The diagnosis

The diagnosis of physiological problems is based on the clinician’s ability to assess the rate, amplitude and symmetry of the craniosacral rhythm. The rate of craniosacral rhythm will go up and the amplitude will go down when the meningeal membranes are restricted somewhere. Lack of symmetry helps the clinician assess where a loss of physiological motion is occurring. This could be from injuries, inflammation, scars, concussions, headaches, etc.

There is a connective tissue sheath that surrounds all body parts. This sheath is known as fascia and is connected to the craniosacral system and is thus kept in motion. There will be a rocking motion of the sacrum and a widening and narrowing of the head during the craniosacral pulse. A skilled clinician will also be able to feel this rhythm on other parts of the body as the fascia moves with the craniosacral rhythm. The clinician will correct the rhythm with gentle, subtle movements of the skull, the sacrum and other areas where fascia is restricted.

The therapy

In the 1940s, The American School of Osteopathy started a course called Osteopathy in the Cranial Field, directed by Dr. Sutherland. Then John Upledger, D.O., developed craniosacral therapy in the 1970s, as an offshoot of osteopathy in the cranial field, or cranial osteopathy.

Because the craniosacral system is connected to the rest of the body by its connection to the fascia, restriction can affect many other systems, most notably the nervous system, musculoskeletal system, vascular system and endocrine system. Because of these relationships, craniosacral therapy is used to treat many different conditions. In our clinical setting, we have found it to be helpful for headaches, sinus problems, concussions, anxiety, stress, endocrine problems, muscular fatigue or stress, depression, temporomandibular joint problems, autism, ADHD, insomnia and pain.

Your clinician will have you lie on a table on your back. The clinician will then palpate (i.e. examine the craniosacral rhythm by touch) by placing her or his hands on your head and then your sacrum. You may be asked to shift your body slightly from time to time, but there is no other way that you need to be involved except to relax and enjoy the treatment.

Releasing restrictions

The clinician will use a very gentle, light touch. She or he may move your head from time to time as she or he applies her or his hands to the different bones of the skull, but these movements will be gentle. The clinician will apply very light pressure as she or he attempts to release the restrictions she or he has felt.

The clinician will also use her or his hands on your abdomen and chest to release restrictions of the fascia at these points. She or he may also return to the sacrum from gentle release of restrictions there.

More advanced clinicians may feel the craniosacral rhythm in the body fascia by lightly holding your feet, your knees or your shoulders or by very lightly stretching your neck upward. There are no surprises and should be no discomfort. If discomfort is experienced, you should let the clinician know at once so she or he may adjust the pressure or location of her or his hands.

Allowing relaxation

You may feel yourself drifting off into a sort of sleep or you may drift off into a sound sleep. This is normal, and you should allow yourself this level of relaxation. The treatment can take anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes, depending on how extensive it needs to be. Your clinician can explain to you afterwards what she or he felt and what releases were obtained, if you wish to know.

You may feel a little “spacey” afterwards. You will probably be very relaxed and may wish to sit in the waiting area before going on to your next activity. If you have never had a craniosacral treatment, it is a great treatment, especially for headaches, pain, misalignment, stress, concussions, anxiety, insomnia, insomnia, autism, ADHD, muscle pain and depression. I by the Upledger Institute and have been doing craniosacral treatments for more than 20 years in my practice.

Deborah Wiancek is a naturopathic physician who has had a family practice at the Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic & Pharmacy for 18 years. She can be reached at 970-926-7606, or visit and follow

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