By Kate Fruchey, LMT
What is Craniosacral Therapy? This is a question I’m asked often and it’s a question I absolutely love to answer. Given the opportunity I could go on about Craniosacral Therapy (commonly referred to as cranio) and why everyone should consider trying it, but in the end, it is pretty simple.
The textbook definition of cranio varies slightly from source to source, but it usually goes a little like… “Craniosacral Therapy is a gentle, hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the functioning of a physiological body system called the craniosacral system - comprised of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Using a soft touch generally no greater than 5 grams, or about the weight of a nickel, practitioners release restrictions in the craniosacral system to improve the functioning of the central nervous system.” This definition, while very thorough and accurate, doesn’t describe the incredibly restorative and calming quality of Craniosacral Therapy. It doesn’t explain why the soft touch described above is an effective tool in helping manage a wide range of issues from TMJ to PTSD. It may leave you wondering how using a gentler, moderate quality of touch can have a powerful impact on how we feel, physically, mentally and emotionally. But that is a lot of ground to cover, so we’re going to break it down into smaller chunks over the course of a few posts.
Let’s start with the basics.
What to Expect in a Craniosacral Session
After an initial session, one should expect to feel well rested, with a renewed sense of ease, either in the body or the mind, maybe both. As treatments progress, this sense of ease becomes more accessible on the table. As clients grow accustomed to the work, new and changing sensations present themselves as long held patterns of tension begin to unwind, resulting in less pain and discomfort.
As I mentioned before, this type of bodywork is deeply restorative. People not only feel relaxed after a session, many are surprised at the level of relaxation that can be attained in 60 minutes. Supporting and providing a space for deep relaxation is an important aspect of many types of bodywork because when we are in a state of relaxation our bodies have a chance to repair. Our sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system quiets and our parasympathetic (rest and digest/repair and restore) nervous system gets a chance to go to work. We rely heavily on the sympathetic nervous system to meet the demands of our lives. Over time this affects our health. It exhausts our ability to manage the internal and external challenges we encounter day to day. The opportunity to reset the balance, engage the parasympathetic nervous system, and experience ease on the massage table can be the first step in cultivating ease in life, whether that means feeling more ease in your neck or back, fewer headaches, or less anxiety.
At Five Point, cranio sessions are performed over clothing, using very gentle to moderate pressure. I love to incorporate acupressure and tui na into craniosacral sessions. Because of its deeply relaxing effect, I always use a bit of cranio in Swedish Massage sessions. My approach to cranio is especially well suited to helping manage the physical and emotional effects of anxiety and stress, chronic neck, shoulder, and back pain, headaches and migraines. I also love working with people who simply need to slow down (or be reminded how to), who are running on empty and have trouble turning off the endless stream of thoughts and worries that tend to fill our heads day in and day out.
Our bodies do their best repair work when we are relaxed and at ease, and many of us are not either of those things most of the time. It sounds simple, but it is not easy. Sometimes we actually forget what it feels like to be relaxed and at ease and craniosacral can help.
In upcoming entries, we’ll circle back to other aspects of cranio that people tend to be curious about and get into some of the details of the craniosacral system mentioned in the definition earlier. Next time we’ll touch on why gentle pressure (5g) can yield dramatic results. Take care.