Cranio Sacral Therapy

Cranial Sacral Therapy—The Upledger Method

Cranial Sacral or Cranio Sacral Therapy (CST) is a holistic healing practice that uses light pressure to work with the central nervous system.  Developed in 1899 by Dr. William Garner Sutherland and further studied to its present form by Dr. John Upledger, CST is a complimentary hands-on therapy used by massage therapists, physiotherapists, osteopaths, naturopaths and chiropractors.  Through the subtlety of touch (less than 5 grams or the weight of a nickel) CST focuses on encouraging restricted tissues to release and allow the natural healing ability of the body to take place.

The Cranial Sacral system is a semi-closed hydraulic system compromised of the brain, spinal cord and the cerebrospinal fluid.  These parts are surrounded by a tough membrane called the dura mater.  The function of the cranial sacral system is to produce, circulate and reabsorb the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).  CSF maintains the physiological environment in which your brain and nervous system develop, live and function.

As a semi-closed hydraulic system, the cranial sacral system expands and contracts with the pressure fluctuations or “pulses” of the CSF.  It moves to its own rhythm, separate from the heart and respiratory “pulse”.  As the CSF pulses, the bones of the body articulate in flexion and extension is very small, visually imperceptible increments.  If the body is healthy with no dysfunction the articulations are smooth and even.  When the body has dysfunction the physical restrictions change the pressure which is reflected in the bones/body as wobbles, halts, weakness, etc.  The practitioner, when their hands are on the client, feels the pulse and body articulations and assesses the SQAR, or the symmetry, quality, amplitude and rate of the pulse to determine where restrictions are in the body.   With over 400 joints in the body and 63 in the head, the potential for pain and dysfunction is very high.

Injury places joints out of place thus wear and tear distorts the body further.  When you are injured it only takes 24 hours after that injury for misalignment to become the new normal.  The body has a natural instinct or intelligence to correct itself back to its optimum position and motion.  The unattended injury can make the body assume the dislocated position is the new normal.  

Cranial Sacral treatment

A typical cranial sacral therapy session is performed with the client fully clothed and lying on their back.  If a person is unable to lie on their back, the therapy is able to accommodate this.  The session is usually about one hour.

In the Upledger method of cranial sacral therapy, as described in the next several paragraphs, a ten-step protocol serves as a general guideline, which includes (1) analyzing the base (existing) cranial rhythm, (2) creating a still point in that rhythm at the base of the skull, (3) rocking the sacrum, (4) lengthening the spine in the lumbar-sacral region, (5) addressing the pelvic, respiratory and thoracic diaphragms, (6) releasing the hyoid bone in the throat, and (7-10) addressing each one of the cranial bones. This protocol can be used in total or in parts as determined by the practitioner and the client.

The therapist places their hands lightly on the client’s body, tuning in to the patient by ‘listening’ with their hands.  Through the connection of healing touch the therapist gently holds the different positions so the bones of the skull and sacrum can easily and gently move back to their original state.  As the bones move the natural flow of the cerebrospinal fluid flows through the body from the brain down to the tailbone alleviating pressure within the brain, the skull bones, on the joints, lengthening the spinal column and releasing pressure on the pelvic and sacrum area.  It also clears and opens the respiratory system including the thoracic and the diaphragm.

Since the cranial sacral system is important to the functioning and development of the brain and the spinal column when it is out of balance it can cause many sensory and neurological problems.  During a Cranial Sacral Therapy session the individual may experience a deep relaxation due to the releasing of the healing endorphins and the release of the blockages in the central nervous system.  The balancing of the brain chemistry and energy flow in the left and right brain while charging the master glands, the hypothalamus, pituitary and pineal as well as the neurotransmitter channels and clearing the memory grid of trauma are all part of bringing the body back to optimal performance and health.

You may benefits from Cranial Sacral Therapy if you experience:

  • Migraines, headaches, and TMJ Syndrome
  • Neck and back pain
  • Emotional issues and depression
  • Learning disabilities
  • Chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, sinus infections, etc.
  • Muscle, spinal and joint pain & inflammation
  • General stress and tension
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome
  • Central Nervous System Disorders
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Pre/post child birth
  • Pre/post surgery
  • Digestive issues/IBS
  • Asthma, emphysema, or other respiratory issues
  • And many other conditions


Source: Upledger Institute  (

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