CranioSacral Therapy
Supporting the body's innate healing capabilites

You may have been hearing a lot about CranioSacral Therapy (CST) recently. It seems to be a very popular healing modality these days, and with good reason; CST is a hands-on, natural healing technique that seeks to release areas of tension within the body by influencing the bones, membranes and fluid that surround the brain and spinal column. At the heart of this type of therapy is the belief that the body knows how to heal itself, by releasing areas of tension CST practitioners allow the body to restore the normal self healing capacity of our nervous system.

For this months column I have spoken with Dr Christian Gunette (B.Sc, D.C) of Back2Health Chiropractic Clinic and Zannah Steiner (RMT) of Soma Therapy Center, both of whom are experienced CranioSacral Therapy practitioners in Vancouver.

Our brain, spinal cord, the surrounding membranes and fluids make up the CranioSacral System. The influence that this system exerts over the rest of the body is impressive. The brain stem, spinal cord and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) control our nervous system, while the pituitary and pineal glands (parts of the endocrine system located in the brain) influence our hormones.

Like other tissues in our bodies, when we are exposed to stress (be it physical, emotional or chemical) or repetitive strain, tightness can develop in the sensitive tissues of our CranioSacral System. When this tightness develops it can affect the flow of CSF. Craniosacral Therapy uses the relatively stationary bones of the skull and sacrum to gently release these restrictions and allow the CSF to move easily. The CST practitioner can feel the pulse of the cerebrospinal fluid and feel where the fluid is moving well and where it may be blocked or inhibited in some way. It is the role of the therapist to listen to the patient’s body and determine where the blockage is occurring and to help the body release this restriction by applying pressure to the area and then allowing the area to relax and the CranioSacral Rhythm to return to normal. In essence the therapist is looking for clues that the body gives as to where the body needs help in healing itself. The therapist’s job is to listen carefully and follow where the body is leading them. The patient’s body will tell the practitioner when it is ready for the therapist to remove their hands (this has been described by therapists as a ‘pushing off’ by the body).

Because of the extensive influence the nervous system has over the entire body, CST is a useful therapy for almost any condition of the body, from structural imbalances of the muscles and bones to hormonal disturbances, headaches and addictions. A substantial body of literature supports the positive benefits of CST for all age groups from newborns to the elderly. The true miracle of CST is that it is non-invasive and supports the body’s own abilities to heal itself.

A typical therapy session lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Most sessions involve the patient lying quietly on their backs on the practitioner’s table while pressure is applied to the bones of the skull or the pelvis. There are varying views on the amount of pressure to be used by the therapist; Dr Guenette uses very, very light pressure to achieve the results he desires whereas Soma Therapy believes that an experienced therapist should use a matching pressure to that which the body presents to the therapist, the pressure they ‘use is often not light, but very familiar and non-invasive’. If the patient is aware of their body and focusing on the therapy, they will be able to feel the slight movements that the pressure is creating and often feel the ‘release’ when the restricted area relaxes. It can be a very relaxing time and fascinating to feel movement in the bones of the skull where we assume no movement is possible. Sometimes there is an emotional release associated with removing the physical restriction. This emotional component may present itself immediately or may show up in the weeks following the treatment. Often this emotional component has something to do with the physical condition that was plaguing the patient initially. Working through the emotional component of the restriction is part of the long term healing process.

When choosing a CST practitioner it is important to be aware that each doctor’s technique may be different. It is always important to ask any health care practitioner what their qualifications are. Many CST practitioners are accredited through the Upledger Institute in Florida (the original training center for this type of therapy), but your practitioner may have different credentials. Skillful CST practitioners need training, experience and an intuitive touch. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your practitioner- a referral from a trusted friend is often a great starting place for finding the right therapist for you.

CST is an amazing form of therapy that deals with the physical and the emotional aspects of injury. It is gentle and non-invasive and supports the bodies own innate healing capabilities. Invest in healing your body!

For more information on cranio-sacral therapy please see

Soma Therapy Centre
2607 W. 16th Ave. Vancouver, 604-731-7883

Back2Health Chiropractic Clinic
2184 West Broadway, suite 450, Vancouver, 604-742-0111