Archive for the 'Cranial Sacral Therapy' Category

Sep 27 2011

Massage for Baby Ends Painful Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding an infant can be extremely painful when the baby has a misalignment. Discover the gentle massage technique that can restore the loving, healthful and nurturing bond of nursing.

CST for Breastfeeding Blues
By Brandi Schlossberg

Breastfeeding can boost babies’ intelligence; help prevent asthma; protect from infections and high blood pressure later in life; and reduce new mothers’ stress levels, according to medical experts.

With all these benefits and more, it’s no wonder that many moms choose to breastfeed their infants. But what happens if the process is too problematic or painful to continue? Instead of turning to breast pumps or formula, some new mothers are relying on CranioSacral Therapy (CST) to solve the breastfeeding blues.

The technique, pioneered by osteopathic physician John Upledger, is a hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the craniosacral system, which consists of the membranes and cerebospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Practitioners aim to release restrictions in the craniosacral system, using pressure about the weight of a nickel, to improve the functioning of the central nervous system and the body’s overall ability to heal itself.

“I was willing to try anything,” said Michelle Biagi, of Powell, Ohio, who suffered painful nipple compression from feeding her 3-month-old daughter, Brooke. “I wasn’t willing to believe my [obstetrician], who said that not every baby can breastfeed.”

Biagi began using a breast pump but continued to search for a solution that would allow Brooke to breastfeed naturally. A lactation consultant recommended that she see Alison Hazelbaker, a CranioSacral Therapist and lactation consultant in Columbus, Ohio.

Hazelbaker, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant since 1985, began using CST as a primary modality in her practice after watching it work wonders on her own baby’s problematic breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding difficulties may arise from a variety of factors, said Hazelbaker, such as misalignment, improper tongue placement, tongue thrusting or tight mouth, and can result in extreme pain for the mother, as well as insufficient calorie intake and irritability for the baby.

Althoug CST does not solve all sucking dysfunctions, Hazelbaker said there are some, such as misalignment, which respond particularly well.

During a session, Hazelbaker performs CST on the infant, and improvements are almost immediately visible, she said, although it may take up to six sessions to completely solve the problem.

“After my third session is when I really started to notice a big difference,” said Biagi. “As her suck changed, I was out of pain.”

After years of such success stories, Hazelbaker decided to document her work in hope of spreading the word. She is now working to publish a 40-page study she conducted on a sample of 20 clients, called “Impact of CranioSacral Therapy on Sucking Dysfunction as Measured by the Neonatal Oral Motor Assessment Scale.”

“In every case where the sucking dysfunction was due to misalignment, CranioSacral Therapy eliminated it,” she said. “That’s 100 percent of the time.”

Biagi, too, is spreading the word to new moms about an alternative to breast pumps or formula for painful breastfeeding. She is writing an article about CST for a local new-mothers’ newsletter.

“I truly believe CranioSacral Therapy was the only thing that got Brooke to breastfeed,” said Biagi. “More moms whould know about this.”

Posted by Nicole at 11:27 AM
© 2009 Institute for Integrative HealthCare Studies. This work is reproduced with the permission of the Institute.

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Aug 11 2009


Published by under Cranial Sacral Therapy,history

“Worms will not eat living wood where the vital sap is flowing; rust will not hinder the opening of a gate when the hinges are used each day.
Movement gives health and life. Stagnation brings disease and death.”
– proverb in traditional Chinese Medicine.


“My belief is in the blood and flesh as being wiser than the intellect. The body-unconscious is where life bubbles up in us. It is how we know that we are alive, alive to the depths of our souls and in touch somewhere with the vivid reaches of the cosmos.”
D. H. Lawrence.

Around the start of the 20th century, a final-year student of osteopathy, William Garner Sutherland, was examining a set of disarticulated bones of a human skull in his college laboratory. Like other students of his time, Sutherland had been taught that adult cranial bones do not move because their sutures (joints) become fused. However, he noted that he was holding in his hands adult bones which had become easily separated from each other.

Like the gills of a fish.

While examining the bevel-shaped sutures of a sphenoid and temporal bone, Sutherland had an insight which changed the course of his life. He described how a remarkable thought had struck him like a blinding flash of light. He realized that the sutures of the bones he was holding resembled the gills of a fish and were designed for a respiratory motion. He didn’t understand where this idea came from, nor its true significance, but it echoed through his mind.

William Sutherland set out to try prove to himself that cranial bones do not move, just as he had been taught. As a true experimental scientist, he reasoned that if cranial bones did move and that if this movement could be prevented, it should be possible to experience the effect. So he designed a kind of helmet made of linen bandages and leather straps which could be tightened in various positions, thus preventing any potential cranial motion from occurring.

Cranial movement.

Experimenting on his own head, he tightened the straps, first in one direction and then in another. Within a short period of time he started to experience headaches and digestive upsets. This response was not what he was expecting, so he decided to continue his research to find out more. Some of his experiments with the “helmet” led to quite severe symptoms of cranial tightness, headaches, sickness and disorientation. Of particular interest was that when the helmet straps were tightened in certain other positions, it produced a sense of great relief and an improvement in cranial circulation.

After many months of pulling and restricting his cranial bones in different positions with these varying results, Dr Sutherland eventually stopped this research, having convinced himself that adult cranial bones do, in fact, move. Furthermore, the surprising responses that he felt in his own body had shown him that cranial movement must have some important physiological function. Sutherland spent the remaining 50 years of his life exploring the significance of this motion.

Historical acceptance.

Although most Western countries did not recognize cranial motion, this possibility was not new to other cultures. There are various Oriental systems of medicine such as acupuncture and Ayurveda which have long appreciated the subtle movements which occur throughout the body, caused by the flow of vital force or life-energy. This has also been traditionally taught in Russian physiology. Interestingly, anatomists in Italy in the early 1900s were already teaching that adult cranial sutures do not fully fuse, but continue to permit small degrees of motion throughout life.

Cranial manipulation has been practised in India for centuries, and was also developed by the ancient Egyptians and members of the Paracus culture in Peru (2000 BC to 200 AD). Furthermore, in the 18th century, the philosopher and scientist Emmanuel Swedenborg described a rhythmic motion of the brain, stating that it moves with regular cycles of expansion and contraction.

Tissue breathing.

From an early stage, Dr Sutherland understood that he was exploring an involuntary system of “breathing” in tissues, important for the maintenance of their health. At a fundamental level, it is this property to express motion that distinguishes living tissues from those which are dead. Dr Sutherland perceived that all cells of the body need to express a rhythmic “breathing” in order for them to function to their optimal ability. Much of his research was carried out by combining a profound knowledge of anatomy along with an acute tactile sense. He started to realize that these subtle respiratory movements can be palpated by sensitive hands. He also discovered that this motion provided a wealth of clinical information.

An interconnected system.

Dr Sutherland recognized that the motion of cranial bones is connected to other tissues with which they are closely associated. The membrane system, which is continuous with cranial bones along their inner surfaces, is an integral part of this phenomenon. Significantly, Dr Sutherland also found that the central nervous system, and the cerebrospinal fluid which bathes it, have a rhythmic motion. The sacrum, too, is part of this interdependent system. Thus, there is an important infrastructure of fluids and tissues at the core of the body which express an interrelated subtle rhythmic motion.

As Dr Sutherland dug deeper into the origins of these rhythms, he realized that there are no external muscular agencies which could be responsible. He concluded that this motion is produced by the body’s inherent life-force itself, which he called the Breath of Life.


“Think of yourself as an electric battery. Electricity seems to have the power to explode or distribute oxygen, from which we receive the vitalizing benefits. When it plays freely all through your system, you feel well. Shut it off in one place and congestion results.”
– Dr A. T. Still.

The inherent life-force of the body, the Breath of Life, was seen by Dr Sutherland to be the animator or spark behind these involuntary rhythms. Alluding to the source of this phenomenon, other practitioners have referred to it as “the soul’s breath in the body”. The Breath of Life is considered to carry a subtle yet powerful “potency” or force, which produces subtle rhythms as it is transmitted around the body. Dr Sutherland realized that the cerebrospinal fluid has a significant role in the expressing and distributing the potency of the Breath of Life. As potency is taken up by the cerebrospinal fluid, it generates a tide-like motion which is described as its longitudinal fluctuation. This motion has great importance in carrying the Breath of Life throughout the body and, as long as it is expressed, health will follow.

Expressions of health.

The potency of the Breath of Life has remarkable properties for maintaining health and balance. An essential blueprint for health is carried in this potency, which acts as a basic ordering principle at a cellular level. This integrates the physiological functioning of all the body systems.

Dr Sutherland believed that the potency of the Breath of Life carries a basic Intelligence (which he spelled with a capital “I”), and realized that this intrinsic force could be employed by the practitioner for promoting health. A similar concept is found in many traditional systems of medicine, where the main focus for healing is also placed on encouraging a balanced distribution of the body’s vital force.

The presence of full and balanced rhythms produced by the Breath of Life signifies a healthy system. As long as these rhythms are expressed naturally, the body’s essential ordering principle is harmoniously distributed. Therefore, this rhythmic motion is primarily an expression of health. Its existence ensures the distribution of the ordering principle of the Breath of Life, and its restriction can have far-reaching consequences.

This brings us to two basic tenets of craniosacral work:

1) Life expresses itself as motion.

2) There is a clear relationship between motion and health.

Primary respiratory motion.

Dr. Sutherland named the system of tissues and fluids at the core of the body which express a subtle rhythmic motion, the primary respiratory mechanism . As these tissues are not under voluntary muscular control, they are also sometimes referred to as the involuntary mechanism (or I.V.M.). Dr. Sutherland used the term “primary” because this motion underlies all others. It is the manifestation of the life-stream itself. Every cell expresses this primary respiratory motion throughout its life. Significantly, many different symptoms and pathologies which involve both body and mind are related to disturbances of primary respiratory motion.

There are, of course, other vital rhythmic motions in the body such as the heartbeat and lung respiratory breathing. Although necessary for the maintenance of life, these are considered “secondary” motions because they are not the root cause of the body”s expression of life. Without the Breath of Life there would be no other motion. Lung respiration or the breathing of air is therefore sometimes called secondary respiration.

This fact was proved to Dr Sutherland early on in his development of this work. During the days of prohibition in America during the 1920s, he was staying at a cottage on the shores of Lake Erie. One day he heard a commotion outside, when a man who had been drinking far too much illegal liquor was being dragged out from the water. By the time Dr Sutherland reached the shore, the man was lying on the ground. His normal life signs (lung function and cardiovascular pulse) had ceased, and all attempts to resuscitate him had failed.

With some quick thinking, Dr Sutherland took hold of the sides of the man’s head and encouraged a rocking motion of his temporal bones, in an attempt to stimulate primary respiratory motion. This worked; within a few seconds the man’s breathing and heartbeat started up again and he regained consciousness. This experience helped to affirm to Dr Sutherland the tremendous power of working directly with the Breath of Life.

Sustained by the Breath of Life.

The expression of the Breath of Life at a cellular level is a fundamental necessity for good health. If the rhythmic expressions of the Breath of Life become congested or restricted, then the body’s basic ordering principle is impeded and health is compromised. The main intention of craniosacral work is to encourage these rhythmic expressions of health. This is done by gently facilitating a restoration of primary respiratory motion in places where inertia has developed.


“Nature heals, the doctor nurses.”
– Paracelcus.

Dr Sutherland developed various therapeutic approaches to harness the intrinsic power of the Breath of Life and help resolve any restrictions to primary respiratory motion. He began to teach this work to other osteopaths from about the 1930s, and tirelessly continued to do so until his death in 1954. Challenging, as it did, some of the closely held beliefs among practitioners of the time, his work was at first largely rejected by the mainstream osteopathic profession. However, his clinical results in a wide range of cases were impressive and he began to attract a small band of osteopathic colleagues who wished to study with him.

In the 1940s the first osteopathic school in America started a post-graduate course called “Osteopathy in the Cranial Field” under the tutelage of Dr Sutherland. Soon after, others followed. This new branch of practice became known as cranial osteopathy. As the reputation of cranial osteopathy began to spread, Dr Sutherland trained more teachers to meet the demand. The most notable of these early teachers were Drs Viola Frymann, Edna Lay, Howard Lippincott, Anne Wales, Chester Handy and Rollin Becker.

However, even today, many osteopathic colleges still do not teach this work on their basic courses and so it is often studied as an option at post-graduate level. Consequently there are many practising osteopaths who do not use this approach. Nevertheless, in the last few years post-graduate training courses for practising osteopaths have become widely available.

Dr John Upledger.

In the mid-1970s Dr John Upledger was the first practitioner to teach some of these therapeutic skills to people who were not osteopathically trained. Dr Upledger had become drawn to exploring primary respiratory motion after an incident that occurred while he was assisting during a spinal surgical operation. He was asked to hold aside a part of the dural membrane system which enfolds the spine, while the surgeon attempted to remove a calcium growth. To his embarrassment, Dr Upledger was unable to keep a firm hold on the membrane, as it kept rhythmically moving under his fingers. He took a post-graduate course in cranial osteopathy and then set out on his own path of clinical research. Over the years, Dr Upledger has done a great deal to popularize craniosacral work around the world.

When Dr Upledger began to teach non-osteopaths, he encountered great opposition from many in the profession who believed that the foundation of a full osteopathic training is necessary to practise the craniosacral approach. Many osteopaths are still of this opinion, and it continues to be a cause of much debate and argument. However, many also believe that this work can provide an integrated approach to health care in its own right and need not remain within the sole domain of osteopathic practice. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure: a good foundation in anatomy, physiology and medical diagnosis is necessary in order to apply craniosacral work with safety and competency. It also takes time and proper training to develop the necessary skills. It is an unfortunate fact that in recent years there are many people who have set up in practice with only minimal training.

Cranial osteopathy and craniosacral therapy.

It was Dr Upledger who coined the term “craniosacral therapy” when he started to teach to a wider group of students. Dr Upledger wanted to differentiate the therapeutic approaches he had developed and, furthermore, the title “cranial osteopath” could not be used by those new practitioners who were not osteopathically trained.

One question frequently asked is, “What is the difference between cranial osteopathy and craniosacral therapy?” Although Dr Upledger states that these two modalities are different, the differences are not always so obvious. They both emerge from the same roots and have much common ground, yet different branches have developed. A variety of therapeutic skills are now commonly used by both osteopaths and non-osteopathic practitioners of this work, so neither cranial osteopathy nor craniosacral therapy can be accurately defined by just one approach. However, in practice, craniosacral therapists often work more directly with the emotional and psychological aspects of disease.

Craniosacral biodynamics.

In the biodynamic view of craniosacral work an emphasis is placed on the inherent healing potency of the Breath of Life. In this approach, the functioning of the body is considered to be arranged in relationship to this essential organizing force. This has practical ramifications for the way in which diagnosis and treatment are carried out. This way of working also has a direct link to the pioneering insights of Dr Sutherland. It’s interesting to note that during the latter years of his life, Dr Sutherland focused his attention more and more on working directly with the potency of the Breath of Life as a therapeutic medium. He saw that if the expression of this vital force can be facilitated, then health is consequently restored. Dr Rollin Becker, Dr James Jealous and Franklyn Sills have each added valuable insights into the operation of these natural laws which govern our health.

In the last 15 years there has been a huge increase of interest in craniosacral work. It is now taught and practised in many countries around the world. As this work is largely unregulated by law, professional associations have now been set up in many of these countries.

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May 24 2009

Bodywork Can Help Panic Disorder

Massage therapy can be a valuable method for easing panic disorders, a serious condition that can occur repeatedly and without warning. Find out how bodywork therapy helps alleviate the severity of panic attacks by reducing a client’s stress and tension level.

by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.

A serious condition that affects one out of every 75 people, panic disorder is an anxiety disorder where panic attacks occur repeatedly and without warning. Interfering with work and personal life, these attacks can happen many times each day or each week. Understanding different elements of this disorder will help massage therapists appropriately support their clients suffering from panic attacks.

Panic results from an adrenaline surge, otherwise referred to as the human body’s “fight or flight” response. Scientists know that certain parts of the brain and nervous system cause the emotional and physical surge of fear. A panic attack is very scary, but having a solitary attack doesn’t mean that you are developing panic disorder.

Many people with panic disorder also have agoraphobia. As defined by the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, agoraphobia is defined as:

Anxiety about being in places or situations from which escape may be difficult or embarrassing or in which help may not be available in the event of having an unexpected or situationally predisposed panic attack or panic-like symptoms.

A panic attack is far more intense than the typical feeling of being ‘stressed out’. In fact, a panic attack is downright frightening. Symptoms of a panic attack include:

· racing heartbeat
· difficulty breathing, feeling as though you ‘can’t get enough air’
· terror that is almost paralyzing
· dizziness, lightheadedness or nausea
· trembling, sweating, shaking
· choking, chest pains
· hot flashes, or sudden chills
· tingling in fingers or toes (‘pins and needles’)
· fear that you’re going to go crazy or are about to die

In addition to the above symptoms, a panic attack is marked by the following conditions:

· It occurs suddenly, without warning and without any way to stop it.
· The level of fear is disproportional to the actual situation and is fact, often unrelated.
· It passes within a few minutes as the body cannot sustain the ‘fight or flight’ response for an extended period. However, repeated attacks can recur for hours.

Feelings of panic start suddenly and intensify quickly, usually within 10 minutes. The symptoms of panic disorder are the same as a panic attack except that the attacks come repeatedly, and the person is quite fearful between attacks that another attack will follow, changing behavior to avoid another. In total, panic attacks usually last from 20 to 30 minutes.

Because common symptoms of a panic attack include chest pain and shortness of breath, it may be mistaken for a heart attack. Only a qualified healthcare provider or a mental health professional can diagnose a panic disorder.

Several medicines can help treat panic disorder. If pharmaceutical therapy is chosen, a health care provider will carefully select the most appropriate prescription. Some popular medicines for panic are:

· Anti-anxiety medicines such as lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), and buspirone (BuSpar)

· Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants such as fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), fluvoxamine (Luvox), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa), and escitalopram (Lexapro)

· Tricyclic antidepressants such as imipramine (Tofranil) and desipramine (Norpramin)

· Other antidepressant medicines such as venlafaxine (Effexor) and mirtazapine (Remeron)

Massage therapists will discover how medications influence massage in the Institute’s comprehensive and useful continuing education program, Pharmacology for Massage. This course also includes the Pharmacology Guide for Massage Therapists, a detailed, easy to use reference chart providing both the brand and trade names of the most popular prescription drugs, the drug category, side effects that impact massage, massage considerations and contraindications.

Each of these medications influence the body in a unique way, causing their own set of side effects. A massage therapist who is aware of a drug’s systemic effects, is then able to choose massage strokes to counter those effects. For example, typical side effects relevant in a massage setting of fluoxetine are orthostatic hypotension, sleepiness, anxiety and insomnia. Choosing tapotement if your client is prone to orthostatic hypotension and sleepiness or a slow and rhythmic rocking stroke to ease anxiety and insomnia would be logical massage stroke choices to best benefit such a client.

Seeing a psychiatrist or psychotherapist is often helpful for addressing panic disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy shown to be especially effective in treating panic. CBT helps identify and change thought patterns that lead to panic attacks. If you have a client with diagnosed or suspected panic disorder who hasn’t yet investigated this therapy, your suggestion to consider CBT may lead to a life-changing discovery.

In general, massage therapy may help lower stress levels and muscular tension. These benefits may help reduce the general anxiety that accompanies panic disorder. Any technique under a therapist’s belt that helps a client relax, whether it’s a massage stroke administered during a session or a relaxation method taught to the client for practicing at home, will benefit a sufferer of panic disorder. Below are six additional suggestions to consider when addressing this condition:

1. To draw energy down and away from the head, end a session with the lower body or feet.
2. Many panic sufferers experience tightness in their chest muscles from protecting against painful or shallow breathing. Within appropriate boundaries, seek for methods to open that area.
3. Two appropriate acupressure points to relieve and prevent panic attacks are Pericardium 6 (P6) and Liver 3 (L3). P6 is on the ventral side of the forearm, between the two tendons of palmaris longus and flexor carpi radialis, approximately three finger widths proximal to the wrist crease. L3 is on the dorsum of the foot, in the depression distal to the junction of the first and second metatarsals.
4. Cranial-Sacral therapy can add a profound dimension of healing to someone experiencing panic attacks.
5. A slower rhythm is favored by many with anxiety disorders, since it relaxes the sympathetic nervous system.
6. Incorporating an essential oil with soothing characteristics into your bodywork can provide an added healing dimension to your session.

A massage therapist has the knowledge and skills to help their clients with agoraphobia and panic disorder. Whether it’s administering massage strokes to counter medication’s side effects, suggesting cognitive behavioral therapy or incorporating one of the preceding six suggestions into a session, bodyworkers can significantly alter the course of this anxiety disorder.

Recommended Study:

Pharmacology for Massage
Aromatherapy Essentials
Cranial-Sacral Fundamentals


Pharmacology Guide for Massage Therapy, Natural Wellness, 2006., Agoraphobia DSM-IV Criteria, Ohio State University, 2006., Answers to Your Questions about Panic Disorder, American Psychological Association, 2006., Panic Disorder, Naakesh Dewan, MD, Gayle Zieman, PhD, McKesson Provider Technologies, 10/19/05.

Posted by Editors at 11:52 AM

© 2009 Institute for Integrative HealthCare Studies. This work is reproduced with the permission of the Institute.

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May 18 2009

Intuition for Massage Therapists

What happens when a client doesn’t provide you with any feedback so you can tailor treatments and meet their needs? Learn to develop your intuition so you can turn this difficult situation into a successful massage session.

by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.

Every client is different. Some enter your healing space totally aware of their physical and emotional health barometer, while others only know that they feel good after a massage. Communicating with your clients in order to cover such crucial aspects as comfortable pressure limits, body temperature, health history, description of physical sensations and the uncovering of emotions hidden in muscle tissue is integral to an effective session. Asking for and receiving feedback from your client enables the therapist to tailor their treatment to specific needs and wants. A challenge arises when the client does not offer feedback, or worse, is unaware of their current physical and/or emotional experience. This is when intuition can help guide a therapist through a successful session.

Bestselling author, Shakti Gawain defines intuition; “There is a universal, intelligent life force that exists within everyone and everything. It resides within each one of us as a deep wisdom, an inner knowing.” Gawain does not suggest that we operate solely on the intuitive mind, but to balance it with the intellect. She describes the intuitive mind as having access to an infinite amount of information, where we can tap into a deep storehouse of knowledge and wisdom that exceeds our own experiences.

Author and psychiatrist Dr. Judith Orloff asserts that we are keepers of an innate intuitive intelligence so perceptive that it can tell us how to heal—and prevent—illness. Yet intuition and spirituality are the aspects of our wisdom that are typically disenfranchised from, and ignored by, traditional health care.

The ability to simultaneously combine input from our intuition and intellect is the premier mark of a gifted healer. Having the analytical skills and facts organized in the left brain can only get bodyworkers so far, especially when approaching a client who is less than communicative. The ability to access the creative intuition from the right brain can guide the bodyworker in many areas, such as where pain originates, to choosing the best modality for any given client or in determining the right amount of time spent on a constricted muscle group.

The well-known style of Esalen massage incorporates intuition into its description, and gives a good understanding of the relationship between intuition and bodywork:

The practitioner brings a knowledge of strokes (many have roots in Swedish Massage), of muscles and bones, of movement, of listening to the body as well as the words. Prior to the session, he/she pays attention to his own physical comfort, and quiets down internal chatter to welcome inner guidance, or intuition. As he massages, the practitioner responds to the signs of relaxation: deepened breath, enhanced circulation, a sigh, perhaps flutters of the eyelids. Each session is unique, tailored by personal requests, comfort level, physical tension and release, the felt sense of intuition.

Many gentle and/or energetic modalities such as, Therapeutic Touch, Reiki and Cranial-Sacral Therapy, require the practitioner to be still and aware in effort to connect with their intuitive sense. Appreciating the subtle, yet definite force of each client’s energetic needs, fosters a cross-over between the practitioner’s right and left brains. This cross-over is the culmination of learned academics with sensed phenomena representing the most advanced form of healing.

Everyone experiences a continual stream of intuitive thoughts. Unfortunately, our culture has trained us to ignore such “right-brained” hype. As a result, many people ignore, discount or contradict their gut feelings. Developing intuition requires an initial awareness of its presence. Most people need time and practice to identify these thoughts when they surface to give them credence and volume instead of the well-practiced dismissal.

For massage therapists, a critical aspect in following their intuition is the ability to trust oneself. Another aspect of our cultural conditioning is to look to authorities or teachers for answers or directions. Learning to trust your intuition harbors the belief that listening to yourself will lead you well.

Doubt can arise for a practitioner mid-session. Examples include:

• What area or technique should I work next?
• Should I spend more time on this muscle group?
• Could this move be uncomfortable for my client?
• Can this client handle deep tissue massage?

If the client is unable to provide the appropriate feedback to satisfy your doubt, ask for inner guidance. Everyone possesses an intuitive voice that contains answers about healing. However, the volume of the intellect can be so loud as to drown out this inner voice. Devoting a few minutes each day to listening to your intuitive voice will help every therapist trust inner wisdom signals, propelling your skills from mediocre to expert.

Editor’s Note: Following one’s intuition is never intended to replace the advice of a medically trained professional.

Recommended Study
Healing Energy and Touch
Swedish Massage
Cranial-Sacral Therapy


Gawain, Shakti, “Developing Intuition”, New World Library, Novato, CA, 2000., Five Steps to Intuitive Healing, Intuition for Health, Healing and Alternative Medicine, 2006., Esalen Massage Defined, Esalen Institute, 2006.

Posted by Editors at 02:40 PM

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Apr 27 2009

Cranial-Sacral Therapy’s Wide Range of Applications

Lying within their scope of practice in the majority of regulated states, massage therapists can fortunately utilize cranial-sacral therapy to the benefit of their clients. See how adding this modality to a bodywork treatment plan can greatly enhance your ability to address a variety of client ailments.

by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.

Based on the belief that the cranial bones are not fused, American osteopath William Garner Sutherland developed cranial-sacral therapy in the 1930s. Previous to Sutherland’s work, medical practitioners believed that the cranium’s sutures permanently mended the skull bones together, forming an immobile casing for the brain. Careful examination of the skull’s sutures reveals zipper-like lines designed to allow for the subtle movement of the cranial bones.

Sutherland proposed that skull bones move in unison with the rhythmic flow of cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Cerebrospinal fluid is responsible for nourishing and protecting the central nervous system. Just like energy, blood or lymph circulation, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid can become blocked. Cranial-sacral therapy is primarily comprised of subtle and gentle techniques to release any blockages inhibiting the free flow of cerebrospinal fluid. Adjusting the cranial bones restores mobility to this enclosed system and reduces stress on all of the involved tissues.

Each organ, muscle or tissue within the body is linked to a precise area of the cranial-sacral system through its nerve pathway and associated fascial connections. These nerve and fascial connections facilitate diagnosis and treatment for many dysfunctions. Once a restriction in the central nervous system is identified, cranial-sacral therapy can free it.

Cranial-sacral therapy can be learned easily and incorporated into any bodywork session. While this technique can benefit just about anyone, it is especially helpful for the following conditions:

1. Headaches can have a multitude of causes, but are generally accompanied by a circulatory restriction within the cranium. Freeing those restrictions can be a powerful technique to relieve frontal, vertex, temporal, parietal and occipital headaches.

2. Head injuries typically occur following some type of blow to the head. The force from the impact can misalign any number of cranial bones, disturbing the cerebrospinal fluid circulation and causing pain. The gentle manipulation of cranial-sacral therapy can relieve pain by realigning skull bones to open previously restricted fluid flow.

3. Ear infections typically arise from stagnation of fluids in the middle ear. Due to a lack of drainage through the eustachian tubes, fluid accumulates in the middle ear. Congestion of the eustachian tube may be a result of compression or distortion during the birth process or can be due to an accumulation of mucus. Cranial-sacral treatment can remove obstructions and ensure the drainage of fluids.

4. Birth trauma can cause many common childhood conditions such as colic and attention deficit disorder. During the forceful compression of the head twisting through the narrow birth canal, the cranium of a newborn is designed to adapt and flex for its dramatic entrance into the world. However, intense compression of this delicate structure over many hours can push the cranial bones up against each other, distorting the shape of the head. While normal and unavoidable, cranial bones that remain distorted may prevent the proper formation of the skull, affecting development of the brain or impinging on nearby nerves and blood vessels. Cranial-sacral therapy is safe on children and can realign the misaligned cranium.

5. Temporal Mandibular Disorder (TMJ) involves tension and misalignment of the mandible and temporal bones. Cranial-sacral therapy’s adjustments to the mastoid, temporal, zygomatic and sphenoid bones can provide TMJ relief.

6. Insomnia and Anxiety may not be associated with misalignment of the skull, but cranial-sacral therapy’s invigoration of cerebrospinal fluid can bring someone with anxiety or insomnia significant relief. Since cranial-sacral therapy is inherently relaxing, it has been used to ease anxiety and insomnia.

7. Autism has been shown by recent medical research in Canada to be associated with reduced blood supply to the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain. An association has also been made between autism and restricted mobility of the temporal and frontal bones, restricting blood flow to these areas of the brain. It is this association that makes the gentle application of cranial-sacral therapy ideal for treating autism.

8. Seizures occur when hyperexcitable nerve cells in the brain fire abnormally. Keeping the cerebrospinal fluid flowing without restriction to bathe the brain keeps nerve cells nourished. This nourishment has the benefit of reducing the susceptibility of seizures.

Widely applicable, cranial-sacral therapy can be an extremely valuable technique to include in a massage therapy session. As recognition of cranial-sacral therapy increases, so will the number of consumers requesting the modality in their sessions.

Recommended Study:
Cranial-Sacral Therapy


Attlee, Thomas, Cranio-sacral therapy and the treatment of common childhood conditions, The Health Visitor, July 1994.

Upledger, John, DO, OMM, Easing Seizures, Massage Today, August 2006. , Cranio-sacral therapy, Oliver Nash, The Alternative Guide, 2006., Cranial Osteopathy, Jacqueline Young, BBC, 2005., CranioSacral Therapy, The Healing Center On-line, 2006.

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© 2009 Institute for Integrative HealthCare Studies. This work is reproduced with the permission of the Institute.

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