Crainosacral TherapyCranial-sacral therapy (CST), or craniosacral therapy, is a noninvasive system of bodywork, which aims at releasing tension deep within the body. It is based on the Primary Respiratory Mechanism (PRM), a theory developed by William Sutherland, the founder of cranial osteopathy.According to Sutherland, the PRM is a light, involuntary movement in the skull and sacrum, as well as the membrane system and the cerebrospinal fluid in the central nervous system. It may be understood in terms of the following five principles:

  • Inherent motility of the central nervous system
  • Fluctuation of the cerebrospinal fluid
  • Mobility of the intracranial and intraspinal dural membranes
  • Mobility of the cranial bones
  • Involuntary motion of the sacrum between the ilia

CST may therefore be understood as a gentle, low-impact touch therapy, which enhances the physiological body system described by the PRM. To treat this system, massage therapists typically apply light pressure to the head, spine or sacrum while the patient is lying down and, in so doing, release pressure within the fascia, or the system of soft tissues surround the spine.




John Upledger, D.O., O.M.M., developed CST in the mid-1970s, after extensive research of Sutherland’s methods at Michigan State University. He was the first physician to teach craniosacral techniques to individuals who otherwise lacked osteopathic experience, leading to its role in the massage industry.

In the West, Sutherland’s theories of cranial motion were largely dismissed before Upledger’s research. However, in the Orient, these subtle, involuntary movements have long been recognized by systems of medicine; namely, acupuncture and Ayurveda, which tie cranial rhythm to the flow of energy within the body. Cranial manipulation has allegedly been practiced in India for many centuries, and may even date back to Ancient Egypt.

Health Benefits


This type of therapy is said to boost resistance to disease, thereby functioning as a preventive health measure for many patients. In general, it may be used as treatment for a number of health complications due to the technique’s ability to reduce pain and dysfunction. Such health issues may include the following: migraines, chronic back and neck pain, traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, scoliosis, temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), orthopedic problems, motor-coordination difficulties and more.

Seeking to restore the skull, sacrum and spine to their natural positions, this modality of massage therapy also serves as a form of physical therapy, reducing the stress that results from sports injuries or chronic ailments. Since many dysfunctions of the brain and central nervous system stem from birth, CST may be used as a successful means of treatment for infants and children. Pediatric craniosacral therapy may aid in treating colic, reflux, insomnia, breast-feeding issues, and difficulty sleeping. The goal is to treat such conditions while the body is most impressionable to avoid more severe health complications in adulthood.

Source: Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America. Accessed Nov. 6, 2013.