Craniosacral Therapy

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Category: Complementary and Alternative Therapies

What is it?

Craniosacral therapy (CST) is a method of complementary and alternative medicine used by physical therapists, massage therapists, naturopaths, chiropractors and osteopaths. A craniosacral therapy session involves the therapist placing their hands on the patient, which is thought to tune the therapist into the so called craniosacral system. By gently working with the spine, skull and its cranial sutures, diaphragms, and fascia the restrictions of nerve passages are said to be eased. In addition it is thought the movement of cerebral spinal fluid through the spinal cord can be optimized, and misaligned bones are said to be restored to their proper position.

How does it work?

The movement of spinal fluid within and around the central nervous system is believed to create a vital body rhythm, equally important to health and well-being as the beating of the heart or the breath. Craniosacral Therapy is thought to help boost general well-being, reduce stress, improve quality of sleep, increase energy and enhance the functioning of all the body's organs via the nervous system. Craniosacral therapists use light touch at the base of the skull or the sacrum. During a session, they feel for disturbances in the rate, amplitude, symmetry, and quality of flow of the cerebral spinal fluid. The therapist then uses very gentle touch to balance the flow. It is thought that once the cerebrospinal fluid moves freely, the body's natural healing responses can function.

Is it effective?

A study published in 1999,found insufficient evidence in the literature to support its use for a variety of presentations. These included gastrological, obstetric and neurological conditions. To date the use of CST for PTSD has not been researched adequately to identify its effectiveness

Are there any disadvantages?

There may be some discomfort associated with the treatment however it should not be painful. Several treatments may be required to achieve a positive outcome

Where do you get it?

The Natural Therapies Australia web page has a directory of therapists in your area offering CST. While these strategies are pursued, it is also important that the person with PTSD is under the care of a certified health professional.

What are the evidence limitations?

There is currently no explicit evidence to support CST as an independent intervention for PTSD. Much of the evidence base is derived from lower levels of evidence such as expert opinion and clinical experiences. Therefore interpreting this evidence should be undertaken with caution.

Recommendations

Based on the current lack of high quality evidence, the use of CST as a treatment for PTSD cannot be recommended. More research is required. It may be considered as an adjunct to other PTSD interventions, such as psychological and pharmacological interventions.

Key References

Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health 2007, ‘Australian guidelines for the treatment of adults with Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Practitioner Guide’ National Health and Medical research Council, viewed 11 December 2008,
http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/publications/synopses/_files/mh13.pdf

Craniosacral therapy Association of Australia 2008, Craniosacral Therapy website, viewed 28 November 2008 http://www.craniosacraltherapy.org.au/

Green, C, Martin, CW, Bassett, K & Kazanjian, A 1999, ‘A systematic review of craniosacral therapy: Biological plausibility, assessment reliability and clinical effectiveness’, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, vol. 7, pp. 201-207.

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