This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
A gentle form of manipulation, craniosacral therapy is a hands-on healing technique typically practiced by physical therapists, massage therapists, and chiropractors. Craniosacral therapists manipulate the craniosacral system, which includes the soft tissue and bones of the head (cranium), the spine down to its tail end (the sacral area), and the pelvis. They also work with the membranes that surround these bones and the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord. Although the therapist uses a touch so light that many patients don't even notice it, most people report feeling profoundly relaxed after a treatment.
Unlike many alternative modalities, craniosacral therapy claims no ancient or exotic origins. It was discovered in the 1930s by William Garner Sutherland, an American osteopath and disciple of Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of osteopathy. Sutherland devoted nearly 20 years to exploring the concept that the bones of the skull are designed and formed to allow for movement.
While Sutherland's theories were dismissed for years by the medical and scientific community, they were revived in the 1970s by osteopathic physician John E. Upledger. With a team of scientists at Michigan State University, Upledger set out to confirm the existence of cranial bone motion. Though still considered inconclusive by many, Dr. Upledger's research (along with that done by European and Russian researchers) has inspired a new generation of practitioners to embrace the therapy.
By law, craniosacral therapists are not allowed to make a medical diagnosis, therefore the technique should not be confused with cranial osteopathy, a diagnostic and therapeutic method of treatment that has similar tenets but is practiced by highly trained osteopathic physicians and surgeons, as well as some dentists.