Craniosacral therapy, also called cranial balancing, cranial osteopathy, and craniopathy, is a treatment modality based on the concepts of cerebrospinal fluid flow and skull suture flexibility (the sutures being the anatomical lines where the bony plates of the skull join together).1
Developed in the early 1970s by chiropractor John Upledger, cranio-sacral therapy is modeled after the initial work of osteopath William Garner Sutherland.2 Sutherland observed that the cranial sutures were unlike other articulations in the body and more like interlocking beveled edges. He postulated that these articulations were not rigid, as previously thought, but capable of minimal motion.2
Practitioners of craniosacral therapy (CST) describe it as a gentle, subtle manipulation of the cranial sutures to release deep muscle tension and improve overall health and homeostasis.3 It is at this point that the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow comes into play.
Considering the intimate relationship between CSF and the cardiovascular system, Upledger determined that there was a “pulse” to CSF that could be palpated at the cranial suture lines. With very light manual pressure applied by the trained provider, differences in the location and distribution of this CSF pulse palpated along the cranial sutures could be used to detect irregularities in other parts of the body and re-establish physiologic, holistic “balance.”4