Craniosacral therapy (CST) is a gentle, manual therapy that has evolved from osteopathy. It is sometimes known as ‘listening hands’. It uses touch to evaluate and rebalance both the craniosacral system ( the skull and spinal column, together with the membranes and fluid which surround and protect them) and the rest of the body’s systems, allowing unobstructed movement of all fluids, tissues and joints.
As a holistic therapy, it focuses on the body as a whole: body, mind and spirit. It recognises that all structures and functions of the body, including the organs, are related and that any imbalance or dysfunction in one part of the body will affect the way other parts of the body work. Therapists believe that when a part of the body is altered due to physical trauma, emotional stress or illness, this can be communicated throughout the body by the blood, nervous or hormonal systems, giving rise to imbalances. The gentle touch of the therapist helps to create optimum conditions for the body’s natural healing process, encouraging it to overcome such imbalances and restore the body’s natural harmony.
It is important to note that whilst CST and cranial osteopathy have developed from the same roots, a craniosacral therapist is not osteopathically trained and works more with the emotional and psychological aspects of the body. Cranial osteopaths train initially in osteopathy which has a more mechanical approach, and then completes postgraduate training in cranial work.
How can craniosacral therapy help in Parkinson's?
To date little scientific research has been conducted into Craniosacral therapy (CST) in Parkinson’s but anecdotal evidence suggests that it may improve vitality, enhance movement and co-ordination, reduce pain and fatigue, improve the immune, respiratory and digestive systems, and improve heart function. It has also been credited with reducing anxiety and panic attacks, headaches, depression, sleep disturbance and other stress-related symptoms and so enhancing wellbeing. This can of course be beneficial for both individuals and their families.
Brain specific CST may be effective in improving function of the nervous system and so reducing some Parkinson’s symptoms.
As there is no clear scientific research to support any benefits of CST, you should be very clear before treatment what you hope to achieve and evaluate effectiveness as treatment progresses, to see if it is beneficial for you.
What should I expect at an appointment?
Craniosacral therapy (CST) is not regulated in many countries. It is therefore a good idea to ask your doctor or other healthcare professional for recommendations. Friends, family, other people with Parkinson’s or your national Parkinson’s association may also be able to advise based on personal experience.
It is advisable to see a therapist who has experience of Parkinson’s so do ask about their experience of the condition as well as their qualifications.
Your therapist will ask about your medical history and symptoms in order to determine any imbalance or overload in the body. This may include information relating to your birth and childhood to details of illnesses, operations and accidents, for example.
You will usually remain fully clothed and will lie on a massage or treatment table, although you can sit if you prefer. The therapist will then use their hands to ‘listen’ to the body and feel any congestion or restrictions. This usually involves a very light touch to examine the sacrum at the base of the spine and the head, as well as other areas of the body where they can feel the body’s natural ‘involuntary motion’, that is the subtle, rhythmical shape found in all the tissues of the body.
You will feel the gentle touch of the therapist’s hands as they very slowly and carefully use pressure to encourage the release of stresses throughout the body and head, repeating and re-assessing as necessary. CST is very subtle and you may feel that nothing much is being done when, in fact, it is.
CST is usually an enjoyable and relaxing therapy to receive, bringing a sense of physical and mental relaxation, and resting for an hour or two after should enhance your sense of wellbeing.
The number of treatments required will depend on your individual symptoms and imbalances, and your body’s ability to rebalance and recover. Sessions are usually weekly or fortnightly unless you are in considerable pain, as this allows your body time to respond between sessions. You might not notice the benefits immediately as your body may need time to adjust. Your therapist should discuss with you the likely course of treatment at the outset, although this will be dependent on your progress each session.