CranioSacral Therapy

CranioSacral Therapy

Susan V. Kratz, OTR, CST-D, has dedicated 30 years of clinical training in advanced levels of CranioSacral Therapy.  She also provides basic Lymphatic Drainage to promote and support gentle chelation, detoxification, and metabolic function.  Susan is a staff member of the Upledger Institute qualified to teach the ShareCare course of CranioSacral Therapy to family members.

For information on each topic below,  click the item,  or simply scroll down the page.


What Conditions Does CranioSacral Therapy Help?

We treat all ages for:

• Autism Spectrum Disorders
• Feeding Dysfunction
• Some Learning Problems
• Seizure Disorders
• Anxiety (Self-Regulation Dysfunction)
• Sensory Integration Dysfunction
• Neurological Impairments & Brain Damage
• Multiple Medical Problems – especially those delaying development
• Migraines and Headaches
• Chronic Neck, Back, & Extremity Pain
• Movement – Coordination Problems
• Stress & Tension – related problems
• Traumatic Brain and Spinal Cord Injuries
• Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia
• Hiatal Hernia and Gastrointestinal Reflux
• Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
• Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)

What is CranioSacral Therapy?
CranioSacral Therapy (CST) dates back to the 1970’s when osteopathic physician John E. Upledger first observed a rhythmic movement of the connective tissues surrounding the spinal cord during surgery on one of his patients.  None of his colleagues nor medical textbooks could explain what the movement was or what function it served.

Dr. Upledger embraced the challenge to learn more about this system, which he termed the CranioSacral system.  By combining the knowledge of the location of the membranes, with the structure of the skull and spinal column, he further theorized that a hydraulic system of sorts within the brain caused the rhythm within the CranioSacral system.  He also speculated that many forms of pain, dysfunction, and states of unhealthiness are related to the status or abnormal tensions on the membranes that form the boundaries of the system.

In 1975, he joined the Osteopathic College at Michigan State University to further research this phenomenon.  There he led a team of anatomists, physiologists, biophysicists and bioengineers to test and document the influence of therapy on the CranioSacral system.  For the first time, they were able to explain the function of the system and demonstrated that a light-touch therapy could evaluate and treat the tissues, and thereby alleviating symptoms of dysfunction.

In 1985, Dr. Upledger went on to establish The Upledger Institute in Florida to teach the public and healthcare practitioners about the benefits of CST.  To date, the Institute has trained tens of thousands of practitioners worldwide in these methods.

The Therapeutic Value of CranioSacral Therapy
The three layers of membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges) plus the volume of cerebralspinal fluid is what constitutes the CranioSacral system.  The tissues extend through the bones of the skull, face, and mouth (the cranium), and then down to the tailbone (the sacrum).  Not only do these structures function to protect the brain and spinal cord as a shock absorber, but may also serve to “move” vital fluids and facilitate the electro-chemical conduction of nerve signals.  As cerebral spinal fluid is produced within the brain itself, it swells the cranium cavity.  As the fluid is then reabsorbed after reaching a certain pressure gradient, the head narrows.  This cycle creates the CranioSacral rhythm which can be detected throughout the body as the fluid courses through its pathways.

This vital system influences both the development of the brain in children as well as supports the brain and spinal cord’s function throughout the lifespan.  Restrictions or imbalances within the membranes themselves can potentially cause any number of sensory, motor, neurological, or other health problems.  The therapy is a gentle method of detection and correction of the tissues that encourages the body’s own natural healing mechanisms to dissipate negative effects of stress on the central nervous system.

This treatment is so gentle and non-invasive that it is surprising that the results are so impactful. The treatment does not cause pain, though sometimes there is some discomfort as the body rids itself of the energy of stored pain.  This discomfort is almost always short lived and often does not happen.  Most of the time, the treatment leads the person into a very deep state of relaxation and calm.  It has been Sue’s experience with this work that three sessions will give a person a very good indication of how their body responds to this type of intervention.

Etiologies of CranioSacral Dysfunction
First of all, recognizing the cellular make-up of connective tissue helps to further one’s understanding of both the CranioSacral system as well as ways to treat it.  Elastin, collagen, and interstitial fluids comprise the make-up of the meninges.  Elastin, having elastic memory, can lengthen and shorten yet return to it original length.  Collagen, being of much denser and stronger fibers, tends to give the tissue shape.  Under Wolf’s Law of tissue response, the longer a tissue is held out of alignment the greater the likelihood it will take on new shape and alignment, leading to tensions and restrictions.  Most times the body can adjust and dissipate these forces and the tissue can recover.  However, there are times where the forces are not dissipated, but rather absorbed and held onto by these fibers.

There are a multitude of physical, chemical, environmental, and emotional events that can cause adverse tension within the tissues.  The birth process, even in the event of a “natural, normal birth without complications” holds the potential for great physical stress to be placed on the baby’s head and neck.  Furthermore, the mother’s body goes through great physical stresses and strain, not just in the birthing of her child, but over the long nine months where internal tissue is misaligned for long periods of time.  Physical injuries are often the direct source of chronic pain.  In cases of pain that would not go away with traditional therapies or exercise, the connective tissue may be the culprit.  In cases of disease, inflammation can alter the fluidity of the tissue, causing it to tighten and restrict flow through foramen (holes at the base of the skull that are passageways for major nerves and blood vessels).  When restricted from tight tissue, nutrients to the brain can be blocked, waste products and toxins soak the brain, and / or sensory and motor information may be compromised in and out of the brain.

How is CranioSacral Therapy Performed?
It is performed by a person trained specifically in the methods of detecting CranioSacral rhythm and specific locations of connective tissue regions most helpful to release the entire system. Using a light touch, generally no more than the weight of a nickel, the practitioner engages a soft ‘lengthening’ of the tissues until it releases (or gets longer).  Monitoring the flow of the rhythm afterwards is a way to detect if the restriction was fully released.

The therapist then uses delicate manual techniques to release those problem areas that surface, which in turn reduces undue pressure upon the brain and spinal cord / spinal nerves.  A CranioSacral Therapy session can last from about 15 minutes to more than an hour.  The client, if able, is invited to lay on a treatment table in a comfortable position while the therapist performs the techniques.  In the cases of wiggly children, the skilled therapist will engage their interest or be able to move around with them until they can settle into accepting the treatment.

Some Detractors Against CranioSacral Therapy
Some people have argued that recognizing CranioSacral rhythm has been proven to be inconsistent between multiple therapists.  However, this argument only suggests that recognizing the rhythm may be difficult to record for some people.  This argument does not prove that the rhythm does not exist, nor that the intervention has no merit.  The scientific evidence of the CranioSacral system’s existence are very well documented.  Clinical data on the outcomes of the therapy are being collected worldwide in anecdotal stories.  Several clinical trials for a variety of ailments are currently in process.  Since the treatment is highly individualized and the length of time one may require treatment is so varied, that further complicates the ability to control variables to satisfy empherical methods.  But when enough anecdotal evidence is brought forth in multitudes, we must open our minds and pocketbooks to consider it research worthy.

Suggested Reading:

  • “CranioSacral Therapy: What It Is, How It Works” (2008). John E. Upledger, Grossinger , Don Cohen
  • “Your Inner Physician and You” By John E. Upledger
  • “CranioSacral Therapy”. (1983). by John E. Upledger, Jon Vredevoogd
  • “Working Wonders: Changing Lives with CranioSacral Therapy. [180] Case Studies by Practitioners of CST.” (2005). Published by the Upledger Institute Press.
    Available at