Posted by: seattledizzygroup | December 31, 2014

CranioSacral Therapy

The CranioSacral Treatment

by Emily Lesnak, ND

of Bastyr Center for Natural Health

(Presented to Seattle Dizzy Group on 11/8/14)

This presentation gives an overview of CranioSacral Therapy, including what it is, how it works, and what to expect of a typical treatment.  Learn about this complementary therapy for managing the symptoms of a chronic vestibular or balance disorder.

The CranioSacral System

The body is made up of many systems of specialized and uniquely functioning tissues such as the respiratory system, digestive system, the cardiovascular system, etc. The body also has a very subtle system, unrecognized by science until fairly recently, known as the craniosacral system. The craniosacral (CS) system consists of the membranes that form the meninges of the brain and their related structures, the spinal cord (down to the sacrum), the bones of the skull (to which those membranes attach), the cerebrospinal fluid and the structures that produce, contain and resorb the cerebrospinal fluid.

The cornerstone of the CS system is the ability of the bones of the skull to move in relation to one another as the cerebrospinal fluid moves through the attached membranes. The CS treatment is based on this relatively recent finding (it was once thought that the bones of the skull were fixed and immovable in relation to one another) as well as on the literature documenting and discussing CS research and theory.

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is made in the brain and travels through the CS system. It is then resorbed into the blood via the venous system. Production of the CSF is halted when a certain pressure level is reached. As the pressure subsequently drops with resorbtion, CSF production begins again. This ebb and flow of fluid through the meninges of the brain creates a rhythm (of bone and attached tissues) unique to the CS system.

Since the membranes through which the CSF flows are attached to the skull bones, they move in response to the increase and decrease in pressure. The movement of these bones forms the basis of the CS diagnosis and treatment. The diagnosis of physiological problems is based on the clinician’s ability to assess the rate, amplitude and symmetry of the CS rhythm. The rate of CS rhythm will go up and the amplitude will go down when the meningeal membranes are restricted somewhere. Lack of symmetry helps the clinician assess where a loss of physiological motion is occurring. This could be from injuries, inflammation, scars, fascial adhesions, etc.

There is a connective tissue sheath that surrounds all body parts. This sheath is known as the fascia. It is connected to the CS system and moves with the CS rhythm. There will be a rocking motion of the sacrum and a widening and narrowing of the head during the CS pulse. A skilled clinician will also be able to feel this rhythm on other parts of the body as the fascia moves with the CS rhythm. The clinician will correct the rhythm with gentle, subtle movements of the skull, the sacrum and other areas where fascia is restricted. The following describes this treatment further.

What CranioSacral Therapy Is Used To Treat

Because the CS system is connected to the rest of the body through its connection with the fascia, restriction can affect many other body systems including the nervous system, musculoskeletal system, vascular system, endocrine system, etc. Because of these relationships, CS therapy is used to treat many different conditions. In our clinical setting, we have found CS to be helpful for headaches, sinus problems, anxiety, stress in general, endocrine problems, muscular fatigue or stress, depression, TMJ and other problems.

What To Expect Of A CranioSacral Treatment

Your clinician will have you lie on a table on your back. You may wish to be covered with a sheet or blanket, even though you will remain fully clothed. The relaxing nature of the treatment may make you feel a little colder or warmer than usual. The clinician will then palpate (i.e. examine the CS rhythm by touch) by placing her/his hands on your head, then your sacrum and possibly other areas, such as your ankles. You may be asked to shift your body slightly from time to time, but there is no other way that you need to be involved except to relax and enjoy the treatment. An attempt will be made to keep the room quiet and darkened to enhance the relaxing atmosphere. The clinician will use a very gentle, light touch and may move your head periodically as she/he applies their hands to the different bones of the skull. Light pressure will be applied to release any restrictions discovered.

The clinician will also use their hands on your abdomen and chest to release restrictions of the fascia at these points. They may also return to the sacrum for gentle release of restrictions there. More advanced clinicians may feel the CS rhythm in the body fascia by lightly holding your feet, your knees or your shoulders or by very lightly stretching your neck upwards. For bones that are more easily accessed through the mouth, the clinician uses a gloved finger to gently move them. This technique will be explained to you in detail before it is done. There are no surprises and there should be no discomfort. Communicate any discomfort at once, should you experience it, so that the clinician may adjust the pressure or location of their hands. You may feel yourself drifting off into a very relaxed state or even into a sound sleep. This is normal and you should allow yourself this level of relaxation. Occasionally, individuals have emotive experiences with CS treatment, which is all part of the process of releasing restrictions. The entire treatment can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on how extensive it needs to be. Your clinician can explain to you afterwards what restrictions they encountered and what releases were attempted/obtained, if you wish to know. You may feel a little lightheaded, or “spacey”, following the treatment, but you will, most likely, feel very relaxed. It is a good idea to sit in the waiting area before going on to your next activity, ensuring that you are fully alert before driving.

  • Upledger, J. “Craniosacral Therapy”, Eastland Press, 1983.
  • Upledger, J. “Craniosacral Therapy II: Beyond the Dura”, Eastland Press, 1987.
  • Milne, Hugh “The heart of listening: a visionary approach to craniosacral work”, North Atlantic Books, 1995.

More information about CranioSacral Therapy:

Find a CranioSacral Therapist:

Emily Lesnak, ND

of Bastyr Center for Natural Health

Dr. Emily Lesnak is the chief resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, where she supervises student physicians in the Department of Naturopathic Medicine. She also sees patients in private practice at Bastyr Center, and supervises the community care site at West Seattle High School.

Dr. Lesnak’s clinical interests include family medicine, women’s health, pediatrics, autoimmune disease, diabetes and cardiovascular medicine, IBS including small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and methylation nutrigenomics (MTHFR). She is also interested in homeopathy, craniosacral therapy and botanical medicine.

Dr. Lesnak empowers patients to take part in their healing process by educating them about their bodies and working with them to develop a treatment plan that meets them where they are. When working with patients, she begins with the foundations of health, including diet, lifestyle and stress management.

More info & watch Dr. Lesnak discuss “How Naturopathic Medicine Can Help You”:


Presentation information is not meant to be taken as medical advice.

Presentations posted online may include discussion notes, links, images, and other information added by Seattle Dizzy Group.


© Copyright 2014, Seattle Dizzy Group. All rights reserved.

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Providing support & community for people living with chronic dizziness & imbalance -- in Seattle & beyond

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