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Do you have problems with stress and need to relax? Then craniosacral therapy may be a complementary treatment that can help you. Here we explain what the method entails.

What is craniosacral therapy?

Craniosacral therapy is a form of body therapy that focuses on relieving tension and imbalances in the body. The therapist does this by gently touching and manipulating the skull (cranium), spine, and sacrum (the large, triangular bone at the base of the spine).

The therapy is based on the theory that the body’s craniosacral system has its own rhythmic pulse. This pulse can be affected by physical and emotional stress. The system includes the brain, spinal cord, cerebrospinal fluid and the membranes surrounding these structures.

By gently manipulating and adjusting these areas, the therapist can restore the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. This in turn should reduce tension and promote the body’s natural healing processes.

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The therapy is often used to treat multiple conditions. It is based on the principle that the body has an inherent ability to heal itself. Some blockages or imbalances in the craniosacral system can hinder this natural process. Craniosacral therapy is known for its gentleness and is considered safe for people of all ages, including infants and the elderly.

What can craniosacral therapy help with?

Craniosacral therapy can relieve a variety of physical and emotional conditions such as headaches, migraines, neck and back pain. It can also reduce stress and tension. Craniosacral therapists also use the therapy for symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and emotional problems. The therapy can have positive effects on neurological conditions, respiratory and digestive disorders. It promotes deep relaxation, which can enhance the body’s natural healing processes.

Although many people report positive experiences with the therapy, it should be seen as a complement to traditional medical treatment. Always consult a doctor or qualified health professional before starting treatment. Results can vary from person to person and there may be other methods that give better results for different conditions.

What is the evidence for craniosacral therapy?

The evidence for craniosacral therapy is controversial in the medical community, with some research pointing to potential benefits such as stress reduction and pain relief, but critics emphasise the lack of a strong scientific basis and methodological limitations of the studies. Research has also shown that there are no effects based on the basic theory of changing the pressure or circulation of the spinal fluid.

Anecdotal evidence from individuals who have experienced positive effects contributes to the popularity of the therapy, although critics argue that these effects may be due to placebo or relaxation rather than specific therapeutic effects of the treatment. One should therefore primarily focus on relaxation as a result of touch if interested in this method, as this may be the main effect. Patients considering craniosacral therapy should see it as a complement to conventional medical treatment and consult with a qualified health professional. There may be many other methods where the evidence is stronger for different conditions.


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How does a treatment with craniosacral therapy work?

A craniosacral therapy treatment is a gentle process that the therapist usually performs with the client fully clothed and lying on a treatment bench. Here is an overview of a typical session:

  1. Initial conversation: Therapy often begins with a conversation in which the therapist asks about the client’s health condition, medical history, and specific problems or goals of treatment. This helps the therapist understand the client’s needs and adapt the session accordingly.
  2. Assessment: The therapist often begins with a light touch to feel the body’s craniosacral rhythm, a subtle pulse said to be linked to the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. Through this initial assessment, the therapist identifies areas of tension or imbalance.
  3. Treatment: Using gentle, light pressure hand techniques, the therapist works on the skull, spine and sacrum to release blockages and promote balance in the craniosacral system. The therapist may also use techniques to release tension in other parts of the body that are affected by or affect the craniosacral system.
  4. Relaxation: During the session, the client is encouraged to relax and breathe deeply, which can enhance the effects of the therapy. Many clients report a sense of deep relaxation and well-being during and after treatment.
  5. Closure and follow-up: After treatment, the therapist and client discuss the experience, any changes or sensations noted by the client, and plan for follow-up sessions if necessary.

A session usually lasts between 45 minutes and one hour. The number of sessions needed varies depending on the individual’s specific situation and goals. Some people experience improvement after just one session, while others may need multiple treatments to achieve the desired results. The therapy is known for its gentle approach and is considered safe for people of all ages, including infants and the elderly.


12 questions and answers about craniosacral therapy

What is craniosacral therapy?

Craniosacral therapy is a form of body therapy that focuses on relieving tension and imbalances in the body through gentle touches and manipulations of the cranium, spine and sacrum.

What is craniosacral therapy based on?

The therapy is based on the theory that the body’s craniosacral system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, cerebrospinal fluid and the membranes surrounding these structures, has its own rhythmic pulse that is affected by physical and emotional stress.

What does the therapist do in craniosacral therapy?

By gently manipulating and adjusting different areas, the therapist aims to restore the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, reduce tension and promote the body’s natural healing processes.

How long is a treatment?

A treatment can vary in length of time depending on the problem but from one to several sessions that are 45-60 minutes long.

What can craniosacral therapy help with?

Craniosacral therapy can relieve headaches, migraines, neck and back pain, and reduce stress and tension. Even chronic fatigue syndrome, emotional problems and neurological conditions, respiratory and digestive disorders can be reduced. It is good to know that the effect is mainly based on placebo and relaxation.

Is touch included in the therapy?

The therapist uses gentle, lightly pressing hand techniques on the skull, spine and sacrum to release blockages and promote balance in the craniosacral system. So touch is part of the treatment.

Can you get craniosacral therapy online?

It is not possible to do craniosacral therapy online as it involves touching the body.

What is the evidence for craniosacral therapy?

Research has shown that there are no effects based on the basic theory of changing the pressure or circulation of the spinal fluid. However, there may be effects for placebo and relaxation.

I feel exhausted, should I have craniosacral therapy?

Fatigue is a medical condition that should primarily be assessed by a doctor. Craniosacral therapy can be helpful with relaxation, which can aid recovery, but there are many methods that may be more helpful for fatigue.

I have fibromyalgia, can craniosacral therapy help?

Craniosacral therapy can help with relaxation and complement your regular care plan. Please discuss this with your doctor or other health professionals.

Where can I go if I need help?

At Lavendla, we have experienced psychologists and therapists who work with different methods and can help you feel better. If you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, contact 112, 999, or the nearest emergency room.

Can craniosacral therapy be given to animals?

Yes, craniosacral therapy can also be used on animals, especially on horses and dogs, but also on other animal species. As with humans, the treatment aims to promote health by gently manipulating the skull, spine and sacrum to relieve tension and promote a harmonious flow of cerebrospinal fluid. Animals, just like humans, can benefit from the calming and pain-relieving effects of therapy. For animals, a therapist treats conditions such as chronic pain, stress-related problems, movement disorders and support for recovery from injury.

Therapists who perform craniosacral therapy on animals have usually undergone specialised training to understand the unique anatomy and needs of animals. They perform with great respect for the animal’s comfort and tolerance level, and it is important that the therapist has the ability to read the animal’s signals to ensure a positive experience. Pet owners interested in craniosacral therapy for their animals should seek a therapist with relevant experience and training in the field.



Written by Ellen Lindgren

Licensed psychologist

Ellen is a licensed psychologist and has experience mainly in clinical psychology where she has worked with various conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, crises and trauma in primary care and psychiatry. She has also worked with research while studying in the US and with affective disorders and insomnia at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.