Massage & Bodywork

May | June 2014

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There's a great deal of interest in craniosacral therapy (CST), and also a lot of confusion. Some therapists say it can be integrated seamlessly into other modalities. Others maintain that in order to be practiced correctly, it must be used as a stand-alone therapy. In the real world, both ways of practicing are useful—and the reason lies in the difference between techniques and therapy. Craniosacral techniques can be integrated successfully into almost any kind of session or modality. Craniosacral therapy, when performed by an experienced practitioner, does not look much like the protocol of techniques many people associate with the work. In this article, I'll discuss each approach: how techniques are used by practitioners of CST and of other modalities to make their sessions more effective, and the important distinctions that differentiate the practice of the therapy from the protocol of techniques. CST DEFINED I think of CST as educated, specific, noninvasive touch that supports the body's innate ability to heal. John E. Upledger, DO, named it for what he called the craniosacral system: the bones, fluid, and membranes that protect and nourish the central nervous system. Using touch that's generally no more than 5 grams (a force equal to the weight of a nickel) added to the existing tension in the body, a CST practitioner encourages the craniosacral system (and, indeed, the entire body) to function more effectively. CST'S HISTORY CST's roots are in osteopathy, a branch of medicine established in the United States in the late 1800s. A. T. Still, a surgeon in the Civil War, founded osteopathy because he was disillusioned with the direction in which medicine was moving. In particular, he felt surgeries were performed too often and drugs were overprescribed. He also noted that at that time, the "cures" of medicine often ended up hurting or killing patients, not helping them. Using his background in engineering, Still developed the following principles on which he based his medical system: • The body is a unit. The physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual components of health are all related to one another. • All structures and functions in the body are connected and interdependent; changing one affects all the others. • Bodies are self-regulating and self-healing. Given proper support, bodies have self-healing properties. It's the health-care provider's job to support the innate healing ability of the body and to interfere as little as possible toward that aim. One of Still's pupils was William Sutherland, who developed a fascination with the bones of the skull. Common wisdom at the time (and in some medical schools to this day) stated that the bones of the skull are fused by the time people reach adulthood. But Sutherland saw evidence for movement in the sutures between the bones, and, in a series of experiments he performed on himself, demonstrated that limiting bones' motion had 60 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k m a y / j u n e 2 0 1 4 rhythm

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