Craniosacral Therapy for Back Pain

Craniosacral Therapy for Back Pain

Craniosacral therapy for back pain (CST) is a controversial manual therapy that is theorized to remove blockages from the circulation of cerebral spinal fluid in the human body. The practice is a type of bodywork that is widely utilized by a diversity of complementary care providers, but is generally shunned and even mocked by traditional medical science.

CST has been used for decades after its invention by Osteopath John Upledger, but its orgins go back much farther to a closely related health practice called cranial osteopathy. Modern versions of cranialsacral therapy are commonly practiced by chiropractors, massage therapists, reiki practitioners, acupressurists and of course, osteopaths.

This essay provides information about using cranialsacral therapy as a treatment for back pain. We will detail the healthcare system and discuss its pros and cons from an objective point of view.

What is Craniosacral Therapy for Back Pain?

Cranialsacral therapy is a type of bodywork delivered by the hands of the care provider. The objective is to enhance the flow of cerebral spinal fluid and align the spinal bones and skull in a manner which encourages optimal health and the ability of the body to heal organically from all ills. The theory is very similar to chiropractic in many regards, since it promotes holistic health and natural healing for a variety of unspecific health issues. Claims as to benefits range wildly from minor pain relief at one end of the scale to a complete cure for cancer and many incurable diseases at the other.

The care methods used in cranialsacral therapy are typically gentle and nontraumatic in most cases. Some care providers use practices that are more dynamic, akin to chiropractic manipulation. Typically, treatment will focus on the skull, neck, back and pelvic region, with small corrections being made to assist in optimizing the spinal structures in their functionality. 

Cranialsacral therapy is most often used in combination with other complementary healing arts, like massage, trigger point work, chiropractic, reiki, acupuncture and others.

Craniosacral Therapy for Back Pain Potential Benefits

Proponents of CST claim that is can optimize the skull, spine and spinal fluid in a manner which encourages the best state of health and promotes organic healing for whatever might be negatively impacting the body at any time. In essence, the care provider does not directly treat any illness or injury, but instead focuses on simply correcting alignment and interactions within the body. This philosophy mirrors chiropractic and allows care providers the freedom of making very broad claims about how and when the treatment can and should be used.

Successfully treated patients claim that the therapy helps to relax them and provides temporary pain relief, much in the same manner as chiropractic adjustment. There are almost no back pain cures mentioned in the medical literature using CST, but many citations of transient relief, much in the same manner as other complementary conservative symptomatic care methods.

The therapy is indeed all-natural, nonpharmaceutical and noninvasive, which are all very positive attributes. If the treatment works, through actual efficacy or placebo, then the patient has indeed benefited, since they will not have to resort to using much more damaging practices associated with traditional medical care, like drugs and surgery.

Craniosacral Therapy for Back Pain Limitations and Risks

Virtually all of the evidence that shows any effectiveness of CST has been created and distributed by the same organizations that govern the system and provide education to care providers. This lends tremendous doubt to the validity of such claims and has rightfully made the traditional medical community very suspicious of CST, since no scientific studies have established any degree of efficacy at all.

Furthermore, since individual care providers embrace widely different belief systems about the efficacy of CST, the list of conditions which should be treated using the therapy also ranges greatly. This type of generalization about the need for treatment has caused some organizations to warn against the use of CST for specific disorders, including The American Cancer Society, which took exception to some care provider claims that the practice can and does cure cancer.

There have been reports of injuries from CST, especially in children and now, official warnings have been issued not to use the practice on young children due to specific and nonspecific risks.

The greatest risk for responsible people of adult age who have back pain and want relief from cranialsacral therapy is the loss of money from unsuccessful treatment. This is a risk found in many complementary healing arts, where patients might invest in a multisession program and find that their monetary and time investments have been a complete waste. However, if relief is provided, then the investment will be worthwhile, so it is up to each patient to decide if CST is indicated for them after thoroughly researching the therapy.

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