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  • Writer's pictureCraniosacral Center of Grand Rapids

What is Craniosacral Therapy? What is a Craniosacral Therapy Session Like?

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

what is craniosacral therapy? What does craniosacral therapy do? What does craniosacral therapy feel like?

Craniosacral therapy is a light touch, on-the-body therapy that’s incredibly gentle and incredibly effective. Craniosacral therapy works with the whole body by calming the central nervous system and can address a wide range of issues from tongue tie, migraines, neck tension, anxiety, chronic pain and more.

Read more about how craniosacral therapy can use gentle pressure to help the body find deep calm and begin the process of healing.

What Does Craniosacral Therapy Do? How Does it Affect the Body?

Craniosacral therapy works with the central nervous system, the cerebral spinal fluid, as well as releasing tension throughout the tissues.

Our body’s cerebral spinal fluid has eight to twelve waves per minute. The cerebrospinal fluid flows through our body, washing the central nervous system, and this flow creates a flutter or wave which can be felt particularly in paired joints, such as the hands, the feet, the legs, the hips, the ribs and more. Within all of these places, a trained craniosacral therapist can feel this soft fluttering, and notes when they find a place with a restriction, where the flutter may be blocked. By applying gentle pressure, those restrictions can release, allowing the cerebral spinal fluid to flow again and the tissue to relax and heal.

Craniosacral therapy uses extremely gentle pressure to facilitate releases — five grams of pressure or about the weight of a nickel. Occasionally, we might use slightly more pressure if there’s an area we’re trying to reach, but typically, it’s very light and gentle. This gentleness can help the body relax and release more deeply than other therapies that work with more pressure.

What Does Craniosacral Therapy Feel Like? What Can I Expect From a Craniosacral Therapy Session?

During craniosacral therapy, clients remain fully clothed and lay on a large, foam-padded massage table, laying face up. We have pillows, table warmers and blankets to make sure you’re comfortable and at the right temperature. If it’s your first session, we’ll have you fill out an intake form, taking in your medical history, and you’ll spend some time talking with your therapist so they can learn more about your needs.

Sometimes clients like to chat while they’re receiving therapy, and that’s great. Other times, they need to stay quiet, which is great too. The therapist allows the client to set the tone, creating an environment where their body can stay relaxed and avoid a fight or flight response, allowing the nervous system to relax its defenses so that the body can experience releases.

The primary focus and intent of a craniosacral therapy session is facilitating tissue release within the body. What does tissue release feel like? While we plan to go more in depth about what tissue release feels like for both the therapist and the client, in general, it can be a very calming feeling. Oftentimes people will feel heat or tingling. They might experience a therapeutic pulse or gentle twitches throughout the body. In general, people usually feel deeply relaxed. Sometimes, people even fall asleep during a session or find that they will sleep very well the night of a session. The body will continue releasing for 24 to 48 hours.

Receiving a craniosacral therapy treatment is extremely relaxing. Because we’re working with the fluid that literally washes the central nervous system, clients often feel a level of relaxation that they may have never felt in their entire life. It can often be otherworldly, bringing the whole nervous system to calm, which then allows us to get into deep places and release deep areas.

Often, when we’re working with the physical body and releasing the tissues, clients might also experience emotional releases as well. It's not uncommon for clients to have more vivid dreams the night of a session. Sometimes stories from childhood or important relationships might suddenly bubble up.

Many times, when working on one part of the body, a client may remember an injury that happened there long ago, like how decades ago as a child, they fell out of a tree and injured it, but hadn’t thought about that for years. Throughout our lives, our bodies experience so many different things, and we might not always be able to address it. Still, the tension or pain patterns continue with us, sometimes limiting us without us realizing it. These tension patterns can hold emotions or ideas that we can work through by first facilitating their physical release.

Sometimes, the therapist might feel some resistance or tension within the body. Usually, this isn’t conscious resistance on the part of the client, but an unconscious response that could indicate past trauma, stress or the body trying to protect itself.

At the Craniosacral Center of Grand Rapids, we believe in honoring the space of resistance, rather than pushing through it. Sometimes, that might mean taking a short break and working somewhere else for a while, trying again later or in a future session, when the body feels ready. Often, when we acknowledge the resistance, thank it for the work it is doing to protect us, we find that in the next session, it’s ready to move forward. It’s an intuitive art between the provider, the client and the complex workings of the human body.

Is Craniosacral Therapy Energy Work or Massage?

Often, we get asked if craniosacral therapy is the same as energy work, reiki or massage. While craniosacral is different from these therapies, it can have similar benefits, as well as going beyond what these treatments can offer.

Humans are incredibly complex, and our bodies and minds have a lot of complex layers within us. Craniosacral therapy is unique in that we reach a lot of those layers that may not always be addressed with other therapies.

But often, our clients see the same or better results from craniosacral than they have with massage because the light touch doesn’t put their body on guard like deep pressure can. When muscles and tissues have held tension and pain for years, using deep pressure can elicit more pain, causing further tension in the body. CST works with going “the direction of ease” Imagine a coat on a hook- in order to get the coat down you need to first lift the coat up (following the ease) in order to bring it off the hook to your level. We do the same with the tissues- feeling the subtle movement, following the ease and holding at its end- where we tend to notice the signs of tissue release mentioned above (heat, tingling and therapeutic pulsing). Especially if you’re coming in for neck tension or looking for a better range of mobility, craniosacral can offer you better results than massage because it allows your body to relax and begin the process of healing itself.

Interested in Craniosacral Therapy? Book a Session With Us

If you’d like to experience the profound relaxation and healing benefits of craniosacral therapy, consider booking a session with us. If you’d like more information, check out our blog posts about the effectiveness of craniosacral therapy and the cost of therapy at Craniosacral Center of Grand Rapids.

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