By Joy Walraven, Acupuncturist, TCMP, Craniosacral therapist
Is your chronic neck pain cramping your style? Tired of getting relief for a day or two and then being right back where you started? Craniosacral therapy (CST) is likely the answer for you. According to recent research published in The Clinical Journal of Pain, 8 weekly treatments of craniosacral significantly reduces neck pain, even three months after treatment is over. As a health practitioner, these kind of long-term results are what I want for everyone who comes to see me.
CST is a gentle, manual therapy that relieves restrictions in the head, spine, sacrum and fascia. Fascia is a web of tissue that connects all the parts of your body; it wraps around each of your bones, muscles, internal organs, nerves, and blood vessels and links them to each other. The web is designed to allow for smooth, gliding movement between all of these body structures. However, injury, inflammation, and scar tissue, among other things, can cause the fascia to become stuck together. This creates a ripple effect, where other parts of the web get pulled out of alignment and you have pain in multiple places. So, for example, you might start out with a shoulder injury, and end up with neck pain as well.
During a craniosacral treatment bones and fascia are slowly and subtly shifted in order to help the body to untwist and release areas of tension that are causing pain, stress, and dysfunction in the muscles, joints, and internal organs. The technique also enhances the flow of cerebrospinal fluid around the brain and spine, which optimizes the functioning of the central nervous system. In addition to pain reduction, people almost always report that they feel a greater sense of well being and deep relaxation after treatment.
Other conditions such as post-traumatic stress, post-surgical dysfunction, scar tissue, back pain, depression and anxiety, chronic headaches, and motor coordination impairment respond very favorably to craniosacral as well.
Craniosacral Therapy Research:
Clin J Pain. 2016 May;32(5):441-9. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000000290.
Craniosacral Therapy for the Treatment of Chronic Neck Pain: A
Randomized Sham-controlled Trial.
Haller H1, Lauche R, Cramer H, Rampp T, Saha FJ, Ostermann T, Dobos G.
With growing evidence for the effectiveness of craniosacral therapy
(CST) for pain management, the efficacy of CST remains unclear. This
study therefore aimed at investigating CST in comparison with sham
treatment in chronic nonspecific neck pain patients.
MATERIALS AND METHODS:
A total of 54 blinded patients were randomized into either 8 weekly
units of CST or light-touch sham treatment. Outcomes were assessed
before and after treatment (week 8) and again 3 months later (week 20).
The primary outcome was the pain intensity on a visual analog scale at
week 8; secondary outcomes included pain on movement, pressure pain
sensitivity, functional disability, health-related quality of life,
well-being, anxiety, depression, stress perception, pain acceptance,
body awareness, patients’ global impression of improvement, and safety.
In comparison with sham, CST patients reported significant and
clinically relevant effects on pain intensity at week 8 (-21 mm group
difference; 95% confidence interval, -32.6 to -9.4; P=0.001; d=1.02) and
at week 20 (-16.8 mm group difference; 95% confidence interval, -27.5 to
-6.1; P=0.003; d=0.88). Minimal clinically important differences in pain
intensity at week 20 were reported by 78% within the CST group, whereas
48% even had substantial clinical benefit. Significant between-group
differences at week 20 were also found for pain on movement, functional
disability, physical quality of life, anxiety and patients’ global
improvement. Pressure pain sensitivity and body awareness were
significantly improved only at week 8. No serious adverse events were
CST was both specifically effective and safe in reducing neck pain
intensity and may improve functional disability and the quality of life
up to 3 months after intervention.