Craniosacral therapy (CST) is a gentle, hands-on massaging technique. It uses a light touch to release tension around your body’s connective tissue network called the fascia. CST promotes pain relief from headaches, neck pain and the side effects of cancer treatment.
Craniosacral therapy, or cranial sacral therapy (CST), is a gentle, noninvasive and hands-on treatment that may provide relief from pain, like headaches and neck pain, side effects of cancer treatment and more. A healthcare provider may recommend CST in addition to other forms of treatment.
CST focuses on the gentle placement of hands to help release tension in your body’s connective tissue. This is known as “fascia” (pronounced “fash-ee-uh”). Fascia is the Latin word for band. It’s a casing found throughout your body that holds your organs, glands, nerves, muscles, blood vessels, brain and spinal cord. The fascia forms a body-wide connective tissue network.
The human body is interconnected, both structurally and functionally. This means that one area of your body can affect another. The goal of CST is tension relief (fascial clearance). This may help other connected parts of your body function better through:
Craniosacral therapy may help you manage symptoms of the following conditions:
Craniosacral therapy should be a treatment that your healthcare provider recommends in addition to another form of treatment.
Craniosacral therapy may be beneficial for adults and children with many different conditions.
If you recently experienced one of the following, your healthcare provider may delay craniosacral therapy until you’re well enough for treatment:
A healthcare provider will let you know if you’re a good candidate for CST.
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A craniosacral therapy session is similar to massage therapy, except you stay fully clothed. To help you relax, you may hear soft music and the room may have low lighting.
The treatment session begins with a consultation with your trained therapist. They’ll ask you questions about your health history, concerns about your health and the goals of the session.
During your session, you’ll lie on a massage table or, if needed due to special circumstances, you may sit in a chair. Your therapist will check in with you during your session to make sure you’re comfortable. They’ll also explain what they’re doing before they touch your body to make sure you know what’s happening. If at any time you don’t feel comfortable, let your therapist know.
Your therapist will use their hands to apply gentle pressure to your head, neck, back (around your spinal column) or on areas of your body where you have symptoms.
It’s normal to feel a sense of deep relaxation during craniosacral therapy.
A session of craniosacral therapy may take between 30 minutes to one hour. You may need multiple sessions to achieve your goals.
You can learn how to massage your head and neck on your own to promote at-home relaxation in between appointments with a trained expert. Craniosacral therapy is specifically used only by trained professionals who’ve been educated in this modality.
Healthcare providers and therapists who perform craniosacral therapy may include:
Some of the benefits of craniosacral therapy may include:
Studies show that many people see relief of their symptoms after craniosacral therapy. Each person’s situation and reason for the therapy is different and your results may vary. Research is ongoing to learn more about how effective craniosacral therapy is to treat different medical conditions.
Craniosacral therapy is a gentle, noninvasive and alternative approach to treatment. Therefore, it has minimal risks and side effects that may include feeling:
Some people feel relief from their symptoms immediately following a craniosacral therapy session. Others may need a couple of days until their body can process how the treatment adjusted their body’s performance. Depending on your goals for the treatment, it could take several sessions over a few weeks to months before you see results.
Contact your healthcare provider if you experience severe pain, discomfort or new or worsening symptoms following a craniosacral therapy session. If something doesn’t seem right within your body, reach out to your provider for advice.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Craniosacral therapy is an alternative, noninvasive treatment that may help you relieve symptoms, especially pain. A trained healthcare provider will gently place their hands on your head, neck and back to alleviate tension. After a session, you may feel dizzy or lightheaded. Take your time moving and standing up after your treatment to prevent falls. It may take a few sessions before you reach your goals for the treatment. If your symptoms get worse after a session, talk to your healthcare provider.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/05/2023.
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