Can i do craniosacral therapy on myself

Craniosacral therapy is a form of alternative therapy that uses gentle touch to release tension from the body’s joints to treat various conditions.

Craniosacral therapy (CST) was developed by Dr. John Upledger, an osteopath, in the 1970s. There are many CST followers and practitioners, typically chiropractors, osteopaths, and massage therapists. 

On the other hand, CST has also received criticism, debating its benefits and potential risks because of the limited studies that support CST as a treatment for medical conditions. 

In this article, I’ll explain exactly what craniosacral therapy is, its uses, risks, and how to do it yourself.

Woman Having Pain

What Is Craniosacral Therapy?

Craniosacral therapy is a natural healing, alternative treatment that uses a gentle touch to release and restore balance in the central nervous system (brain/spinal cord), to promote health, healing, and well-being.

CST uses gentle pressure on specific points along the head, neck, spine, and back to help relieve stress and pain. The CST technique involves using one or more fingers to apply pressure to these areas while moving them around the head and neck. 

During treatment sessions, people will have different experiences, including: 

  • Deep relaxation

  • Feelings of peace and calmness

  • Falling asleep

  • Improved sleep patterns

  • Hot and cold sensations

What Is Craniosacral Therapy Good For?

CST can be used as a complementary therapy for any condition where there is muscle tension, stress, anxiety, or pain that originates from compression and/or tension in the head, neck, and back.

CST is most commonly used to treat and offer relief for: 

  • Headaches and migraines

  • Neck pain

  • Back pain

  • Stress, anxiety, and depression

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Digestive issues like constipation or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  • Sleep issues and insomnia

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Strokes

  • Speech impairment

How to Do Craniosacral Therapy on Yourself

Craniosacral Therapy On-Self

Craniosacral therapy should be done under the guidance of a trained practitioner who knows how to use the correct amount of pressure and movement. But you can still learn CST and practice it on yourself at home.

One of the key things to learn is the amount of pressure to use. Practice by putting a coin on your arm. The pressure from the coin’s weight pressing down is the maximum pressure that you should be using. 

Follow these steps to perform CST on yourself: 

  1. Start with deep breathing to ground yourself.  Breathe in through your belly for a count of 6 and exhale for a count of 8. 

  2. Decompress the frontal bones. Bring your fingertips to your forehead and place them on your frontal skull using gentle pressure. Draw them away slowly. 

  3. Relieve headaches and sinus issues through the earlobes. Place your fingertips halfway up the outside of the earlobes and imagine pulling the energy out, without actually pulling on the ears. It’s suggested to do this exercise lying down, so your shoulders can  stay relaxed.

  4. Sinus relief through the nose. Place your pinky fingers between your eyebrows and just above the nose, drawing energy away. 

Craniosacral Therapy Dangers That You Need to Be Aware of

There are some potential dangers and side effects from craniosacral therapy. The most common side effect after a CST session is mild discomfort, but it’s usually temporary and disappears after a day. 

Before considering CST, there are some precautions for people with certain conditions: 

  • People who have epilepsy should not receive CST because it may trigger seizures. 

  • People who have had a recent head injury, like a concussion, should avoid CST until they’ve recovered. 

  • Any other conditions that affect the brain. 

  • People who have blood clots.

  • People who suffer from heart disease should consult their doctor before receiving CST because it could cause blood clots.

Can You Use Craniosacral Therapy on Babies?

Craniosacral Therapy on Babies

Yes, CST is generally considered safe for babies and children by its practitioners. It can help relax a baby and release tension in the baby’s head, neck, and mouth for easier breastfeeding. 

CST can be performed on babies for a number of reasons: 

  • Earaches

  • Trouble breastfeeding

  • Gastrointestinal conditions and acid reflux

  • Constipation

  • Birth trauma

  • Migraine headaches

  • Sleeping problems

There are also its critics who say that CST can cause harm to infants and children. The American Society says CST should not be used on children under the age of two. 

If you are considering using CST for your children, be sure to talk with a pediatrician first. They will let you know if it’s safe or not for your children. 

Craniosacral Therapy FAQs

Do You Need a License to Practice Craniosacral Therapy?

No, there are no craniosacral therapy certifications or licenses necessary to practice CST. There are no federal or state regulations for the practice of craniosacral therapy. But if the state or locality deems CST as massage therapy, it could fall under the regulations of massage therapy. 

Is Craniosacral Therapy Legitimate?

There is much debate surrounding the legitimacy of craniosacral therapy with some calling CST a pseudoscience, while others say it’s legitimate. Many of its practitioners and followers say that it can treat a wide range of health conditions. There are limited scientific studies supporting these claims. However, there are many anecdotal reports of success stories. 

Is Craniosacral Therapy the Same as Chiropractic?

No, craniosacral therapists don’t use chiropractors’ methods, but CST can be considered a complementary therapy. Chiropractors are trained doctors who specialize in spinal manipulation. Craniosacral therapists use gentle pressure on the soft tissues and structures that affect the spinal cord. 




  • Cleveland Clinic:

  • The List:

  • Healthline:

  • Pain Science:

  • Parent Map:

  • Detox Learning Center:

How To Do DIY Craniosacral Therapy

Craniosacral therapy, or CST, is a hands-on technique used to treat a number of central nervous ailments. The method involves light physical touch to promote movement of fluids and membranes (via Cleveland Clinic). Craniosacral therapist Vivianne Garcia-Tuñón described the craniosacral system as “the cranium, spine and sacrum” all connected by “dura mater, a membrane of the body’s deepest fascia.” The main focus of the therapy is to release the body’s fascia or connective tissues (via Byrdie).

The technique was first introduced in the 1970s by osteopathic physician John E. Upledger and, according to Garcia-Tuñón, it’s best used for clients looking to ”address and treat a variety of symptoms and dysfunctions — including both chronic and acute conditions.” While CST’s effectiveness has been called into question by modern medical professionals (via McGill University), a 2012 study found the treatment highly successful in reducing symptoms of migraines (via Healthline). According to the Cleveland Clinic, CST is most often used to treat chronic pain like fibromyalgia, migraines, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and post-concussion syndrome. 

So how can you get started? A standard CST session ranges anywhere from $70 to $170 (via Byrdie), but if that price seems too steep, Wellness Embodied Cairns Physiotherapy has a few DIY techniques to achieve relief from the comfort of your own home.

(Though this type of bodywork is similar to receiving a gentle massage, it’s not recommended for everyone. Consult a medical professional before receiving CST if you have blood clots, cerebral swelling, or a recent concussion). 

A Beginner’s Guide to Craniosacral Therapy – Core Connection
By Sophia Schweitzer


Jenny started medical school at the University of California-Davis this year. She leads a normal life. She’s agile and intelligent. You never would have thought that in fourth grade, when she was 11, her future wasn’t as promising. Severely dyslexic, Jenny was reading at a first grade level. She struggled. Then her mother saw an advertisement for a class in craniosacral therapy. She took her daughter in for treatment.


“What have you done with Jenny?” exclaimed a teacher a week later. “This isn’t the same child.” Jenny’s learning problems had disappeared days after her first and only craniosacral therapy session which lasted all of 30 minutes. Hugh Milne, an osteopath from Britain and director of the Milne Institute in Big Sur, CA and author of The Heart of Listening: A Visionary Approach to Craniosacral Work (North Atlantic), has treated many children like Jenny: “Children often respond immediately,” he says, noting that the change is often permanent. For Jenny, it gave her opportunities she wouldn’t otherwise have had.


While not everyone believes that craniosacral therapy works, proponents say it has alleviated many diverse symptoms: from chronic pain, ear infections, jaw pain, migraines, and joint stiffness to pregnancy problems, depression, autism, anxiety, dyslexia, spinal cord injuries, coordination impairments and anger.


You might think of it as a gentle massage technique, or a cross between chiropractic or osteopathic maneuvers and hands-on healing. Quiet and relaxing, inducing restful sleep, it’s been labeled mysterious. In reality, craniosacral therapy addresses a rhythmic system at the core of our physiology – the pulse of energy that flows between our head and pelvic area. It’s as essential, measurable, and tangible as our breath and heart rate. The craniosacral system follows a rhythm, and the skull bones accommodate its pulse. Just as a cardiologist seeks to improve the cardiovascular system, a craniosacral practitioner evaluates and optimizes the pulse of the craniosacral rhythm. This is a gentle, often deeply intuitive technique. “It’s a form of bodywork consisting of exceedingly light finger and hand pressure upon the cranial bones and the sacrum, and upon the involuntary movements of these bones,” says Dr. Milne.


The History of Craniosacral Therapy


In the early 1900’s, in osteopathic school, William Sutherland came to the conclusion that skull bones are capable of shifting – an unorthodox medical view still not fully accepted today. A visionary and pioneer, sensing the far-reaching spiritual implications of his findings, he developed a treatment method making him the grandfather of cranial osteopathy.


Then John Upledger, D.O., author of Your Inner Physician and You (North Atlantic), made a major leap when he discovered why skull bones move in 1975 (explained below) and started to talk openly about the cranial rhythm. He began working with students who weren’t medical professionals. Ten years later, he founded the Upledger Institute in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. The word was out: “It works!” In 1994 the American Craniosacral Therapy Association, also located in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. was created. Last year, the Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America, which has a sister organization in Europe, was set up with headquarters in Canada.


Still a new kid on the block when compared to other medical modalities like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, craniosacral therapy with its many schools and forms is now one of the fastest growing practices in alternative medicine. Hundreds of massage therapists are being trained, while many psychotherapists, acupuncturists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, dentists and medical doctors are adding it to their list of tools. Increasingly used as a preventive health measure, this practice seems to be blurring the boundaries between the health professions because it’s easy to learn and safe.


How does craniosacral therapy work?


On a surface level, the practitioner works with the bones of the skull and the pelvis. This affects, in turn, the deeper layers of membranes and cerebrospinal fluids in the spinal canal, the brain, and the spinal cord itself. Why is this important?


A pulse through the fluids proceeds through the entire craniosacral system, like a tidal wave, from the sutures in the skull to the spinal cord. Cycling about six to ten times a minute, it causes tiny movements measuring no more than one-or two-sixteenths of an inch. “It’s a hydraulic system,” says Dr. Upledger, noting how all the components work together to regulate the pressure of these fluids on the brain. “There has to be an optimal circulation, which depends on constant mobility,” he explains. When the membranes and lubricating liquids lose their freedom to glide freely, we hurt and symptoms start.


It’s easy to imagine how even the slightest impact, lesion or distortion can stretch or strain this delicate system. Any infraction causing nerve endings to alter their perception and signals can negatively affect our entire well-being. Craniosacral therapy helps the body to re-establish an unobstructed wave, which is how symptoms disappear.


There’s also a unique and undeniable spiritual dimension to this practice: “The craniosacral wave isn’t just a physical phenomenon,” says Dr. Milne. “It’s also a field of information and intelligence. In the tiny movements of the system, and in the still points in between, is consciousness.” Dr. Upledger refers to this intelligence as the inner physician, explaining: “The inner wisdom which knows what is wrong, why it’s wrong, and how to correct it. The body tells the therapist what needs to be done.”


Thus, craniosacral work is based on a shamanistic and meditative approach as well as on physiological facts, making it doubly powerful.


What happens during a session?


“There is no need for a client to tell me verbally what’s wrong,” Dr. Upledger says. He prefers to remain open to the body’s own language, although some therapists may want to talk with you first. For the hands-on work to be most effective, you should wear loose, thin clothing. This way, the practitioner can better sense what’s going on in your body. You’ll be asked to lie on your back on a massage table.


By quietly resting the hands on your skull and sacrum, the therapist evaluates your craniosacral rhythms. This in itself can create a shift in energy. Sometimes, the therapist’s hands become aware of places along the column where energy is stuck or heated. She then uses the bones of the sacrum and cranium as “handles” to manipulate the deeper layers of fluid and membranes. No instruments or devices are used.


In sessions lasting 45 – 60 minutes, clients and therapists work closely together. “Ideally,” says Dr. Milne, “the client clears a mental space so something might occur.” The therapist waits and listens. You might feel a quieting down, a sinking in, and a deeper awareness. The whole idea is that the practitioner works with such gentleness and

subtleness that the body itself can do the healing and necessary adjustments. “It’s a question of trust,” Dr. Upledger notes. A session can be described as a physically connected meditation, in which hidden information in the craniosacral system reveals itself.


Healing then can occur via the corrective mechanism known as the still point, the spontaneous quiet between waves. Typically, you have one every three to four minutes, and it lasts from five to sixty seconds. It’s a natural pause in the rhythm. Synchronizing and optimizing the waves, still points are like sighs. During sessions, when you’re more sensitive to them, they’re like moments of deep relaxation in which you let go and return to yourself. It’s the moment of insight, when you “get” it.


Does it always work?


While many conventional doctors and even some alternative practitioners are skeptical of this method, there’s lots of proof that it works. Anecdotes abound and just three to five sessions often give astonishing results.


Still, you have to keep in mind that craniosacral therapy is more of a preventive than a cure for serious illnesses. Dr. Upledger states in his book that “craniosacral work is most often a complement to other forms of treatment – not an alternative.” Its effectiveness depends on the cause of a complaint (i.e. whether a problem deals directly with the nervous system), the accessibility of the underlying cause, and what related contributing factors are present. An open, receptive attitude helps. “When client and practitioner have no connection, there sometimes is no efficacy,” Dr. Milne says.


Scientific studies proving the validity of craniosacral work exist, especially in the osteopathic and dental medical journals. So why doesn’t everyone praise it? Provable as it is, it’s also a relatively new concept. Skeptics want to know about the long term effects as well as see more research before they give it any thumbs up. And, the mystery implied in the tactile almost hypnotic treatments stretches conventional thinking, even today.


Finding a craniosacral therapist


Many healers are adding “craniosacral therapist” to their lists of titles. They have diverse backgrounds, ranging from dentistry and osteopathy (when done by these licensed physicians, the therapy is often covered by insurance) to massage, shiatsu, rolfing, and acupuncture. Massage therapists, especially, choose to add craniosacral work to their practice.


Lots of these healers attended an accredited school and have been certified. Because there are five to ten different levels of certification, you should double-check their background and specialty. Elaine Christianson, a craniosacral therapist in Kapaau, HI, advises: “Ask your practitioner which level they have studied and how often they do it.”


Remember: A good craniosacral therapist doesn’t force anything. You’re in it together, working with each other. If your symptoms aren’t getting any better, the practitioner should refer you to another specialist.


To find a craniosacral bodyworker, contact any of the teaching institutions listed on page 70 (in the “Home Base” sidebar) and ask for someone in your area. Or call a massage therapist for a referral. Physicians can also hook you up to a trusted practitioner. An offspring of the Upledger Institute, the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners (IAHP) makes available a list of licensed therapists, sorted by state and town. Ronni O’Brien, spokesperson for the IAHP estimates that there are at least 40,000 certified workers in the US.


The bottom line


So should you go for it? Look at it this way. For the most part, you don’t have anything to lose, and you’ll get a healing method that connects the physical, emotional and spiritual. Intuition, insight and the perception of facts are equally important. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Maybe, the mind can’t understand the details – that the body holds the answers if we dare to be still enough to listen to the tide of the cranial wave, our core. That’s what craniosacral therapy aims for.


Amy M. Gray, a certified massage and bodywork therapist at the Complementary Medicine Center in Indianapolis, has no doubt about its profound effects. “In school, I felt the craniosacral rhythm right off, I’ve been hooked ever since,” she says, noting that many of her clients feel 90% better after their first visit. “I always stress how gentle this technique is. How it deals with the whole body. The body is just an amazing creation!”


Your experience of the work will be uniquely yours. “The spectrum exists,” says Christianson. “At minimum, you have a deeply relaxing experience. Most likely, it’ll go beyond that to release holding patterns.”


While craniosacral work is still searching for its due place on the world map of medicine, it’s gaining in popularity fast as a natural, holistic healing approach virtually without risk or side effect. Will we ever be able to measure the mysterious interdependence of mind, body and spirit or understand the mystical nature of who we are? It seems that craniosacral therapy at least gives us a glimpse of a core connection.


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