Our Concussion Alliance community has found Craniosacral Therapy to be one of the most effective treatments that we've found for Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS), with only a few treatments reducing symptoms and making a noticeable, positive difference.
Craniosacral Therapy for Concussion Symptoms
Some leading sports physicians treating concussion now refer patients for craniosacral therapy (CST). (momsTEAM).
According to Elizabeth Sandel, M.D. a nationally recognized brain injury specialist, craniosacral therapy "can be effective at treating headaches, as well as neck and back pain that are common with post-concussion syndrome."
The Brain Injury Association of Washington states that "based on anecdotal evidence provided by those seeking services with BIAWA," craniosacral therapy "has been beneficial for some individuals throughout their recovery."
A recent article in the Seattle Times profiles cranialsacral therapist Lauren Christman: "Craniosacral massage focuses on the head and spine, using a gentle touch, and she often sees people for brain injuries, headaches, trauma, and stress."
We've found that even two or three sessions can affect noticeable improvements. Typically a CST practitioner is certified in CST, and will also be a practicing massage therapist, physical therapist, or occupational therapist. CST is also practiced by osteopaths. The practitioner applies uses very gentle touch to the head and back, and does not do any rigorous kneading or rubbing that is typical for other types of massage.
How to Access Craniosacral Therapy
The text below in this section is from our professional contributor Lauren M. Christman, LMT, CBSI/KMI, CCST, who is a practitioner, author, and teacher, and is currently teaching a Craniosacral Therapy Certification Program in Seattle.
Find a Practitioner search tool, select for a craniosacral therapist; provided by the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners.
Practitioner Referral Listings tool provided by the Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America. Scroll down the page for the listings tool.
Find a "Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist" tool provided by International Affiliation of Biodynamic Trainings.
Currently, there is not a unified national credential for CST. Instead, individual schools provide certification programs to prepare students. Most require over 200 hours of training, beyond an initial license to touch (such as massage therapist.) Many practitioners also have a background in massage therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy or a form of psychological or spiritual counseling.
Please note: it is possible for someone to have little or no training and still advertise as a CST — if you have an acute or complex condition, it is important and appropriate to inquire about a practitioners training and practice experience.
Questions to Ask A Potential Provider
Lauren M. Christman, LMT, CBSI/KMI, CCST has provided questions to ask a potential provider concerning their training and experience.
Please scroll down for the list of questions.
What to Expect From Craniosacral Session
Please scroll to the bottom of the page for "What to Expect" provided by Lauren M. Christman, LMT, CBSI/KMI, CCST
How Craniosacral Therapy May Help with Concussions and Post-Concussion Syndrome
Craniosacral therapists see the normal cranial system of plates, sutures, and membranes in the skull as having mobility, i.e. the capacity to "breathe." Head injuries and concussion can adversely this mobility, and also affect the free flow and stable pressure of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), blood flow, neural conduction and numerous other physiologic functions. (momsTEAM) The gentle manipulations of CST can restore plate, suture and membrane mobility and promote an improved flow of cerebral spinal fluid.
The text below is from our professional contributor Lauren Christman, LMT, CBSI/KMI, CCST :
Craniosacral therapy (CST) is a gentle manual method that supports health and vitality within the client. Though there are several kinds of craniosacral therapy, they all orient to subtle movements in the body, enhance the functioning of the autonomic nervous system and assist in resolving trauma.
Working with concussion requires all of those attributes.
Two schools of CST
The classical method of CST is known as ‘biomechanical’ — its focus on mechanical movement requires a keen understanding of the cranial bones, sutures (joints) and membrane system. It tends to have a more problem-solving approach which can be helpful in the case of immediate injury. The other branch of CST is known as ‘biodynamic’ — it focuses of the ‘fluids’ of the body, where our reservoir of inherent health resides. This approach does not orient to symptoms or problem-solving, instead aims to build health from within rather than treating from outside.
Cindy Parlow Cone spoke on the PINK Concussions Panel: The Faces of Female Brain Injury was held at the National Institutes of Health's NIH Workshop "Understanding Brain Injury in Women" on Dec 18-19, 2017.
A small pilot study published in 2018 concluded that "Osteopathic cranial manipulative medicine was considered a safe adjunctive treatment option to improve concussion-related symptoms and recovery." A small number of patients with concussion symptoms were given one treatment of osteopathic cranial manipulation. "Five of the Five of the 7 participants who returned for follow-up demonstrated improvement in their overall concussion symptoms based on the Post-Concussion Symptom Scale scores."
Questions to Ask When Choosing a Craniosacral Therapist
"Questions to Ask" are provided by our professional contributor Lauren M. Christman, LMT, CBSI/KMI, CCST.
Concussion Specific Questions
Do you have experience working with acute (recent) concussions?
Do you have experience working with post-concussion syndrome?
Which kind of CST do you practice?
Do you combine that method with other skills?
How long was your training (are you certified)?
How many years have you been in practice?
Do you have a particular focus in your practice?
What Can I Expect?
If you are a child or elderly, do you have experience with people my age?
On average, how long do you work with a client?
How do you know when a client is making progress?
What can I expect to feel during or between sessions?
Will you expect me to do exercises/self-care, of some kind, between sessions?
Coordinating With Other Providers, and Health Insurance
Will you communicate with my other health care providers if needed?
Do you have other practitioners you can refer to if needed? (Counselors, neurologists, etc.)
Do you bill medical insurance? (Depends on state regulations, practitioner involvement, and individual insurance coverage.)
What to Expect From A Craniosacral Therapy Session
"What to expect from a session" is provided by our professional contributor Lauren M. Christman, LMT, CBSI/KMI, CCST.
Craniosacral therapy is generally done on a massage table, though can be adapted to clients in any position (as is done with children). Practitioners will gather information about the client’s health history, current concerns and health goals — this may or may not include an exploration of pain, illnesses, or limited activities. Some practitioners may emphasize physical considerations, while others may focus on emotional or spiritual concerns. Clients remain clothed and usually are encouraged to be mindful of their experience or relax during the session, which can last from an hour or up to 2 hours.
The touch is usually light and sustained for many minutes, allowing the practitioner to perceive subtle movements in the area or in their overall system. This is characteristic of the work and perhaps most distinguishes it from what people usually consider “massage.” During the session, clients usually experience a sense of deep relaxation, calm and groundedness. In this restful place, clients might have new insights or an uprising of emotion — this may or may not be explored in the session. In this, some craniosacral practitioners combine CST with counseling skills or work closely in tandem with counselors.
An August 2017 study of craniosacral therapy with professional football players (NFL and Canadian Football League) showed positive results. The players all had medically diagnosed post-concussion syndrome and showed "statistically greater improvements in pain intensity, orthopedic range of motion, memory, cognition, and sleep" after ten sessions of Craniosacral therapy (CST) combined with Visceral Manipulation (VM) and Neural Manipulation (NM). Ricky Williams, a former NFL running back who also played a season in the Canadian Football League, partnered with the Upledger Institute International on the study.
In a study published in June 2018, participants who received osteopathic cranial manipulation showed “improvement in their overall concussion symptoms based on the Post Concussion Symptom scale scores.