CST is a gentle, hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the functioning of a physiological body system called the craniosacral system – comprised of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. The “meninges” are the membranes that wrap up the brain and spinal cord and which contain the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes them. The outer most layer of the meninges is the dura mater (meaning, literally, “tough mother”). The dura wraps the nervous system and each nerve exiting the spinal column goes with and through some of this dura. Muscles also attach into the dura at the subocciput, and exert their pull into all levels of the spine and pelvis, especially from horizontal groups of muscles called diaphragms (pelvic, respiratory, and thoracic inlet diaphragms). The automatic nervous system responds to all stress and trauma with various levels of guarding and self-protection.
The muscle tightness occurs in these protective reactions, that pulls at those various levels of the spine from head to pelvis. Chronic conditions are organized by combinations of this protective muscle tone, tightness across the diaphragms, and resulting dural tube tension vertically between the cranium and the sacrum. Such patterns can perpetuate and preserve the positions and patterns of trauma that have been experienced by the person. Practitioners use gentle touch to promote the release of restrictions along the myofascial-dural pathway of the craniosacral system to improve the function in the central and autonomic nervous system. A craniosacral session helps the muscles and fascia (wrapping) to loosen and the diaphragms to recover normal flexibility and function, thereby unloading the dural tissue, and calming the protective guarding of the nervous system. Specialized techniques help release soft tissue and dural attachments around the cranium as well. Together, this can help assist normalization of breathing, circulation, digestion, relaxation, potential for restful sleep, and the ability to move and use one’s musculoskeletal system with greater ease and much less pain.