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What is a Cranial Massage?

Chances are, you’ve had a massage before.

But have you ever heard of a cranial massage? More specifically, craniosacral therapy (CST) or cranial osteopathy, which are two subtle therapies that involve using very light and gentle pressure around the skull and lower back (sacrum). The difference between the two (CST and cranial osteopathy) really comes down to training: a cranial osteopath has clinical and certified training in osteopathy, while craniosacral therapists do not need to be trained osteopaths (for example, they can be massage therapists) but need specific CST training. Ultimately, they’re both based on the belief that the central nervous system is key to pain relief and health. 

What Are They Good For? 

Theoretically, cranial massages are good for a wide variety of issues, including insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, scoliosis and unsurprisingly, migraines. Additionally, like most massages, they can promote a general sense of wellbeing and relaxation. In fact, many people have reported falling asleep during sessions! Because of this, many people use it to treat their stress and anxiety. 

That said, more research needs to be done to support the effectiveness of the treatments. Most of the evidence in support of CST and cranial osteopathy is anecdotal (which isn’t a bad thing necessarily). Some studies suggest that it’s only effective for treating tension and stress, and others highlight that it may only be effective for babies and toddlers. That said, there is some scientific evidence supporting the idea that the treatments can relieve severe migraines and fibromyalgia-induced stress and anxiety in adults. In short, it seems likely that the treatment would have a positive effect on your migraines, stress, and anxiety, though it’s a little less clear if it’s going to help with anything else. 

What Can You Expect? 

Upon arrival at your chosen treatment centre, you’ll likely have a chat with your practitioner about your symptoms and medical history (for example, any history of physical trauma). Then, your practitioner will begin applying pressure to different parts of your body. You’ll be clothed, so be sure to wear comfortable clothing. A session will typically last about an hour and may take a few sessions to have effect (although some people report relief after only one or two sessions).  

Who Can Have Treatment? 

First things first, cranial massages shouldn’t be your main source of treatment. It’s a complementary therapy that should be taken along with other treatments as it’s likely not going to fix all your menopausal symptoms. If you’re suffering from bad migraines or just want a new way to relax and relieve anxiety, then it’s worth considering. Overall, it’s generally considered a safe practice (in fact, cranial massages are often a therapy for babies), though it’s not recommended for those who have experienced an aneurysm, have severe bleeding disorder or a history of traumatic head injuries. 

Needless to say, the menopause can be a difficult experience. It’s often a case of trial and error figuring out what treatment works best for you. While it may be daunting, the best approach is a proactive one. Talk to your friends, talk to your GP, do your research! There are plenty of treatments, like this one, that are a little bit different to what you expect, but for many, it can make all the difference. Once you find the right way to treat your symptoms, there won’t be anything holding you back! 

Author: Eliza Cottarelli

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