What is Craniosacral Therapy ?

Posted on May 9, 2010


What is Craniosacral Therapy? That is the question asked by a leaflet produced by the Craniosacral Therapy Association of the UK.  I found a copy of this when I paid a quick visit to a local health food shop which doubles as a leaflet distribution centre for quackery & woo.

My quick answer to the question would be Quackery!

But that’s just my opinion and to ensure I’m not doing these therapists an injustice, I suppose I’d better have a look at the leaflet and see what it has to say.

If you wish, then you can do the same (leaflet pdf):  What is craniosacral

What Is Craniosacral Therapy?

It is a hands-on therapy which assists the body’s natural capacity for self-repair”.

We’re not off to a good start. It’s the old helping the body heal itself claim, one which is so common amongst the alt-med practitioners. That usually means there is no credible mechanism by which the actions of the therapy could actually benefit the condition by any recognised means!

The therapist listens, via the hands, to what is going on in your body

And later …

“At the core of the body the cerebrospinal fluid, which bathes and cushions the brain and spinal cord, expresses this motion in a tide-like ebb and flow; while bones, organs and other structures in the body follow their own particular patterns of movement. This motion is so subtle that it is barely measurable with instruments, but a trained therapist is able to perceive it”

Ok so now were into the area where therapists claims to be able to detect something that is barely detectable or measurable by modern medicine.  And if they claim medical technology can’t measure it, they usually claim it can’t disprove it!

We seem to be missing a statement of how effective and gentle it is.

Oh, there it is: “Craniosacral Therapy owes its increasing popularity to the effectiveness of its gentle approach

And finally we need to keep customers coming back, even if they felt no immediate benefit from the treatment:

“Some people find that it can take a few sessions to get used to what they are feeling. For these reasons, you may need to consider having a serious of treatments to gain the full benefit of Craniosacral Therapy and it cumulative effects”

With a bit of luck the patient has a minor, self limiting condition that would see an improvement even without any treatment …. But we can still say craniosacral cured it!

However as we’ll see, craniosacral isn’t just concerned with the minor condions.

OK that seems to take care of what they claim craniosacral therapy is, exactly what do they claim it can do.

People have found Craniosacral Therapy helpful for the following conditions:

Oooh, that’s a big list and includes some quite serious conditions.  Nowhere in the leaflet is there any suggestion that people suffering from these conditions should seek professional medical advice, nor does it claim to be best used in conjunction with existing medicine.  In fact there is no mention what-so-ever of seeking proper medical advice for any of these conditions.

So in order to make these claims and to say they are effective, you’d rightly assume there was some evidence to support them.  Actually given that some of these conditions are potentially serious, you expect it to be good quality evidence.

Well the leaflet makes no mention of any supporting research!  Perhaps the Craniosacral Therapy Association website will be more helpful


Well this looks good, second link down on the left of the page (under ‘home’) is Research. Clearly it’s something high on their list of priorities.

The first line of their research page says it all really: http://www.craniosacral.co.uk/researchfunding/research.html

“As Craniosacral Therapists in our clinical practice, we mostly rely on anecdotal evidence provided by satisfied clients to their family and friends.”

If you read the rest of the page you’ll see that they don’t actually try to hide the fact that they don’t really have any evidence to support these claims.  Of the 5 studies they do actually list, none could be said to be high quality, properly conducted RCT’s in fact they admit that 2 of the studies have nothing to do with craniosacral therapy.

So having had a quick look at craniosacral therapy, what it is, what it claims to treat and the evidence to support those claims, has my opinion about it being Quackery changed – Yes, I now believe that it’s not just Quackery, but is potentially dangerous Quackery that needs to be challenged!


The Craniosacral Therapy Association leaflet, What is Craniosacral Therapy?, is now in the hands of the Advertising Standards Authority.  The leaflets claims have been challenged on a number of areas.  Specifically that the claims are unsubstantiated and misleading.  I’ve had an acknowledgement and been told it has been passed to their Complaints team.

Most of the UK craniosacral therapy sites I can find, seem to be based on the wording and claims of this leaflet and the Craniosacral Therapy Assoc website.

It was my intention to wait until the ASA have made a judgement before tackling the websites via Trading Standards.  However that changed when I came upon this site http://www.craniosacraltherapy.org.uk/treatment/

Under the section called Q. What ailments can you treat? The guy lists a full range of conditions, many similar to those on the leaflet, but worse than that he’s claiming to treat CANCER.

Under his research page he simply repeats the earlier claims – so he has nothing more than anecdotes!

His website has been submitted to Trading Standards via the Consumer Direct website.  In the meantime he would do well to read the Cancer Act 1939 4.1(a)

4 Prohibition of certain advertisements

(1)No person shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement—

(a) containing an offer to treat any person for cancer, or to prescribe any remedy therefor, or to give any advice in connection with the treatment thereof; or

In this video clip he claims that craniosaceral therapy treats ‘everything & everything

I’m not convinced, but that doesn’t matter, it’s Trading Standards that Mr Ellis needs to convince!

More updates as & when they happen!