Craniosacral: What is it good for ……

Posted on September 7, 2010


In my last post on CranioSacral Therapy (CST) I said I would temporarily put aside the question of robust, scientific evidence (or lack of) to support the claims made by many CST therapists on their websites and advertising literature ….. Well now seems like a good time to revisit it!

Back in May of this year I posted on a leaflet that I found entitled What is CranioSacral Therapy? And how I felt that the claims that were being made could not be justified by the evidence, so the leaflet was forwarded to the ASA.

A copy of the leaflet can be found here and contains the CSTA’s description of what craniosacral therapy is, how it works and what conditions it claims to be able to help:

What is craniosacral

The ASA have now made a judgement on the information contained in that leaflet, whilst looking at what the ASA had to say, it is worth remembering that this is not simply a lone therapist who is making these claims, it is the CranioSacral Therapy Association of the UK (CSTA).  So it’s little wonder then that the claims made by the CSTA are repeated on a large number of UK based CST websites.  The graphic shows the list of conditions from the leaflet:

What is it good for .....

Following the ASA’s investigation are we any closer to answering the question of ‘What is CranioSacral Therapy’ …..

You can find the full ASA adjudication here:

ASA Adjudication on CranioSacral Therapy Association

The CSTA have told their members that they put up a ‘spirited defence’ against the complaint. So exactly what did they tell the ASA to justify the impressive list of claims their leaflet and website made.

Remarkably the CSTA pointed out that although the leaflet says “People have found Craniosacral Therapy (CST) helpful for the following conditionsit does not assert or imply that it was either effective as a treatment nor that it offered to cure any of the conditions on the list.  They added that they make no promises and do not hold out the prospect of a cure for sufferers.

That’s worth repeating ….. they say that CST as described by their own leaflet is not  effective as a treatment or cure for any of these conditions.  That is something that any CST therapists or patients reading this would do well to consider!

Those are not my words, not the ASA’a words, but the words of the UK’s CranioSacral Therapy Association!  ……  A spirited defence indeed!

But what of the actual evidence they presented….

Well the CSTA say that it is possible CST could work, because there is no evidence to show that it doesn’t!  Why would anybody expect that to be accepted as showing efficacy of a particular treatment!

They continue by saying that the effectiveness of CST had been demonstrated conclusively and submitted two studies to support that view.

Now forgive me for being picky, but they’ve already stated that their leaflet does not imply that it is effective, nor that it is a cure.  Why would you say that if you have conclusive proof that it works!

So what do the ASA make of the two studies, do they see them as proof of  its effectiveness?  Well not really……

The two studies had been published in the CSTA’s in-house journal. The first study was an unblinded, uncontrolled patient self assessment form.  The second study was a review article of the the existing CST research and it concluded that there was no relevant, reliable research data and that further research was required.

The best they can offer is a patient feedback form and a study that says there is no reliable research!  Unsurprisingly the ASA took the view that they are not scientifically robust enough to support the claims being made.   It would seem that the CSTA could not provide any evidence for a single one of these conditions, let alone the full list.

I did ask the ASA for copies of these studies, but this was declined, however I was told they were available on the CSTA’s website – which has been down since the ASA’s decision was made!

So that was the evidence ruled out.  During a conversation with the ASA it was mentioned that they were expecting to hear from the CSTA’s solicitors.    The adjudication says that the CSTA maintain that the wording they used was not proscribed by law. They said that in the strictest terms of contractual law, their leaflet merely advised readers on the potential of their services.

Well if the evidence isn’t there to support your claims, I suppose you may as well look for a legal get out clause. But in doing that they are forgetting that treatment claims should be based on the best research evidence available, not try hiding behind contractual law.
If all else fails just fall back on Qunatum Entanglement!

The CSTA said that they have a strict Code of  Conduct that has been published and a Standards of Practice that was pending.  They say that these set very high standards which they require from their members and that falling foul of these regulations would result in members being sanctioned, disciplined and removed from the register.

It can be found here (the website is under review, but the link still works – for now) :

It’s good that they set such high standards, because all those craniosacral therapists who continue to make these claims, either on websites or advertising literature are now in breach of Section 17.2 of the code and the CSTA now need to live up to their word.

17.2    All advertising in any medium must be legal, decent, honest and truthful and must conform to the guidelines such as the British Code of Advertising Practice.  Your professional advertising may indicate your special interest, but you must not make claims of superiority or disparage your professional colleagues or other professionals. It must not be designed to mislead, deceive or make unrealistic or extravagant claims.  Neither its content, nor the way in which it is distributed must put prospective clients under pressure. Information must be up to date to avoid misrepresentation.

This all started with a leaflet picked up in a local health food store, the title of that leaflet was What Is Craniosacral Therapy ?  Based on the contents of that leaflet, the CSTA’s evidence and their spirited defence, the ASA’s answer was ….. Unsubstantiated, Untruthful and Misleading.

The CSTA have now issued an apology to Zeno for naming him as the source of the complaint, when they had no evidence what so ever that he was …. I guess checking evidence isn’t their strong point!  Sorry Mr Henness!

Posted in: ASA, Craniosacral