What is CranioSacral Therapy & Visceral Manipulation

CranioSacral Therapy

We can start explaining CST by saying it works on the system connecting the cranium to the sacrum (at the bottom of your back), which, through nerves, fascia and fluid, connects to everything else… but it quickly becomes so much more.  

It works with a subtle rhythmic movement that originates from the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The gentle tension from the movement of this fluid affects the membranes (the ‘meninges’) that line the skull and spinal column. This rhythm reflects throughout the body and can be picked up by a practitioners hands placed only lightly on the body. Anomalies in the rhythm help us assess, and show us areas where there may be restrictions and problems, which helps us know where to start and where to work. 

With a surprisingly light touch our hands may work with fascia or fluid, they may work with energy or rhythm, they may work with structure or the more subtle parts of us that are only just beginning to be accepted by the medical world. We learn to listen profoundly to a client’s body to know where to focus. This is, for me, the beautiful paradigm shift that this work takes us through. Once we learn to trust that the client’s body knows best – and help empower our clients to know this too – then we can learn to let our hands follow what is asked of them.  

CranioSacral as a therapy has evolved down a few different avenues, which can feel like very different approaches. My training path, developed by Dr John Upledger, arose after he spent 7 years researching the possibility of movement of the cranial bones, described by William Garner Sutherland, who developed cranial osteopathy. Upledger also noticed that emotion was often released as tissues released. This led him to expand his hands-on approach to include what he calls SomatoEmotional Release - a way of working with feelings, memories or emotional responses that may arise, while staying very in touch with the body tissues. 

Practitioners and clients find that it also helps relieve dysfunction from many sources, often uncovering and addressing the deeper causes of our symptoms. The types of problem we find people seek treatment for are very varied but may include stress and tension-related disorders, musculoskeletal pain, migraines and headaches, brain and spinal cord injuries as well as many other acute and chronic conditions.

Perhaps we are all like complicated tangled balls of wool, and to get untangled we may need a gentle pull here, a knot moved a bit there and the strands gently teased out of the tangles. This also means that CST may work in places that are not where the symptom is, and often other niggles clear up along the way. As a ‘job’ this keeps it really fun and interesting, as no two treatments are ever the same.  

In general, CranioSacral Therapy can improve our body’s ability to take better care of us. Like many alternative or complementary approaches, CST can be useful as a preventative therapy to help keep us in optimal health. 

Visceral Manipulation

Viscera = organs

Visceral Manipulation can involve treatment of any part of the body, but especially considers the internal organs, aiming to restore their natural movement and function. It was - and is continuing to be - developed by Jean-Pierre Barral, originally an osteopath, who wanted to understand more clearly the variety of restrictions and problems that could occur in the internal organs of the body and how they affect and are affected by the musculoskeletal system.

Earlier in his career, he found that a number of patient's apparent musculoskeletal symptoms were not responding to typical osteopathic intervention. Exploration and release of the restrictions around organs often helped improve the problems, while overall health and vitality also improved.

In good health, the organs have their own physiological motion - that is they move. Each organ is surrounded by fascia, a type of connective tissue in the body that surrounds nearly all of our structures, small and large. Just as a tight sweater not sitting right round the shoulder could affect its comfort in the arm or torso, so the fascia restricted in one place may affect the fascia around another area. Fascia needs to be flexible and fluid to permit the organs their proper movement, and allow the organs to adapt as our bodies move about in our everyday lives.  

Particular situations that can influence the organs and fascia include physical injuries, infections, operations and even emotional trauma. Recent traumas are usually faster to adapt and heal, but old injuries and compensations can also be relieved over a few sessions.

Visceral manipulation is a collection of specific and precise techniques that help restore the fluidity of the fascia and the proper mobility of organs, and thereby improve their function. Although some of these make a deep contact with the body, it is not invasive and rarely painful, although at times it may feel as if a practitioner's hands are reaching parts others may not have reached before! 

This work is an amazing contribution to the field of bodywork, both in its precision and in the way the techniques are applied. The quality of listening and accuracy it inspires is a life-long training. Jean-Pierre himself says that when he hasn't had a good result for a patient it is usually because he needs to hone his anatomy!  

It can be helpful for all sorts of conditions experienced by a vast number of people. Most of us have had some impact to our organs at some point in our lives. It is especially helpful after operations, trauma or accidents, and when other issues just won't clear up.




Joe's Story

Joe, 54, came because he was having trouble with his vision. He had seen doctors, consultants and even had an MRI scan. They could find nothing wrong. Checking his cranial bones, the motion of the sphenoid, right in the centre and close to the optic chiasm - part of the nerve coming from the eyes - seemed awry in its movement pattern and thus affected other bones and the nerve. We worked over 3 sessions to help it realign, incorporating a few other tissues too, after which he said his vision had returned to normal.


Nathan's text a few days later

"Well, just wow! After the session my back has been feeling really good - no clicking like usual and less tight. Also, emotionally I feel transformed. The subconscious fears that drive me to safer ground when there is no threat have abated hugely and I feel more choiceful. An unexpected result has been that I have been much more aware of my heart and what it is trying to tell me about joy. This is all very immediate and physical rather than intellectual or metaphysical which is just the way I like it ;;)) Overall the session has helped me to be more in love and less worried about what I am doing. So I am happier overall - what more could you want from a therapy session! "



Lucy

Lucy had quite a lot of scar tissue from an appendectomy 11 years previously. She often had a lot of abdominal pain and discomfort. Despite it being very tender to touch at first, we worked very gently to release the areas of restriction. After 2 sessions she realised that she could bend her leg without it pulling in her abdomen and pelvis, which she hadn't even realised she couldn't do. She was finally able to properly reach her feet in the shower! The abdominal pain is gone and there is a lot more freedom of movement in her trunk and legs.


Nancy 

She emailed: 'This last session gave more balance. But the jumpy, edgy part of me is coming in to view now. A few days ago I was aware of a new, subtle layer of feeling. Then it became clear that there were tiny dots of diverse awareness, understanding, intelligence within it. That was wonderful. My original self is being restored. <this client had struggled with a brain injury for many years> This morning on awakening, I was so, so happy! Inner processes are speeding up. The best part was that my growing self was at last able to experience such a level of relaxed happiness... T h a n k Y o u xx  


Want to read more 'Tales from the Table'?

Hear more about what others have experienced: 

Download more stories <to come soon>

Want to find out for yourself?

Let your body show you what it needs. 

Sessions

Location

I practice from a sunny home office, access to which is from Hollingbury Copse. Post code BN1 6XD. 

It is the second driveway on the right, to the right of the copse's circle of grass. (roundabout is too strong a term!) You can usually park in the drive.  

If you are coming by train you can go to Preston Park station and get a cab (about £6) or walk (about 25 minutes) or from central Brighton the 26 or 46 bus towards Hollinbury will get you to the Surrenden Road stop a block away.  

Session length & cost

The session is an hour, time on the table is usually about 50 mins; first appointments may be a little longer if there is a lot to talk about. 

The cost is £75, or £60 for lower income concessions.

As I do not have a waiting room, please do not arrive early as someone else may be just finishing off their session. 

What happens?

I will take a case history, answer any questions and then you will lie on the treatment table. In CST we treat the clothed body. Sessions start with assessment techniques to locate the origin of any problems and get a sense of where to begin. I then listen to and follow what your body needs to do to help release the areas where you feel tight, restricted, in discomfort or pain, and to assist your body to realign and rebalance itself.  

Sometimes the areas worked on may differ from the location of the symptoms. Why? Most body structures are in one way or another linked through the 'connective tissue' or fascia that surrounds nearly everything, so a problem in one area can actually manifest as a symptom in another. Since the fascia or fluid we work with is generally very responsive, the techniques employed are typically gentle and subtle - to the point where you might sometimes wonder what we are actually doing...!  

I will leave time at the end of the session for you to come to, and then to get some feedback from you. We may have spoken during the session or we may not... however, you are always invited and welcome to let me know how you are doing at any point. 

Key to our approach are the ideas that:  

  •  Your body knows EXACTLY what it needs to do to correct itself.
  •  Our hands give the space for your body to do its thing.
  •  Your body (and mind) will never do more than it is ready to do.
  •  Our study of anatomy assists us to be precise in finding and assisting any restrictions and tensions to release.
  •  Sometimes there are memories and emotions connected with restricted body tissues - sometimes they may be consciously released, other times they 'just disappear'.
  •  We always work with love and respect for the body, mind and spirit and without judgment for anything that comes up.  


 Get an even better idea... 

You may also find it helpful to watch this beautifully made video, by my friend and colleague Kate MacKinnon. It will give you a good sense of how we work and how that may feel. She lives in California in case you, or someone you know, needs a session over there!  


Want to give it a go? Call me on 07958 993007 to make an appointment and with any more questions or, if it is out of hours, then fill in the form below and I will respond asap (sometimes I am away teaching so give me a few days).  

About

Caroline Barrow has been a practising therapist for over 25 years. After dabbling in various approaches, she started a 3-year shiatsu training in the mid 90s. She then found her way to cranial work and visceral work studying with the Upledger Institute as well as Jean Pierre Barral, the developer of visceral manipulation. 

During her shiatsu training she also discovered a nerdy fascination with anatomy and physiology and all stuff body science. At the time, there were very few other opportunities for complementary therapists to study beyond the basics. So she started College of Body Science to help others find out more, and did a degree in Biomedical Science at King's College London. 

As life takes strange and unexpected turns, in 2010 she also found herself taking over the running of the Upledger Institute in the UK. This is the organisation that teaches Upledger CranioSacral Therapy in this country (one of 50 worldwide - and counting!). She teaches for and runs both these businesses, so splits her time between teaching, writing and treating.

Having recently moved to Brighton and created a bright and sunny office and therapy room out of a dark old garage, she is up and running again for CranioSacral Therapy sessions.

Her mission is to help empower others to take control of their own health and well being, and for us all to understand much more about how amazingly incredible the human body is - and how well supported it truly can be by the natural world around us. 'What 'doing' CranioSacral Therapy has really taught her is to BE; to hold a space for you, the client, to go on your own journey and invoke your own healing potential. With the natural relaxation that comes from sessions and the toning down of the stress response in the body, all sorts of other resources, we maybe didn't even know we had, can come to the fore.  

If you feel your mission for yourself is somehow reflected and you want to work with these light-touch therapeutic approaches, then get in touch. 

Want to find out for yourself? 

Don't take my word for it - let your body show you what it needs. 


Caroline Barrow CranioSacral Therapist 

Treatments can also incorporate visceral manipulation and elements of shiatsu.


The CST Journey...

CranioSacral Therapy is more than just a hands-on treatment session. It is an opportunity to explore what is really going on for you beneath the hustle and bustle of everyday life. A session will give you a safe haven to reconnect with who you really are, and a chance to relax into and explore the wisdom within your own body-mind-spirit. 

Is it time to unlock old patterns? Is it time to release aches and pains and understand what is holding you back? We work from the premise that the core of your physical structure holds the knowledge of how your body can do this and bring you better flexibility, strength, balance and health. 

If you're looking to improve your health, your connection with yourself, and you are willing to release some patterns that contribute to the way you hold stress, then come and try CranioSacral Therapy.  

It can take us on a bit of a journey.... 

P.S. The picture above is me treating in the ocean in the Bahamas - not in Brighton! I probably didn't need to tell you that but in case you were wondering... 

Book a CST session

Treatments for Every Body.

CST is suitable for all ages and many different wellbeing challenges.

Children

CST is often thought of as the one for kids, especially babies. This is because it can really help the body realign after the process of 'getting here', and its gentle and light-touch approach is well received by little ones and new mums alike. 

Many parents report that newborns and young children are more settled and relaxed after sessions. CST is not prescriptive in its approach. We work by listening to what the body tissues need to do, whatever symptoms are being experienced. 

Adults

Want a healthy body, calm mind, and inspired life? It is now pretty well known that the keys to this include great nutrition, enough exercise, supportive rather than harmful habits, and as little stress as we can manage - or at least the building of resiliance to help when the stressful times appear. 

Where does CST fit in? It can help us to release stress and tensions that we have held in the body (often for many years) that may be physical, emotional or psychological, It assists us to tap into our own internal self-healing potential. 

When we are able to do this, we may also become more empowered to tackle some of the other parts of our lives that may not be serving us as well as we would like. CST puts you in charge and supports rather than directs your own healing process.  


Conditions

There are many 'Tales from the Table' that share anecdotal evidence and treatment case studies for all sorts of conditions that CST has helped with. There are many books by Dr Upledger and others that contain inspiring stories. Many people come to us after recommendations from friends who found the work helped them. We can also share our published evidence base. (see both Upledger Institute UK's site and Upledger Institute International)

Studies have been done that show the benefit of CST for migraine, lateral epicondylitis, concussion, autism, fibromyalgia and other conditions. 

Ultimitely, we don't treat conditions, we treat people. 

We aim to consider the whole body and see what it is telling us about where to work. In practice, this means that if you come with a shoulder problem it may have originated from an old knee injury or tightness in a hip.... so we may work there before addressing the actual shoulder. 

We take the view that since all the different pieces of us are connected,, and each person's life experince is unique, what any one of us may need will be different from anyone else. So we do our utmost to listen to your body tissues for guidance.  

Want to find out for yourself?

Don't take my word for it - let your body show you what it needs. 

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