From My Hands and Heart – The Healing Power of CranioSacral Therapy (CST)

By Noel Chan, Ph.D.

November 3rd, 2018

I can still clearly recall my first experience of craniosacral therapy. I was a Fellow in Integrative Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and in our first-year retreat, we invited a craniosacral therapist as one of our speakers. When I was on the demonstration table, the therapist put her hands on my feet and then her hands went precisely where my body pain was without me saying a word. Her touch was gentle and healing. I was curious and intrigued. Never in my medical science career have I ever felt something as mysterious and profound. After studying in depth, through doubts and reassurance, I followed my heart and continued the path of becoming a craniosacral therapist.  

The most common opening sentence my patients will tell me in our first consultation will be: “I’ve tried many different medications already. I had several surgeries before. I’ve seen many, many doctors, I may first feel better in a short while, but the symptoms always come back after a while.” A typical conventional approach is that we break things down mechanistically and focus on physical symptoms, combine with some test results, and sum it all up with a final prognosis and treatment plan. However, most conventional approaches neglect the true understanding of the mind-body-spirit connection. From my first craniosacral therapy (CST) class to my CST shadowing experience in an integrative medicine clinic at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, I finally began to understand how to use a truly holistic approach to support people to heal.

CST is a highly effective light-touch therapy that works with the whole body and the source of pain and dysfunction simultaneously. This therapy is safe and so gentle that it is suitable for newborns to elderlies and anyone with more limitations on their treatment choices. CST can be used to address a variety of problems including chronic pain, orthopedic injuries, headaches, migraines, post-concussive syndrome, fibromyalgia, TMJ disorders, emotional and stress-related disorders, etc. The craniosacral system consists of the membranes and fluids that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord, thus playing a vital role in maintaining the environment of the central nervous system. CST aims to help re-establish the proper flow of cerebrospinal fluid throughout the dural tube, alleviating pressures on the cranial nerves. For the most part, our bodies have the amazing wisdom to find ways to work around the stresses and strains patterns caused by traumatic life experiences, such as chronic stress, a concussion, birth traumas, etc. CST aims to enhance the self-healing potential and facilitate a faster and longer-lasting recovery. Most recipients of CST report the sessions to be deeply relaxing and create feelings of warmth or gentle pulsing in the areas treated. Similar to most mind-body interventions such as meditation, the best way to understand CST is to receive the work and have it be a felt sense in your body. CST is very individualized; each session is tailored to your needs. Given proper support through the gentle touch techniques in CST, we can enhance the self-healing power and create a custom solution to any problem that is causing discomfort.

Lots of people thought that I am crazy for not choosing to be a scientist in academia or pharmaceutical companies, and instead become a practitioner of a therapy that almost no one has heard of. However, I deeply understand this is the best decision I have ever made for my career and probably for my life. I am passionate about utilizing my conventional medical science background and current knowledge in integrative medicine to bridge the gaps in our current healthcare system. I hope to help more people who are suffering from chronic illnesses by giving them additional therapeutic options to approach emotional, cognitive and physical wellness. I have seen enough in the scientific and pharmaceutical world to realize the limitations of conventional drugs. We have heard about the long side effect list at the end of every drugs commercial. I can hear the fears that patients have when their doctors tell them it's going to be another surgery. We have significant discoveries in Western Medicine to help with acute illnesses and I understand how essential drugs and surgeries are in our healthcare. But in my opinion, medications and surgeries are not the complete answer when we are combating ‘chronic’ illnesses. We need an integrative team to collaborate (both conventional and non-conventional), and CST could be one of your missing pieces when you are gathering your wellness team.

If you are:

  1. struggling with chronic pain and stress, headaches, migraines, post-concussive symptoms that are affecting your ability to enjoy life fully,

  2. one of those who have tried different medications and didn’t get the recovery that you want,

  3. seeking more natural ways to heal,

I invite you to come and explore the option of using CST to alleviate your pain and discomfort. From my hands and heart, I look forward to partnering with you on your healing journey.