Craniosacral Therapy: The Effects of Cranial Manipulation on Intracranial Pressure and Cranial Bone Movement

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2006 Nov;36(11):845-53. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2006.36.11.845.


Study design: Quasi-experimental design.

Objectives: To determine if physical manipulation of the cranial vault sutures will result in changes of the intracranial pressure (ICP) along with movement at the coronal suture.

Background: Craniosacral therapy is used to treat conditions ranging from headache pain to developmental disabilities. However, the biological premise for this technique has been theorized but not substantiated in the literature.

Methods: Thirteen adult New Zealand white rabbits (oryctolagus cuniculus) were anesthetized and microplates were attached on either side of the coronal suture. Epidural ICP measurements were made using a NeuroMonitor transducer. Distractive loads of 5, 10, 15, and 20 g (simulating a craniosacral frontal lift technique) were applied sequentially across the coronal suture. Baseline and distraction radiographs and ICP were obtained. One animal underwent additional distractive loads between 100 and 10,000 g. Plate separation was measured using a digital caliper from the radiographs. Two-way analysis of variance was used to assess significant differences in ICP and suture movement.

Results: No significant differences were noted between baseline and distraction suture separation (F = 0.045; P>.05) and between baseline and distraction ICP (F = 0.279; P>.05) at any load. In the single animal that underwent additional distractive forces, movement across the coronal suture was not seen until the 500-g force, which produced 0.30 mm of separation but no corresponding ICP changes.

Conclusion: Low loads of force, similar to those used clinically when performing a craniosacral frontal lift technique, resulted in no significant changes in coronal suture movement or ICP in rabbits. These results suggest that a different biological basis for craniosacral therapy should be explored.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Complementary Therapies
  • Cranial Sutures*
  • Female
  • Intracranial Pressure*
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Manipulations*
  • Rabbits