What is CranioSacral Therapy (CST)?

Are you looking for alternative therapies to relieve your older dog’s joint pain? Is your cat looking stiff and uncomfortable after her nightly romp outside? CranioSacral Therapy is one of the alternative therapies that may be the answer to these concerns, as well as an effective way to promote optimal wellness and performance in your animals.

Developed for humans by Dr. John Upledger, D.O., O.M.M., CranioSacral Therapy is a gentle hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the function of the physiological body system called the craniosacral system, which is comprised of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround the brain and spinal cord. Craniosacral therapists use a very light touch (five grams or the weight of a nickel) to provide very deep work. Since the craniosacral system directly affects the central nervous system, an imbalance there can cause any number of sensory, motor or neurological disabilities. CranioSacral Therapy helps correct those restrictions by engaging the body’s self-healing mechanisms, so that the body can release the effects of injury, pain and stress. 

The practice of CranioSacral Therapy has more recently been developed for animals with great success. It is best used and effectively incorporated with other types of healthcare practices such as traditional medicine, dentistry, massage therapy, osteopathy, body-mind integration modalities, and in this case Tellington TTouch with which it is highly compatible.

Since its inception, CranioSacral Therapy continues to be a platform from which new and innovative approaches are developed to helping people and animals heal.

When is CranioSacral Therapy indicated?

Craniosacral therapy has been found effective for many conditions affecting small animals: arthritis, spine and neck injuries, lameness, head injuries, TMJ/jaw pain, chronic joint and spine pain, cancer, hip dysplasia, Lyme disease, systemic disorders, post-surgical recovery, nerve irritations, laryngeal paralysis, behavior problems (such as fear biting for example), emotional problems, and the special issues of aging/elderly animals. Animals can become stressed from pain, age and deteriorating health, as well as from the hectic lives of their caretakers. Even a low level of anxiety from stress puts the animal in the fight/flight response. CranioSacral Therapy helps restore a balance between fight/flight and rest/digest responses of the central nervous system.

What is a CranioSacral Therapy session like?

A typical session lasts an hour. More than likely it will be combined with the use of some TTouch techniques in order to help your animal settle and establish a level of trust. The animals usually become very relaxed and many fall asleep for a portion of the session. The animals are never restrained and are allowed to move if they feel the need.

More specifics...

Help for dogs:
Dogs suffering with hip dysplasia have shown improved gait and reduced signs of pain after several sessions of CranioSacral Therapy. For older dogs facing laryngeal paralysis, or difficulty with the muscles in the airway, Craniosacral therapy can delay or prevent surgery in some cases, by relieving strain on the cranial nerves where they exit the brain, and relaxing muscle spasms in the area of the throat. 

One dog (treated by Sally Morgan**) with laryngeal paralysis was able to avoid surgery and maintain a good quality of life in his senior years. His caretaker said “I can’t believe the difference this work has made for my dog. After each session, he acts like a puppy and I can barely hold him back when he wants to run up the mountain on his walks. Before CranioSacral Therapy, I thought we would have to put him to sleep. I was so impressed with the work, that I received CranioSacral Therapy for myself when I experienced low back pain.”

Help for cats:
Because craniosacral work enhances fluid exchange throughout the body’s systems, it can be beneficial for older cats with kidney dysfunction. Older cats can also get relief for achy arthritic joints, and injured animals can get faster recovery with craniosacral treatments. A cat which apparently fell from a tree was diagnosed with a torn hamstring muscle. The vet felt it would need surgical repair. Her owner wanted to try CranioSacral Therapy first, to relieve the cat’s pain so she could eat and build up her strength. After two sessions, the cat no longer required surgery, was soon able to leap onto the furniture, and within a few weeks she was able to go outside safely.

Another cat which had been severely injured in a car accident, years before she was adopted, had paralysis in the nerves and muscles on one side of her face as well as a limp. Her owner also believed Emma suffered chronic headaches. She kept to herself and did not socialize with the other cats. After two craniosacral sessions, her caretaker reported, “Emma is doing so much better. You can tell she has less pain and she actually comes to us to be petted and interacts more with the other cats. I can’t believe the change in her personality.”



CranioSacral Therapy truly can transform animals’ lives. It is a new approach for reducing stress and promoting renewed health and vitality in companion animals.

**Sally Morgan was a major contributor of this text. She is an Upledger certified Craniosacral Therapist and presenter, a Physical Therapist, and Reiki master. She specializes in treating animals and their people.


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