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Craniosacral Therapy For The Treatment Of Chronic Neck Pain

Updated: Feb 24, 2020

With growing evidence for the effectiveness of craniosacral therapy (CST) for pain management, the efficacy of CST remains unclear. A study was conducted that aimed at investigating CST in comparison with sham treatment in chronic nonspecific neck pain patients.

CST was both specifically effective and safe in reducing neck pain intensity and may improve functional disability and the quality of life up to 3 months after intervention.

Neck pain is a significant public health problem with 1 in 2 people experiencing neck pain at least once in their lifetime. Neck pain is often recurrent, of nonspecific nature, and associated with disability in both social and occupational life.

CST is thought to be a noninvasive, mindfulness-based treatment approach using gentle manual palpation techniques to release fascial restrictions between the cranium and the sacrum. The craniosacral system anatomically encompasses the structures of the central nervous system including the skull, the cranial sutures, the cerebrospinal fluid, and the membranes of the brain and the spinal cord. It is influenced by and linked to the musculoskeletal system, and presumably to the vascular and endocrine system as well as to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. In the craniosacral theory, fascial restrictions within the craniosacral system lead to abnormal, arrhythmic motion of the cerebrospinal fluid.

This craniosacral rhythm is assessable by palpation and quantifiable by encephalogram, myelogram, and magnetic resonance imaging. There is also growing evidence for fascial involvement in pain chronification. Studies have shown increased activity of fascial nociceptors within restricted connective tissue, which can contribute to remodeling processes of inflammation and fibrosis, increased tissue stiffness, muscle tension, and chronic pain. However, research on craniosacral diagnostic and treatment mechanisms revealed very heterogenous results, with only preliminary evidence supporting inherent processes of peripheral and descending pain inhibition due to gentle fascial palpation techniques.

Neck and back pain are the most frequent symptoms for which CST is requested. CST was shown to be specifically effective and safe in reducing neck pain intensity and may improve the functional disability and the quality of life up to 3 months after the intervention. Particularly in chronic and recurrent neck pain, CST may be a worthwhile treatment option in addition to standard medical care.

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