To many, the practice of cranial sacral therapy has purportedly offered relief from various ailments. It is a form of gentle massage and manipulation targeting the craniosacral system - the bones and connective tissues in the skull, face, spine and pelvis. It addresses what practitioners believe to be the cause of much of our pain and illness: the blockages that occur in the pulsating flow of fluid between the head and lower back. By palpating the soft tissue and membranes surrounding the central nervous system, these blockages or "restrictions" can be broken up and eliminated, much like trigger-points in an overworked muscle. While many claim to have used cranial sacral therapy and found relief from conditions including pain, fatigue, depression and eye problems, a question remains: is it safe to administer this type of massage and manipulation to infants, and is it helpful to them?
Professionals who warn of the dangers of infant cranial sacral therapy tend to focus on the fact that the bones in a baby's skull are still forming and moving, and therefore manipulation of the bones or sutures can cause irreparable damage. Proponents of its use on infants, however, use this same bone-forming argument to espouse its value.
This gentle, hands-on approach is often used to treat physical trauma. For infants, the experience of childbirth can be traumatic in varying degrees; caesarian and forceps delivery, movement through the birth canal and vacuum extraction can all cause stress on a baby's body, particularly on the skull which is vulnerable to injury due to its temporary malleable nature. A baby's skull is made up of plates that overlap one another, enabling the head to compress during childbirth and allowing passage through the birth canal. A vacuum and forceps can greatly exploit this pliancy, causing malformation that can be difficult for natural correction. Cranial sacral therapy is often seen as a method to gently coax an infant's head sutures back into proper alignment.
A misshapen skull can cause functional problems for an infant. Fascia is attached to bone and if bones are misaligned, the supporting fascia will be misaligned as well. Tightened muscles can ensue, with corresponding pain and movement restrictions. The infant may experience feeding problems due to tightened muscles causing tongue and palate misalignment; sucking and swallowing may be difficult. Babies with misshapen skulls may also have trouble holding their heads properly, as fascia and musculature can be pulled too tight. They may turn their heads only one way, and there can be obvious signs of tension in their faces: one eye open more than the other, a crooked mouth, a tongue not protruding straight, a jaw opening to the side. Gentle coaxing of the skull sutures into proper alignment is seen by many as an effective treatment for these issues.
Because of its gentle, non-invasive application, cranial sacral therapy is regarded by its proponents as a treatment that does no harm to an infant. It also offers the baby the very necessary element of skin-to-skin touch - this alone can bring peace, balance and harmony to a colicky little one.