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Craniosacral therapy is a very gentle, non-manipulative, hands-on treatment that uses light pressure to release soft tissue tension deep in the body to relieve pain and dysfunction. The craniosacral system includes the tissues and fluid that surround and protect our brain and spinal cord. 
Relieving tension in our craniosacral system can help regulate the arousal of our sympathetic nervous system, which is often increased in people who are chronically ill, such as those with cancer. Our sympathetic nervous system, also called our “fight-flight-freeze” nervous system, directs our rapid involuntary response to dangerous or stressful situations. This response is very helpful when physically escaping danger – a flash flood of hormones boosts our alertness and heart rate, sending extra blood to the muscles, so we can run. In chronic stressful situations, however, the sympathetic nervous system becomes overactive. This over activity contributes to low energy, increased pain, poor sleep quality (the 3 a.m.-wakeup), weight gain and irritability, to name a few. So, while the fight-flight-freeze response serves a purpose, we don't want it switched on all the time. 
So how do we turn it off? Many of us struggle with reducing nervous system tone, or simply put, relaxing and recharging, switching to our rest-digest nervous system. Trained craniosacral therapists evaluate and correct for any restrictions of the craniosacral system through light-touch techniques and this can help boost nervous system self-regulation, self-correction and self-healing. Research has shown that craniosacral therapy can be safely used on children and adults to improve physical functioning, body aches and pain, sleep, appetite, stress, anxiety, general health and wellbeing. 
A craniosacral therapy session is similar to massage therapy, except you stay fully clothed. At our clinic, trained craniosacral therapist, Jin Wang, often combines acupuncture with this therapy, using gentle pressure on the craniosacral system, while acupuncture needles are also at work in the body. The combination of craniosacral and acupuncture can be especially helpful for those undergoing both the physical stressors of cancer treatment, as well as the emotional stress it brings. If you are dealing with the physical, mental and emotional effects of cancer and are interested in craniosacral therapy, consider booking an appointment at the CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre with Jin Wang, Registered Acupuncturist.

Author: Irina Chan, CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre intern

Jäkel, A., & von Hauenschild, P. (2012). A systematic review to evaluate the clinical benefits of craniosacral therapy. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 20(6), 456–465. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2012.07.009