Research Related to the Cranial Rhythm

Just about the first subject to be broached when learning CranioSacral Therapy (CST) is that there is a rhythmic flow or pumping action of the Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) around the brain which can be both monitored and manipulated using manual techniques. It is surprising how controversial this topic is, as it related to the degree that the bones of the cranium fuse with age. It was therefore exciting for me to discover this report in the 15 August, 2012 issue of Science Translational Medicine related to this topic.

A Paravascular Pathway Facilitates CSF Flow Through the Brain Parenchyma and the Clearance of Interstitial Solutes, Including Amyloid β
Jeffrey J. Iliff et al.
Sci Transl Med 4, 147ra111 (2012);
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003748  (1: see footnote)

The research discussed in this paper describes the relationship between the volume of CSF “pumped”, the nature of the function of sleep, and the clearance of metabolic by-products and waste from the extracellular matrix of the brain. The principal finding is that the the clearance of fluorescent tracers injected into the CSF was markedly enhanced by sleep, inferring that the flow of CSF was greater during sleep, enabled by an increase in the volume of the channels though which CSF flows.

How this relates to CST is that, as anyone knows who has experienced CST, the therapy induces a deep state of rest and regeneration. It is often the case that a client will start to move into and out of these states within a few minutes of starting therapy. The therapy can be thought of as guidance for the CSF system into its most efficient function during rest.

There have been many studies linking CST to improvements in neurological conditions. This paper points to an active mechanism that helps to explain the efficacy of this treatment modality.

(1) Since this paper was published, a 2017 discovery that the Lymphatic System actually does innervate the brain, both affirms and reinforces the findings in this paper.