Equine Cranio-Sacral Therapy
What is cranio-sacral therapy?
Cranio-sacral therapy (CST) was developed in the USA by Dr William Sutherland, an osteopath in the early 20th century, who became interested in the cranial bones that make up the skull and what the function of the cranial bones sutures was. It was taught then that cranial bones fuse at a certain age and that there was no longer movement within the sutures. Sutherland proposed that this was not true and created a device that put pressure on specific parts of his skull and recorded his findings. He found that movement of the cranial bones did happen when pressure was applied to them. He also noticed a rhythm within these bones and that the rhythm changed depending on what somatic symptoms he was feeling.
Cranio-sacral therapy today is used to treat both humans and horses alike and is focused on the cranial bones, spinal column and sacrum. The cranio-sacral pulse is the rhythm that helps to move the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) through the horse's brain and spinal cord and is the subtle indication of the expansion and contraction of the cranial bones, spinal cord and associated tissues and structures.
The central nervous system
The central nervous system (CNS) consists of the brain, cranial nerves, spinal cord and the associated nerves that run from the spinal cord deeper into the body. These structures are responsible for telling the body what to do, and how to process the information that is coming back to the brain.Therefore, it is an important part of the system to ensure the body is working at an optimal rate.
These nervous structures are protected by the cranio-sacral system made up of the skull, cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, sacral spine and the pelvis. Fascia also plays an important part in these structures by permeating and encasing these structures. It extends to deeper parts of the body including joints, organs and other soft tissues.
How does cranio-sacral therapy work?
Craniosacral therapy uses a light manual touch to restore the cranio-sacrral rhythm and balance to the nervous system and associated anatomy. There are 12 cranial nerves that control all parts of the body including facial muscles, the digestive tract and sensory organs, restoring function and balance to these nerves is very important when performing a cranio-sacral treatment.
Because CST is a light touch therapy it is very appropriate for horses that find other manual therapies to be invasive. CST works with the horse's own system to bring about a state of relaxation by engaging with the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and bringing them out of the “fight or flight” part of the sympathetic nervous system. By allowing the horse to reach a state of relaxation the CST opens up restrictions in the cranial bones and allows movement and rebalancing of the fascial planes.
What ailments can cranio-sacral therapy help with?
Facial nerve paralysis
Hock or stifle issues
Lumbar or sacroiliac problems
Head injuries and traumas
Blocked tear ducts
Restrictions from gelding
Unexplained behaviour – bucking, refusing, rearing, shying, spookiness
Difficulty in making transitions
Difficulty with breathing
Grinding teeth or difficulty chewing food