Is Cranial Massage Therapy Or Quackery?
Cranial massage is a gentle form of massage involving the bones of the skill, the spinal column and the sacrum. It falls into the category of an alternative medicine, and the theory behind it, as well as the validity of many of its claimed benefits, are open to controversy The underlying premise of cranial message is that very gentle pressure with the fingertips can manipulate the cranial bones ever so slightly, and that, since cranial-spinal fluids exhibit tide-like motions, beneficial results can be had when the rhythm of the massage is in sync with these tidal motions. By slightly moving the bones and massaging in rhythm with the motion of the cranial fluid, built up pressures are released, providing relief to the patient from various disorders or ailments.
Too Many Claims - There is no arguing with the benefits to be gained from a good massage. One of the claims of proponents of the cranial massage is that it relieves migraines and other similar types of discomfort, and this could well be the case. The claim that the massage is relaxing and an effective stress reliever would also appear to be valid. Unfortunately, practitioners of this practice have come up with a lengthy list of claims which in total tends to bring the usefulness of this type of therapy into question. Cranial message therapy is claimed, in addition to relieving neck and back pain (which may be a valid claim), to be an effective treatment for autism, central nervous system disorders, spinal cord injuries, learning disabilities, fibromyalgia, and various orthopedic problems.
The arguments against the effectiveness of cranial message therapy are that the cranial bones of adults are essentially fused and cannot be moved, certainly not by fingertip pressure, and that rhythmic motion or tides associated with fluid in the skull have never been scientifically proven. The theory that some fluid motion does exist appears to be true, but the rhythmic aspect of this motion does not appear to have any scientific validity. While pulsing in the brain exists and is measurable, this pulsing is related to activities of the cardiovascular system, and has nothing to do with spinal fluid or any other fluid in the brain, except for the blood in the circulatory system. If there is a cranial fluid "tide", its presence is completely masked by movement caused by pressures from the cardiovascular system. In other words, such tidal forces have not been proven to exist.
Some Alternative Approaches Work – Some Don't - No one can deny that there are many areas in alternative or holistic medicine that are effective not only in relieving symptoms, but in healing as well. Not every approach has a scientific explanation, nor can one be given, but only that the approach works. The issue with the effectiveness of cranial message therapy appears to be that where scientific evidence is cited, it's rather shaky at best. Benefits to be gained from this therapy are all too often based upon somewhat mystical properties of our body's systems, forces and fluids, such as the "breath of life", which cannot be measured or observed by conventional means. In other words, there's a little mumbo-jumbo involved.
Is It For Real? - Is a cranial message a therapy or pure quackery? There are arguments on both sides, and the answer is likely somewhere in the middle. If such a treatment makes one feel better, it may well be worth the time and expense. If it can be shown to heal certain disorders, or at least provide a significant degree of relief, so much the better. It may pay however to give this method some careful thought before expending too much in the way of time or money on it. Don't get caught up in what may be nothing more than an expensive fad, a "designer" therapy. One good thing. There are no reported adverse side effects relating to this particular type of therapy. The only pain one may feel might be in the pocketbook.