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What Is Sacral Massage?

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on June 08, 2021

You may think a massage is all luxury. It’s the highlight of any spa day. A sacral massage is a bit different, however.

Sacral massage, referred to as craniosacral therapy, is a form of alternative treatment. It aims to give relief from tension from the spinal cord and head. Sacral massage promotes the body’s functions beginning with the head and spine. 

How Does Sacral Massage Work?

This massage technique focuses on the bones of the head and spinal column. Applied light pressure aims to improve the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid and realign the central nervous system. 

The cerebrospinal fluid provides cushion and protection for the brain and spinal cord. Sacral massage aims to help the fluid function effectively and relieve a number of ailments. 

The ultimate goal of sacral massage is to promote your natural biological processes. This technique supports your body’s natural and essential regulation, correction, and healing. By focusing on the central nervous system, head, and spine, sacral massage works to promote those natural body processes and their functions. 

What to Expect from a Sacral Massage

A sacral massage is non-invasive, meaning it requires no tools or implements entering the body. It’s a hands-on massage technique that uses gentle pressure. 

There’s no thrusting, bone-setting, or other forceful techniques that you may see in a chiropractic massage. The technique uses light pressure, primarily with just the fingertips. 

The amount of pressure used is around 5 grams, the weight of a small coin. This light touch is applied around your skull and spine to search for areas of imbalance.

Sacral massage sessions are done fully clothed, with relaxing music and low lights. After a consultation to identify areas that need attention, the massage begins. 

The amount of time the massage lasts and the number of sessions you need will depend on each individual. When you discuss your goals with your massage therapist, you can come up with a plan based on your symptoms, injuries, and causes of your symptoms. 

Benefits of a Sacral Massage

Sacral massages have been reported to relieve a variety of conditions. The gentle massage manipulates the spine in an attempt to realign the nervous system.

It has been used in attempts to ease the following conditions: 

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic migraines
  • Impairments to coordination
  • Scoliosis (curvature of the spine)
  • Chronic neck and back pain
  • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), which can cause pain in muscles that control your jaw movement and your jaw joint.
  • Stress
  • Emotion-related tension

Biological rhythms. Since sacral massage aims to regulate natural biological rhythms, it has also been used to help treat irritable bowel syndrome, sleep disorders, and difficult pregnancies

Scalp muscles. Your facial expressions are also controlled by your scalp muscles. Your face and scalp are under a lot of stress throughout the day, and sacral massage helps relax those muscles. 

Emotional health. The quiet, intimate, and reflective environment of a sacral massage encourages mental and spiritual healing. It may help put your mind at ease and help you be at peace while relieving your body of the stress it carries. 

Better healing. Practitioners feel that this therapy promotes quicker and better healing in the future. More research is needed to prove this. 

The Cons of Sacral Massage

Complex technique. The techniques of sacral massage are more complex than those used in general massage therapy. Along with a license as a massage therapist, performing sacral massage requires additional training. This makes it a less common practice. 

Side effects. Provided that your therapist is properly trained to perform sacral massage, there are few risks to the technique. Someone who isn’t trained may do it wrong and cause more problems.

Like most massages, you may experience slight discomfort afterward. It should fade within a day as your body readjusts. 

Insurance coverage. Since certain therapists may not be trained in sacral massage, the ones who are may not be covered by your insurance. Certain employers may reimburse the cost depending on healthcare accounts, but it’s never guaranteed. 

It’s for almost anyone. There are certain people who shouldn’t get a sacral massage. The following conditions can cause you to be at higher risk to develop complications after a massage: 

  • Concussion
  • Brain swelling
  • Defects of the cerebellum (part of your brain that helps control movement).
  • Brain aneurysm, when a blood vessel bulges or balloons in your brain.
  • Recent traumatic brain injury
  • Thrombosis (blood clots)
  • Disorders that affect cerebral fluid pressure or flow

Massage may also be risky if you have: 

  • Bleeding disorders
  • Burns
  • Healing wounds
  • Bone fractures
  • Severe osteoporosis (thinning bones)

Lack of scientific evidence. Unfortunately, there is a limited amount of recorded evidence on the benefits of sacral massage. 

Massage is a common form of treatment. It is starting to become standard for a variety of conditions. 

The benefits that are specific to sacral massage aren’t well-researched. Most of the benefits are speculated based on client testimony.  But it still may provide many of the benefits that most massages do, like relaxation and stress relief. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:
Cleveland Clinic: “Craniosacral Therapy.”
Complementary Therapies in Medicine: “A systematic review to evaluate the clinical benefits of craniosacral therapy.”
Fremont College: “Cranial Sacral Therapy.”
Mayo Clinic: "Brain aneurysm," "Slide show: How your brain works," “Stress management," "TMJ disorders."
National University of Health Sciences: “Cranio-Sacral Therapy.”
University of Minnesota: “Craniosacral Therapy.”

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