PainSci summary of Downey 2006: ?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible.
This is a study of the effect of craniosacral therapy on rabbit skulls and their cerebrospinal fluid circulation. The researchers found that “low loads of force, similar to those used clinically when performing a craniosacral frontal lift technique, resulted in no significant changes in coronal suture movement or intracranial pressure in rabbits.”
If you can’t move rabbit skull bones or change their intracranial pressure, it’s safe to assume that you probably can’t do it to humans either — and without that mechanism in good working order, craniosacral therapy has no basis at all. The researchers concluded: “These results suggest that a different biological basis for craniosacral therapy should be explored.” But, of course, a “different biological basis” for craniosacral therapy has never even been suggested, let alone tested.
original abstract †Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.
STUDY DESIGN: Quasi-experimental design.
OBJECTIVES: To determine if physical manipulation of the cranial vault sutures will result in changes of the intracranial pressure (ICP) along with movement at the coronal suture.
BACKGROUND: Craniosacral therapy is used to treat conditions ranging from headache pain to developmental disabilities. However, the biological premise for this technique has been theorized but not substantiated in the literature.
METHODS: Thirteen adult New Zealand white rabbits (oryctolagus cuniculus) were anesthetized and microplates were attached on either side of the coronal suture. Epidural ICP measurements were made using a NeuroMonitor transducer. Distractive loads of 5, 10, 15, and 20 g (simulating a craniosacral frontal lift technique) were applied sequentially across the coronal suture. Baseline and distraction radiographs and ICP were obtained. One animal underwent additional distractive loads between 100 and 10,000 g. Plate separation was measured using a digital caliper from the radiographs. Two-way analysis of variance was used to assess significant differences in ICP and suture movement.
RESULTS: No significant differences were noted between baseline and distraction suture separation (F = 0.045; P>.05) and between baseline and distraction ICP (F = 0.279; P>.05) at any load. In the single animal that underwent additional distractive forces, movement across the coronal suture was not seen until the 500-g force, which produced 0.30 mm of separation but no corresponding ICP changes.
CONCLUSION: Low loads of force, similar to those used clinically when performing a craniosacral frontal lift technique, resulted in no significant changes in coronal suture movement or ICP in rabbits. These results suggest that a different biological basis for craniosacral therapy should be explored.
This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights:
- Relationships Between Sleep Quality and Pain-Related Factors for People with Chronic Low Back Pain: Tests of Reciprocal and Time of Day Effects. Gerhart 2017 Ann Behav Med.
- Modulation in the elastic properties of gastrocnemius muscle heads in individuals with plantar fasciitis and its relationship with pain. Zhou 2020 Sci Rep.
- Association Between Plantar Fasciitis and Isolated Gastrocnemius Tightness. Nakale 2018 Foot Ankle Int.
- No Added Benefit of Combining Dry Needling With Guideline-Based Physical Therapy When Managing Chronic Neck Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Stieven 2020 J Orthop Sports Phys Ther.
- Effectiveness of customised foot orthoses for Achilles tendinopathy: a randomised controlled trial. Munteanu 2015 Br J Sports Med.