CST works with the nervous system and can give owners invaluable feedback on their horse’s physical well-being.
Craniosacral therapy is a very safe and gentle manual therapy that works on the central nervous system and the connective tissue called “fascia.” The light touch technique is used to help stimulate the body’s own healing properties along with lessening the restrictions found in the nervous system. It works primarily on the central and autonomic nervous systems, and has been proven to help calm and rebalance these systems, especially in the horse.
The central nervous system (CNS) of the body is the “computer network system” that controls every aspect of what happens in the body. It is a very complex system that consists of the brain, cranial nerves, spinal cord, and all the nerves that run off the spinal cord into the body. These components not only tell the body what to do, but also process the information the body sends back to the brain. Consequently, it is of the utmost importance to ensure that this system of the body works at full capacity.
The intricate and delicate system is protected by the craniosacral system, which consists of the skull/ cranial vault, cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, sacral/coccygeal spine, and the pelvis. Running through and around all these bony structures is the fascia, which also extends throughout the body into the extremities and the body cavities. Through this craniosacral therapy can help keep the CNS running smoothly by removing restrictions to the motion that is found within this system.
The craniosacral motion, or rhythm, is hard to feel on palpation, but much like a heartbeat, it can be felt and measured. This rhythm is part of what moves the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) through the brain and spinal cord. This faint motion comes from the extension and flexion of the spine and bones of the skull. When this rhythm is disturbed and not able to move fully it can cause a domino effect through the rest of the chain, which in turn can affect the CNS.
Craniosacral therapy aims to use light manual touch to restore this cranial rhythm and also affect the nervous system at its core in the brain and nerves. The most important nerves are the cranial nerves that originate from the brain and either enter or exit the skull through small openings called foramen. There are 12 nerves in total and help control everything from sensory organs to facial muscles to the digestive tract. So these nerves are very important to consider when looking at a horse using craniosacral therapy.
The therapy itself is very non-invasive and employs a light touch that most horses really enjoy. The aim is to increase the activity in the parasympathetic or “rest and digest” part of the nervous system and decrease activity in the sympathetic or “fight or flight” part. It is through this process that the body can allow healing to occur and relieve internal stressors. The CST itself opens up restrictions in the fascial planes and restores motion to the cranial bones allowing the body to rebalance and restore normal function to the nervous system.
An equine massage therapist or bodyworker can do wonders for the overall well being of your horse, often giving you exercises to practise at home if your horse needs a bit of help with stiffness or flexibility. My horses recently had a session with an equine bodyworker and absolutely loved it. Let's be honest, who doesn't enjoy a good massage?