Alas poor Craniosacral. A SCAM of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.

It is hard to Sokalize alternative medicine. The closest has been buttock reflexology/acupuncture, but that is a tame example.  Given the propensity for projections of the human body to appear on the iris, hand, foot, tongue, and ear, postulating a similar pattern on the buttocks are simple variations on a common SCAM (Supplements, Complementary and Alternative Medicine) theme. The buttocks?  Not really different from any of the other focal acupunctures.  Most of SCAM does not concern itself with application of reality  and physiology, anatomy, biochemistry, etc can all be expected to be ignored with virtually all SCAM modalities.

Every time I think the heights (or depths) of absurdity has been reached, I discover a Braco the Starer or Himalayan Salt Inhalers. This blog is not affiliated with the British Medical Journal in any way, and although this is being published near Christmas, I want no one think that what follows is a hoax.  I am not, I repeat not,  making up what follows. It is not fiction. Well, it is fiction, but not written by me and believed and practiced by some who really should know better.

Craniosacral Therapy
Like many SCAM modalities, from Reiki to Chiropractic,  Craniosacral Therapy (CST) was invented? discovered? fabricated? pulled out of the a..,  well, er, Drs Novella and Gorski want this to be a professional blog *, so lets say, a three letter word that starts with ‘a’. Air. It was pulled out of the air by William Garner Sutherland.

While a student at the American School of Osteopathy in 1899, Dr. Sutherland pondered the fine details of a separated or “disarticulated” skull. He wondered about the function of this complex architecture. Dr. Still taught that every structure exists because it performs a particular function. While looking at a temporal bone, a flash of inspiration struck Dr. Sutherland: “Beveled like the gills of a fish, indicating respiratory motion for an articular mechanism.

Here is a picture of a temporal bone:


Here is a cranial suture:

And here is a fish gill:

I guess  drug use was more popular than I thought back in the day. Maybe I am not able to get the right photograph of gills to see the connection. You? Do you see the connection, or do you lack the “unique genius” of  Dr. Sutherland ? Because the temporal bones are beveled like fish gills (!), the bones of the head are supposed to move relative to each other (!) with respiration (!).  That is the insight that lead to CST. I wonder if the abstract announcing his discovery would have been accepted at the  International Conference on Integrative Medicine.  It makes gluteal reflexology appear reasonable in comparison.

Dr. Sutherlands’ insight did not stop there.  He synthesized his observations into “The Primary Respiratory Mechanism”:

This Primary Respiratory Mechanism has five basic components:

1) The inherent rhythmic motion of the brain and spinal cord.
2) The fluctuation of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that bathes and nourishes the brain and spina l cord.
3) The shifting tensions of the membranous envelope (dura mater) surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This entire membranous structure acts as a unit and is called a “Reciprocal Tension Membrane.”
4) The inherent rhythmic motion of the cranial bones.
5) The involuntary motion of the sacrum (tailbone) between the ilia (hip bones).

I don’t know that means.  I read the words, I think about what I understand about anatomy and physiology, I reread the above and I got nothing. A word salad, it appears to be all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Repeat.  It is not meant to be fiction.

To make it more mysterious, or fanciful, the CSF has tides:

“1) the cranial rhythmic impulse; a more superficial rhythm expressed at an average rate of 8-12 cycles per minute,
2) the mid-tide; a tidal rhythm that carries ordering forces into the body expressed at a slower rate of approximately 2.5 cycles per minute and
3) the long tide; a deep and slow rhythmic impulse expressed about once every 100 seconds. The long tide is considered to be the first stirring of life and motion as the Breath of Life emerges from a deeper ground of stillness at the center of our being.”

I know topic was the death of MacBeth’s wife but Act 5, Scene 5, lines 26-28 keeps running in my head. It is an explanation of physiology that would be right at home on Dr. Oz’s site, but has no relationship to any known anatomy or physiology. Other explanations of the tides make no sense to me, containing nothing I can recognize as content amongst what appears to be a word salad.  Although I suspect CST would appeal to Bloodline aliens.

I do not think there is a SCAM where the practitioners deny the evidence in their hands.  There are videos of CST therapists saying that, unlike what is taught in medical school, the bones of the skull are not fused and articulate.  They say this with Yorick in their hands, a skull evidently never contemplated.  If you have ever held a skull in your hands, or been in a neurosurgical case,  it is evident that the cranium is notable for the rock solid joinings of bones.  The metaphor is thick skulled, is it not?  It is not fish-gilled skulled.

Acupuncturists may blather about meridians and homeopathists drivel on about the memory of water, but at least they do not hold the dis-confirming evidence in their hands, denying its existence.  I have seen patients deny an obvious tumor or the symptoms of advanced AIDS.  Look at that skull in your hands.  The bones do not move. To have a whole field of SCAM based on the denial of palpable reality is most curious.  As Marx said, sort of,  “Who are you going to believe, Sutherland or your lying eyes?”

What does a practitioner do with the insight that the CSF flows incorrectly and the cranial bones are out of wack? CST

“involves the practitioner “listening through the hands” to the body’s subtle rhythms and any patterns of inertia or congestion. Through the development of subtle palpatory skills the practitioner can read the story of the body, identify places where issues are held and then follow the natural priorities for healing as directed by the patient’s own physiology.”

As I gather from the gibberish of the YouTubes and CST sites, they push the bones of your skull back into place, alter and optimize the flow of CSF and make you better. I think.  Because nothing they say really makes any anatomic or physiologic sense:

The trained practitioner palpates for the sensation of resistance on the skin surface overlying the spine and cranium. Resistance is thought to be indicative of underlying CSF stasis, and following treatment, the absence of drag may indicate that the CSF stasis has been reduced.”

as one of a tedious series of examples.  They can feel the tides and CSF rhythms and alter them. They can change the tides, at least the CSF tides.  I am old school when it comes to altering tides: And te tide and te time þat tu iboren were, schal beon iblescet.  But that is obvious, which is why it is an aphorism.

The cranial rhythmic impulse is an oscillation recognized by many bodywork practitioners, but the functional origin of this impulse remains uncertain. We propose that the cranial rhythmic impulse is the palpable perception of entrainment, a harmonic frequency that incorporates the rhythms of multiple biological oscillators. It is derived primarily from signals between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Entrainment also arises between organisms. The harmonizing of coupled oscillators into a single, dominant frequency is called frequency-selective entrainment. We propose that this phenomenon is the modus operandi of practitioners who use the cranial rhythmic impulse in craniosacral treatment.

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously indeed.   Take an anatomy and physiology that does not exist, then postualte a mechanism of action.  At least in that respect there is not a difference between CST and acupuncture or homeopathy. Except quantum. Where is the quantum. We need quantum.

Practical Uses of Quantum Physics Concepts in CranioSacral Therapy

Adding a few new intentions to your hands-on work is quite simple. All you need to do is incorporate a few principles of quantum physics.
First, we direct our energy into hard, stiff or restricted areas of the client’s body.

Of course, I giggle like the immature person I am. I know. What an infant.  But I giggled a lot writing this entry; truly a field of infinite jest.  Of course, the only real parallel between CST and quantum of any kind are N-Rays, sharing identical reality.

Similar to other SCAMs, there is zero consistency in the ability of CST practitioners to feel the same tides in the same patients.

Two registered osteopaths, both with postgraduate training in diagnosis and treatment, using cranial techniques, palpated 11 normal healthy subjects.
Examiners simultaneously palpated for the CRI at the head and the sacrum of each subject. Examiners indicated the “full flexion” phase of the CRI by activating silent foot switches that were interfaced with a computer. Subject arousal was monitored using heart rate. Examiners were blind to each other’s results and could not communicate during data collection.
Reliability was estimated from calculation of intraclass correlation coefficients (2,1). Intrarater reliability for examiners at either the head or the sacrum was fair to good, significant intraclass correlation coefficients ranging from +0.52 to +0.73. Interexaminer reliability for simultaneous palpation at the head and the sacrum was poor to nonexistent, ICCs ranging from -0.09 to +0.31. There were significant differences between rates of CRI palpated simultaneously at the head and the sacrum.
The results fail to support the construct validity of the “core-link” hypothesis as it is traditionally held by proponents of craniosacral therapy and osteopathy in the cranial field.

Reproductively and the ability to consistently feel the tides has been refuted in more than one trial. King Canute they aren’t.

In reality what do CST practitioners do?  They lightly massage your head.  To treat everything from Downs to headache to PMS.  It is an all purpose diagnostic and therapeutic intervention, like all SCAMs.

There are no shortage of videos demonstrating the techniques of CST, one practitioner states she pushes the bones back into alignment with a 5 gram pressure, the weight of a nickel.  I do not think a nickles worth of pressure would move a skull bone a quantum amount,  not even if dropped off the Empire State Building.

Once I had a colleague (really, a colleague. Not me) who commented he liked to have hair cuts because the scalp massage with the wash and condition was very relaxing, and I will admit that lying on ones back while you head is massaged looks very pleasant, especially if it occurred in the middle of a busy work day and was paid for by Blue Cross.  If you had a process that was due, in part, from stress, I can see where a CST session would be most beneficial. I always return to the example of the relaxing effect of apes mutual grooming, although “in deference to one million years of human evolution, the therapist won’t try to pick fleas off his patient.” Or so one hopes.

I wrote the last paragraph before I did a Pubmed search on the topic.  Lets see if CST helps headaches independent of the incomprehensible blather that underpins the field.  I bet it will be helpful  for anything with a subjective endpoint and I bet that for hard endpoints, CST will do nothing.

There are 56 hits on the Pubmeds using Craniosacral therapy, and there are no even remotely well done studies using CST.  The most interesting predates the NEJM asthma article discussed at length at SBM.

In it

Subjects were randomly assignment to one of five groups: acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture and craniosacral, attention control, and waiting list control.
Subjects received 12 sessions of equal length with pretreatment and posttreatment assessment of pulmonary function, asthma quality of life, depression, and anxiety. Medication use was also assessed.

Can you predict the results?  Yep.  Patients were subjectively improved, but their objective asthma was not better.

When treatment was compared with the control group, statistically treatment was significantly better than the control group in improving asthma quality of life, whereas reducing medication use with pulmonary function test results remained the same.

As one would expect from a relaxing head massage. Others are also less than enthusiastic about CST

A three-dimensional evaluative framework with related appraisal criteria: (A) craniosacral interventions and health outcomes; (B) validity of craniosacral assessment; and (C) pathophysiology of the craniosacral system.
The available research on craniosacral treatment effectiveness constitutes low-grade evidence conducted using inadequate research protocols. One study reported negative side effects in outpatients with traumatic brain injury. Low inter-rater reliability ratings were found.
This systematic review and critical appraisal found insufficient evidence to support craniosacral therapy. Research methods that could conclusively evaluate effectiveness have not been applied to date.

Despite the structural integrity of the skull, CRT proponents insist “Eppur si muove“. And there is one time where the bones of the skull are moveable: after head trauma.  Then, perhaps, pushing on the skull, even 5 grams worth, may not he such a good idea.  I have seen enough trauma over the years to be cautious around breaks in human structural integrity.  Not so much with CST:

Although craniosacral manipulation has been found empirically useful in patients with traumatic brain injury, three cases of iatrogenesis occurred. The incidence rate is low (5%), but the practitioner must be prepared to deal with the possibility of adverse reactions.

Why do I think of the word “squelch” when I read the abstract; too much Joe Aberrcombie of late?  It turns out that the adverse reactions from CST are every bit as fanciful as beneficial effects:

These three cases represent a diversity of adverse reactions following craniosacral manipulation. The first patient had exacerbation of vertiginous symptoms during diagnostic evaluation alone. After sphenobasilar decompression, visceral symptoms involving cardiac, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems arose. This feature suggests either brain stem or vagal effects as a possible source of the symptom complex. The second patient had exacerbation of headache complaint, but, more important, a disturbing psychologic/psychiatric problem, necessitating psychiatric institutional care. The severe total body spastic reaction seen in the third patient continues to defy explanation. The possibility of a brain stem seizure triggered by stimulation of the upper cervical spine and cranial base or posttraumatic cervical dystonian remains plausible. Extensive evaluation failed to demonstrate a specific cause.

It is a tough economy, and jobs are scarce.  For 5 to 12 thousand dollars and 700 hours (150 if you are already a licensed massage therapist) you can be a CST provider.  That’s 88 days of education, about a semesters worth.  And then maybe you can practice at a University Medical Center. Like Ohio. Or Duke. And of course, Dr Oz  has offered CST, so you know it must be nonsense.

There are probably other institutions that offer the raging nonsense that is CRT, but I grow weary of the searching. But it should not be part of any University, since

…we believe that craniosacral therapy bears approximately the same relationship to real medicine that astrology bears to astronomy. That is, this approach to “health care” is medical fiction, and it is not appropriate to teach fiction as part of medical or allied health curricula.

I wonder if Duke or Ohio are going to offer astrological readings or have John Edwards as a Visiting Lecturer.  It would only be a lateral step, not a step backwards.  Seriously.  If your local Hospital or University offers CST, go elsewhere.  They have a demonstrated commitment to the irreparably goofy.

To sum up: CST now beats Braco the starer.  I don’t think The Onion could do better.


*I remain uncertain as to why the editors let these posts through.

Posted in: Chiropractic, Energy Medicine, Humor, Naturopathy, Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (37) ↓

37 thoughts on “Alas poor Craniosacral. A SCAM of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.

  1. annabelle says:

    very funny and yet quite sad that somehow so many people seem to use this thing. What really freaks me out is the baby version of this (it seems particularly trendy in France). Quite a few of my friends have taken their few week-old babies to see such a therapist to adjust their cranium (or flow or tide) so that the baby can be less fussy or get over the trauma of birth or whatever it is that they are supposed to get over. Of course since babies cry less as they grow, it appears to make them better but the idea of someone moving the bones in my baby’s head makes me grind my teeth (something that a CS therapist could help me with) even if they are in fact not moving anything at all. Babies cranial bones are not fused and their heads are fragile, I just don’t get the idea.

  2. DevoutCatalyst says:

    Um, choose your therapist wisely,

    Is craniosacral therapy the best choice of nonsense for Downs, really? When I think of Down Syndrome, I think of atlantoaxial instability. I see a train wreck, not a fish gill.

  3. DrRobert says:

    A few things:

    1. I supposed its ironic that people who claim to use the head to heal aren’t actually using their head.

    2. As you said, of course a relaxing scalp massage feels great, … its the only reason I bother to get my hair cut! And I wouldn’t doubt for a minute that a study that compared wet scalp massage to no treatment would find a possibly significant reduction in stress, and other subjective measurements. The problem is, how do we accept something that is probably obvious, but at the same time make clear that it’s just a result of relaxation, and not some magical alignment of my sutures that results in better “body balance” and improves my “natural energies”?

    3. I’ve been “investigating” something just one vertebra below where you’re investigating. It’s called NUCCA therapy, and it’s a chiropractic technique where they believe they can “improve body balance” and all that voodoo by manipulating the position of the atlas (C-1) by shoving forcefully on the neck.

    For anyone who doesn’t know: At the base of the skull is the occipital bone which has a giant hole called the foramen magnum that allows the spinal cord to exit the brain and pass down to the body. The delicate spinal cord passes through a hole (the vertebral foramen) created by the vertebrae between the thick body of the vertebrae and their rear and side processes. The atlas (C-1) is the first vertebra in your neck. It was so named because of Atlas of Greek mythology, that this bone supports the “globe” of your body. It’s very delicate bone that allows your head to rock back and forth to signal “No, I don’t want chiropractic manipulation of my neck!” It also contains tiny ligaments that entrap a vertical (the odontoid) process that comes up from C-2 (axis). In movies when people break a neck, they have snapped off this tiny process and then severed the spinal cord.

    So, in NUCCA therapy, the practitioner believe that problems in the body (blood pressure, balance, pain, depression, basically every disease that chiropractic has been shown to be completely useless for) are caused by a tiny misalignment of the atlas. They detect a “misaligned” atlas by one of several ways: they take an unnecessary Xray and expose the body to needless radiation, or, they can do another technique where they examine the pelvis and lower extremities and see if one leg is longer than the other. Magically, this can tell them that a tiny bone at the base of your skull is misaligned by about 1 degree.

    Of course, every patient will have a misaligned atlas and require adjustment via NUCCA therapy. How wonderful to have such a fake screening test that every patient ends up being positive. That’s a 100% false positive test. So, the chiropractor takes his fingers and forcefully pushes on the base of your skull on this tiny bone. He magically believes that he can, without a doubt, palpate this bone and magically move it right into position, on the first try, every single time. He believes that he is so skilled that he can manipulate it right into position.

    When I read about these things, the thought that always comes to mind is that these quacks have the AUDACITY to believe that they are capable of doing these things. I find it truly and utterly disgusting that these bozos believe that they can diagnose a “misaligned” atlas and magically feel the atlas and push it back into position perfectly.

    Someone on my blog linked a “pilot study” by a single chiropractor in his clinic who claimed that he could lower systolic blood pressure by 10 mmHg via NUCCA therapy. The study sent chills down my spine. It included at least (if I remember) six different Xrays of the head and neck before therapy, and the same amount afterwards. It involved taking patients with hypertension off of their meds without the advice of a doctor, and it involved pushing with great force on a tiny bone that has the spinal cord running through it, without any evidence in the entire world that such a therapy has ever had any benefit, and without any evidence in the entire world that an atlas can be misaligned.

    I don’t acknowledge those types of studies, because the “science” is built on a presumed notion that has never been proven. If you take a pile of crap, and add ten more piles of crap, all you have is a giant pile of crap. It doesn’t turn into gold at some point.

  4. Jann Bellamy says:

    There appears to be a pretender to the CST throne here in Florida, John Upledger, D.O.:

    “The discovery of the Dural Pulse by Dr. John E. Upledger was the foundation for the groundbreaking work that he would later coin as CranioSacral Therapy.”

    For $3,200, you can get 5 days of CST treatment at their Comprehensive Therapy Program, “a client centered, hands-on holistic process, where the therapy is guided by the healing inner wisdom of the client.” (Lodging and meals NOT included.)

    According to the website of the “International Association of Healthcare Providers” (of which the Upledger Institute is a member) one can take a course in CST which has been approved for continuing education credit by The American Occupational Therapy Assn., the American Speech, Language and Hearing Assn. and the American Physical Therapy Assn., as well as for massage therapists and, naturally, the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

  5. Sadly, don’t time to finish the article right now, but this line jumped out at me.

    ” I do not think a nickles worth of pressure would move a skull bone a quantum amount”

    …and if it did, what is going to hold that skull fragment in place? Joints that shiftily don’t just stay where you put them. Think of gluing together a broken vase.

  6. daijiyobu says:

    @annabelle said “so many people seem to use this thing.”

    The naturopaths, the naturopaths, the naturopaths.

    That and balloons in the nasal cavity to also ‘move bones’ around.

    It was actually at a CT conference while in my second year of ND school

    that I was first exposed to CST…

    and that’s really when I began realizing how crazy NDs / NMDs are.


  7. lilady says:

    The “Huffington Post”…the repository of pseudo-science bloggers…ran an article on March 4, 2011 “Craniosacral Therapy for Kids (Juliet Linley)” Here in part, is Ms. Linley’s endorsement for this therapy:

    “I was rather skeptical about something which basically works on the bones in your head and the fluid in your spine. But the sessions made me feel so relaxed that soon after our daughter was born, I took her to the therapist so she could reassure me there were no post-delivery repercussions at a muscular-skeletal level.

    I recently chatted to Julie Rimmington, one of Italy’s top therapists. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin in radiotherapy and for the last 20 years has been dedicating herself to Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy — with international certifications of the highest levels….”

    Here is what I posted about this therapy and Julie Rimmington…who has “international certifications of the highest levels”:

    “What utter nonsense! I visited the University of Wisconsin website and they do offer courses in radiothera­py..for cancer radiation treatments technician­s and for engineers who are designing machines and setting up radiation treatment facilities­. Even if Rimmington graduated with a “degree” in radiothera­py, it has nothing to do with her “internati­onal certificat­ions of the highest levels in biodynamic craniosacr­al therapy”. BTW which universiti­es here or abroad have undergrad or graduate programs that qualify a personal for certificat­ion in “biodynami­c craniosacr­al therapy” and what are the names of the certifying “boards.”

    I googled “Biodynami­c Craniosacr­al Therapy” and lo and behold, found a website with an “interesti­ng” article by Michael Shea about “getting permission from the infant…b­efore you provide therapy” and other pseudo-sci­ence.

    New parents, save your money and don’t let any quack therapists near your precious infant.”

    Dr. Crislip…let me state this succinctly. Craniosacral therapists pull their ideas out of their asses.

  8. AllieP says:

    The scary thing is that sometimes these quacks end up killing newborns by snapping their necks.

    I like a good massage as much as the next person, but there’s no way you’re letting a chiropractor touch my neck or get anywhere near a newborn.

  9. Harriet Hall says:

    Ah, yes, craniosacral! This brings back fond memories, as my first article to appear in print was about craniosacral guru Dr. Upledger.
    My title was “Wired to the Kitchen Sink,” referring to a patient whose “excess energy” was treated by grounding her with a long copper wire attached to the kitchen sink. Upledger went from silliness to silliness. He asked to talk to a patient’s Inner Physician, who would explain the cause of the illness. One Inner Physician appeared to the patient in the form of a seagull and asked to be addressed as “Mermaid.” In his dolphin therapy, a dolphin corrected a patient’s leg length discrepancy by touching a therapist who in turn was touching the patient.

  10. Chris says:

    If you have a kid with any kind of neurological issue CST is brought up as a possible treatment. I have had to tell more than one person that a homeopathic head massage was not going to repair damage to my son’s Broca’s and Wernicke’s area which may or may not have been from his history of seizures. I usually get a blank look.

  11. Quill says:

    I’ve actually been to a craniosacralist. A devious friend with an excellent sense of humor gave me a gift certificate to see one, knowing I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to experience such a thing. (She has also sent me to Cirque du Soleil, an evangelical Christian tent revival, a lecture by someone claiming to understand planetary intelligence, and a cooking class in which we were encouraged to talk to our pots before using them.)

    The room the CST treated patients in was very thoughtfully designed, lots of “holistic” touches, painted in soothing colors. Nice thickly padded massage table, pillows for the head and under the knees, soft music playing in the background. The session lasted about forty-five minutes and consisted mainly of “light head massage” and some kind of gentle massaging around my tailbone. It was very relaxing to the point of my falling asleep.

    Afterwards, as I was enjoying the sleepy haze I was in, it was suggested that I make regular visits as several things had been detected in my rhythms which should be balanced out or made to flow better or something like that. (I think the fact it was nearly a full moon had something to do with it as well but I was not awake enough during all this to remember it.) I said I’d think about it, which during the whole visit was probably the only time my head was actually adjusted in any beneficial way.

    As a one-off experience, it was a nice relaxing time on someone else’s dime. But as a diagnostic tool for anything at all? Eh, no. I guess I just can’t see the quantum level of it all, or don’t have the tidal perceptions needed to benefit from such a thing. Puck was surely right in noting that most mortals are fools and I guess I am one. But at least me and my money won’t soon be parted by any craniosacralists.

  12. BKsea says:

    There are actual condition, such as Chiari malformations, that are characterized by impeded CSF flow. It would be interesting to see whether the CST practitioner could detect anything amiss in these patients.

  13. lilady says:

    Here for your “enjoyment” is the gibberish I referred to in my other post regarding “getting permission from the infant-before your provide therapy”:

    “The infant needs to be fully informed of the purpose of his or her visit with the therapist. The craniosacral therapist must speak in the first person to the infant. “Do you know what I do?” The therapist explains to the infant what they do and who they are. Infants are quite capable of responding to this information except with certain kinds of shock. They often shake their head knowingly from side to side to indicate “no”. So the therapist carefully observes the infant for their communication style. Infants will use their whole body to speak in response to a question or comment. They will also verbally talk to the therapist. The conversation skills are emotionally based and developed in the body ego i.e. skin, muscles, vocal tones, micro movements, macro movements, etc. It may take a session or two for the therapist to intuit the infants unique style of communication. It is equally important to state questions and comments to the infant simply in a way that only require yes and no answers. The infant just went through a very intense experience and wants to tell the story. Someone needs to listen and the infant needs to know it’s being heard for healing to occur.”

    (Source: Infant Craniosacral Therapy-Michael Shea)

  14. DrRobert says:

    @lilady, I’m sure that will hold up in court when one of these psychopaths kills a baby.

  15. Eugenie Mielczarek says:

    Mielczarek, Dec 16 2PM
    Still in progress is a study for migraine for NCCAM. NCT 00665236.

    Grant to University of North Carolina featured the intervention “Craniosacral Therapy’
    for migraine which included magnets. “developing a clinical trial comparing craniosacral therapy versus low-strength static magnets (attention-control complementary therapy) as a treatment for preventing migraine headaches. ”

    When in doubt try two interventions.

  16. Zetetic says:


    From the text: They often shake their head knowingly from side to side to indicate “no”.

    I imagine that with the vast variaton in cultural gestures for “no”, the shaking of the baby’s head might just mean something else! Like “Get your hands off of me!”

  17. lilady says:

    @ Zetetic: It would always “help” to ask some ambiguous questions, such as “Do you NOT want me to do craniosacral therapy?”

    To elicit the “no” response, chewing on garlic just before you approach the infant face-to-face would elicit the proper response…”get away from me with your dragon breath”.

  18. Grant Ritchey says:

    Thank you for giving more attention to this scam, and amplifying the article that Steve Hendry and I penned a couple of weeks ago ( How any reasonable person can read about how Cranial Sacral Therapy works and not either spit out their beverage laughing, scratching their head in bewilderment, or curl up in the corner in despair (or a combination of the the three) is beyond me. Great article.

    Grant Ritchey

  19. Lytrigian says:

    With all these “subtle palpatory skills” resulting in “subject arousal”, you’d think they’d get arrested more often.

  20. NickD says:

    When I read this post it brought me back to the good old days of Medical School. I am DO in the US and was somewhat unfamiliar with osteopathic manipulation when I started. Of all the things we were taught CST, was by far the craziest. DO school (at least mine) was divided up by those who taught the hard sciences (medicine), and by the department who taught OMM. 1 time a week we would all get together to basically massage each other. Our CST instructors fully believed they could feel the CSF flow through the scalp and skull. Craziness! That being said, having left medical school and now being in residency, it is nice to see that many of my fellow classmates stick to the science and let the woo go.

  21. BillyJoe says:


    I’ve just been Poe’s Corollaried
    It seems Michael Shea is for real.

  22. lilady says:

    @ Billy Joe: In my wildest dream…I couldn’t make this up. Here is the prior paragraph from Shea’s website about doing an “intake” with the mother, before you ask the infant for permission to treat:

    “The therapist must find out the story of the birth but without the infant present. Otherwise it can be retraumatizing to the infant. Remember, infants hear and understand everything but in their own way. Infants experience and process the world with their whole body. We construct a body image as the world communicates to us through our skin to our internal soft tissue and fluid systems, the home of our inner world of knowing who we are. Our body is our original ego in the first six years of life. The limbic system, especially the amygdala, which is the prime significator of emotions, is quite active in babies and directly connected to the right hemisphere, the emotional cortex. The first few sessions of craniosacral therapy with an infant involve a process of discovery and observation of these deep physical and emotional interactions. The therapist must learn how to support both the mother and her child, especially allowing the infant to be in ready physical contact with her. Thus the early sessions of craniosacral therapy are more observational and contained. The therapist watches how the story of this birth is being played out between mother and child and senses slowly into the field of love and bonding being created moment by moment. I really enjoy being in the presence of the mother-infant bond. It is so incredibly warm and tender.”

    It seems to me that the “early sessions of craniosacral therapy (which) are more observational and contained”, is a way to pad the bill. It also seems to me that some people should consider if their talents would be better served by becoming breeders of tropical fish, rather than actually trying out their woo on their newborn infants. Are there any craniosacral therapists who “treat” tropical fish?

  23. therling says:

    If I have a headache, I find that going to the hair salon and having the cute assistant palpitating my head while pouring warm water and shampoo over it makes me feel much better. Could we get Medicare to pay for that? Please?

  24. deanr says:

    I was really disappointed that when they profiled Kevin Sorbo in the Oct/Nov Stroke Connection they left in the part about his cranial sacral therapist and acupuncture.

  25. ConspicuousCarl says:

    Indeed, I have a hard time inventing something crazier than this. I think it would have to involve ball bearings, but I can’t quite put anything together.

    I lost track of which page the subject of your name was addressed, so I will use this space to thank/blame you for leading me back to this nightmare-inducing puppet…

  26. DrRobert says:

    A CAM was asking me about what part of the baby stays inside the mother after birth. I told her I was not aware of any part of the baby that stayed behind, and told her about the dangers of pieces of the placenta remaining attached to the uterus, etc. She insisted that some part of the baby stays behind, because how else could “the baby and mother have the telepathic connection?”

  27. Linda Rosa says:

    Another evil application of CST:

    CST therapists are employed by some Attachment Therapists as a sort of human polygraph machine. (For anyone unfamiliar with Attachment Therapy, it is a quack psychotherapy that is literal torture; adopted children are restrained, poked, suffocated, bullied, and threatened for hours at a time.) The CST therapist’s role is to feel variations in the CS flow in the child’s arm and inform the AT therapist if the child is telling the truth. If not, the “therapy” intensifies.

    As for head massage, I was once dependent on lice pickers for about six months. It was quite pleasant, and I suspect that lice contributed to overall social harmony. If you’re a jerk, you won’t have anyone to rid you of nits.

  28. DevoutCatalyst says:

    You’re welcome. Hunger is OK, but would recommend tracks like Down the Drain,
    Confessions of 013-04-1920, and Roger — Amazon, iTunes, etc.

    @Linda Rosa
    I used to naively believe that human decency would prevent quacks from crossing certain lines, but alas that is not true. Attachment Therapy is sick.

  29. Diane Jacobs says:

    Apparently cats know how to do this instinctively.

    Should soft touch fail, they can easily switch to catupuncture.

  30. @Diane Jacobs, I used to work with a Korean woman who would occasionally share traditional Korean health tips with me. One was that allowing the sunlight to warm your solar plexus encourages good health (although in this case, there may have been a translation issue, maybe she just meant, ‘Doesn’t that feel good?’)

    I am always reminded of this when I’m sick with a virus and my little dog practices her high metabolism healing powers by curling up on my chest and generously sharing her warmth.

    Turns out all pets are natural alternative medicine practitioners.

  31. Harry says:


    Fresh off the press! These are from the most recent Journal of American Osteopathic Association!

    Effect of Cranial Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine on Cerebral Tissue Oxygenation
    Xiangrong Shi, PhD; Seth Rehrer, OMS IV; Parna Prajapati, MBBS, MPH; Scott T. Stoll, DO, PhD; Russell G. Gamber, DO, MPH; and H. Fred Downey, PhD
    J Am Osteopath Assoc 2011;111 660-666
    This crossover study revealed that cranial osteopathic manipulative medicine effectively and progressively reduced cerebral tissue oxygenation in healthy adults. The authors hypothesize that the same technique may be applied as a nonpharmacologic procedure to reduce excessive cerebral blood flow and to alleviate intracranial hypertension.

    Therapeutic Effects of Cranial Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine: A Systematic Review
    Anne Jäkel, MSc, DPhil, and Phillip von Hauenschild, BSc (Hons), Ost Med BA, ND, DO [UK]
    J Am Osteopath Assoc 2011;111 685-693
    Using the Downs and Black checklist, the authors scored the methodological quality of studies that have measured the clinical efficacy of cranial osteopathic manipulative medicine in children and adults with various conditions.

  32. David Gorski says:

    *I remain uncertain as to why the editors let these posts through.

    Because they make me giggle as much as they do you.

  33. Dr D says:

    I stumbled on a website which listed a number of osteopaths that I know as having done ‘the training’ – now they cam presumably track my tides effectively.

    Speaking of word salads, this one takes some beating. I can’t tell if they are on drugs, have run it through a (bad) machine translation or have been blindfolded and chosen scientific sounding words at random.

    The Biodynamic View

    A ‘Biodynamic View of Osteopathy in the Cranial Field’ has been designed by James S.Jealous D.O.

    The biodynamic view of osteopathy in the cranial field recognises that the embryological forces, that created the embryo, are also the forces of growth and development and the sustaining restorative forces throughout life.

    Working with these therapeutic, homeostatic forces, the practitioner is able to communicate with the reorganization of the body as a whole, through the internal disengagement, synchronization and transmutation within tissue, fluid and potency.

    The purpose of this program is to observe the laws of Nature at work throughout the body.

    With respect, patience and humility, the practitioner can witness this Tide at work, a force created by the Breath of Life, as the primary source of diagnosis and treatment.

    Dr James S. Jealous named this 8 phases curriculum Biodynamics because it focuses on contact with Tidal forces as they specifically interchange in an ever-changing motif from moment to moment. It is a living contact with life!

  34. mattyp says:

    I am a final year chiropractic student in Australia. I have just discovered this website and the Quack-cast by Dr Mark Crislip, on the suggestion of one of my professors.

    I was entertained by the suggestion that practitioners can “palpate” tidal flow of CSF. I am alarmed at the suggestion of Downs Syndrome being a therapy that can be “treated” by CST (what exactly are they treating, DNA?).

    No joke, I write this as I accidentally have Dr Oz on in the background. I’m wondering why he is performing the show in navy-blue scrubs – is he performing surgery live on the air soon?

    Cheers (and sighs),

  35. mattyp says:

    @DrRobert: is that a fair dinkum question that a CAM “practitioner” asked you? It sounds like absurd, bordering on dangerous thinking.

  36. opcnup says:

    I doubt anyone but mad dogs and Englishmen will read down this far, but I think it’s probably worth pointing out that the fellow was probably thinking of the operculum, the bony plat which covers the fishes gills, and is in fact beveled at the edges, rather than the gills themselves. Granted out sutures aren’t beveled but interlocked and fused, but it’s a much closer match for (and may be embryologically related to) the temporal bone than the gills of the fish are.

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