Cranial sacral therapy

Cranial Sacral therapy and naturopathy in the treatment of food intolerance - Roger James talks to to therapist Tom Greenfield

Roger James talks to therapist Tom Greenfield
When Tom Greenfield sees someone with a food sensitivity or food intolerance for the first time he approaches them with the eyes and mind of a naturopath. He will listen to them and decide, as with all new clients, whether to approach their problems on a physical, mental/emotional or nutritional level, or some combination of these. Not much doubt that diet will enter into his thinking in this kind of case, but, as a craniosacral therapist, he has other weapons in his armoury besides nutritional advice.

The case of Susan (not her real name) illustrates the complex way in which one’s physical – and in other cases emotional – state interacts with diet to produce health or disease. She is a woman who suffered from migraines for years. When she gave birth in her thirties she noticed a definite worsening of the intensity and frequency of attacks. Then again at the onset of the menopause the migraines got worse still. She was getting two attacks a week and eventually had to give up work. So bad was the associated vomiting that her husband sometimes had to call a doctor in the night to administer an anti-nausea drug. She was able to get relief from the pain by taking Imigran (brand name of the drug Sumatriptan) but sometimes the effect of the drug wore off before the attack ended and if she was vomiting she could not take the pill.

She went to see Tom Greenfield in the spring of 2003. A blood test showed that she was blood type O, and on the basis of this he advised a diet free of dairy products and wheat. She has followed this stringently ever since and it quickly made a difference. She then looked for the trigger that was sometimes giving her a migraine soon after meals and it turned out to be onions; the after-meal attacks stopped altogether although she was sometimes waking up in pain. Tom decided to recommend that the dietary approach should be supplemented with some cranial therapy sessions, and Susan agreed to this. She had told him she thought her neck was misaligned and one elbow joint was troubling her.

What is Cranial Sacral Therapy ?
A word of explanation is necessary here because those therapeutic first cousins, cranial osteopathy and craniosacral therapy, are even now not very widely known. Both derive from the work of a 20th Century American osteopath William Sutherland. He postulated that the system formed by the brain and spinal cord, bathed and cushioned in cerebro-spinal fluid and in turn surrounded by the dural membrane lining the inside of the skull and the spine, was in a state of perpetual rhythmic motion – a rhythm which could be felt by those with trained and sensitive hands. He further found that by palpating this rhythm, the therapist could feel restrictions, twists and pulls, and that by working with these he could help the body to restore itself to health. He also found that the bones of the head, far from being rigidly fused were capable of subtle movements one against another – a movement driven by the rhythm already mentioned. Cranial work is used to treat many conditions, from head and back pain to autism and emotional problems.

Susan had eight treatments between June and October. When I spoke to her she said these sessions had been ‘absolutely brilliant’. Her spine had been off centre and this had been corrected. She remembered involuntary muscle movements during the treatments, which Tom had explained as being the body re-aligning itself. She also felt a deep relaxation. At the time we spoke she had not had a migraine for two weeks.

From Tom’s perspective, he saw the cranial treatment as helping to improve Susan’s vitality and hence her general health. Specifically, he worked on the celiac plexus which is a complex system of interconnected nerves in the abdomen, operating a bit like an electronic processor, and controlling the gut. It is, he explained, one of the few parts of the peripheral nervous system that can ‘think for itself’. He worked too on Susan’s head, and found that in time the occiput, the bone forming the back of the skull, began to free itself up.

The relaxation was important too, as he sees most of us in this society being in a constant state of adrenal stimulation, resulting from over-stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. And of course one of the many important functions of the autonomic nervous system, of which the sympathetic nerves are a part, is controlling the working of our digestions.

Was it the diet or the cranial treatment that had made Susan feel so much better? Tom believes both played their part although other cases of food intolerance might be better treated by dietary advice alone or cranial work alone. However the combined approach works well for young children, from those just weaned up to about 2 or 3 years, who were suffering from childhood eczema. In such cases he advises leaving off all dairy products, but there is a tendency for this to ‘slip’ – over time the child starts having milk or dairy products again and the eczema returns but using craniosacral treatment can raise the tolerance threshold.

Releasing compression at the base of the cranium, often caused by the head being pushed down towards the spine during birth, will allow the whole system to function properly and toxins can be eliminated normally and not through the skin via the eczema.

Cranio sacral therapy can also help in cases of chronic sinus congestion. It is a condition Tom often sees in people with blood type A. He says, ‘I think most mucous membrane ‘catarrhal’ problems are diet-related, but it can take a long time to clear the backlog, so to speak, through dietary methods if someone needs to make major changes. Cranial treatment supports a person’s ability to express their vitality. If the area of weakness appears to be only nutritional then craniosacral therapy (CST) is not needed. But there may have been bad eating and nutritional deficiency over many years, and then CST may speed the process.’

He says his focus in this treatment is the tension in the falx cerebri, the membrane dividing the two halves of the cerebral cortex, and also the ethmoid bone, the rather small bone which forms part of the orbits of the eyes, the nasal cavity and the floor of the cranium. To mention which is to make clear that the craniosacral therapist is always very aware of the body’s structures as he works; paradoxically, at the same time he is treating the whole person.

Tom regularly uses blood tests to assess the way our genetic make-up is influencing how we are now. He calls them a window on to the genes. As an example relevant to those with sinus congestion, a blood test can reveal whether the sufferer is one of those who secrete blood antigens in their mucus or in the class who do not. The former have their first line of defence against infection in the mucus, the latter fight the immune fight further in – in the bloodstream – and hence are more prone to sinus troubles.

Useful Contacts:
Tom Greenfield
practises at the Canterbury Osteopathic Clinic and can be contacted on 01227 761000.

You can find out about craniosacral therapists in your area by phoning 07000 784 735, writing to the Craniosacral Therapy Association, 27 Old Gloucester St, London, WC1N 3XX or visiting the website

A register of naturopaths is kept by the GCRN:;; 08707 456984.

Not all naturopaths do the kind of blood typing practised by Tom Greenfield.


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First Published in 2003

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