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The Somatic Connection  |   July 2016
Craniosacral Therapy Shown Beneficial in Management of Chronic Neck Pain
Author Notes
  • University of California, San Diego School of Medicine 
Article Information
The Somatic Connection   |   July 2016
Craniosacral Therapy Shown Beneficial in Management of Chronic Neck Pain
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, July 2016, Vol. 116, 486-487. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2016.095
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, July 2016, Vol. 116, 486-487. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2016.095
Haller H, Lauche R, Cramer H, et al. Craniosacral therapy for the treatment of chronic neck pain: a randomized sham-controlled trial. Clin J Pain. 2016;32:441-449. doi:10.1097/AJP.0000000000000290. 
Physical therapy researchers used craniosacral therapy (CST) in the management of chronic neck pain at the Department of Internal and Integrative Medicine at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Essen, Germany. Inclusion criteria were “an age of 18 to 65 years; chronic nonspecific neck pain for 3 months or more with at least moderate pain intensity of 45 mm or higher on a 100-mm visual analog scale (VAS),” and no familiarity with CST. Exclusion criteria included specific neck pain due to degenerative disease (eg, disc prolapse), inflammatory disease (eg, spondylitis), neurologic disease (eg, neuropathy), physical trauma (eg, whiplash), neoplasms of the spine, severe psychiatric condition (eg, depression), pregnancy, or use of corticosteroids, opiates, or muscle relaxants. 
Fifty-four participants were randomly assigned to the CST group (n=27) or the sham group (n=27). Both groups were told they would receive 1 of 2 CST techniques. Standardized treatment protocols consisted of 8 units of CST or sham once per week for 45 minutes each. The CST protocol included the following: 

frontal and parietal lift, medial compression of the parietal bones, release of the sagittal suture and atlanto-occipital joint, compression-decompression of the sphenobasilar and temporomandibular joints, cranial base release, release of the hyoid diaphragm and the thoracic inlet, dural tube traction, respiratory and pelvic diaphragm release, lumbosacral and sacroiliac decompression, fascial unwinding of the neck/shoulder and lower limbs, and still point induction.

 
These procedures are familiar to those who use osteopathic cranial manipulative medicine (OCMM). The sham protocol comprised light touch to the same areas of the body to which CST was applied for 2 minutes each. 
The primary outcome measure was pain intensity average during the last 7 days of week 8 and at week 20 (follow-up) as recorded on the VAS. Secondary measures included pain on movement, functional disability, and body awareness. The primary outcome on the pain VAS was significant and clinically relevant at week 8 (P=.001) and at week 20 (P=.003). Significant between-group differences at week 20 were found for pain on movement, functional disability, and body awareness. No serious adverse effects were reported. 
Although it is difficult to directly compare OCMM with CST because of the differences in training of physical therapists and osteopathic physicians, these data are useful for further research in OCMM.