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Craniosacral Therapy for Mesothelioma Patients

Patients living with mesothelioma face a lot of difficult decisions, including what treatment approaches to take. While traditional treatments, like surgery, chemotherapy, surgery, and important emerging treatments are necessary to help battle any type of cancer, more patients are also including alternative practitioners and strategies in their treatment plans.

There are many options for complementary and alternative medical practices, and most oncology teams will happily work with these practitioners to give patients the best overall care. Craniosacral therapy is one of these alternative practices that can be a great complement to the traditional treatment mesothelioma patients undergo. It may provide benefits like pain relief, increased mobility, faster recovery from surgery, and many others.

craniosacral therapy

What is Craniosacral Therapy?

Craniosacral therapy, which is also sometimes called cranial therapy or cranial osteopathy, is a type of body work, massage therapy, and osteopathic manipulation. The practice involves gentle manipulation, much like massage, of bones and connective tissue. The main targets of this type of therapy are the skull and the sacrum, which is the bone at the base of the spine.

The philosophy behind craniosacral therapy is that the spine and brain, which make up the central nervous system, give off subtle rhythmic energies or pulses that are important for health and well-being. Practitioners claim to be able to sense and manipulate these pulses to help patients get relief from symptoms of certain conditions. These include chronic pain, neck pain, headaches, insomnia, asthma, scoliosis, irritable bowel syndrome, sinus infections, chronic fatigue syndrome, and many more.

Research into the effectiveness of this alternative practice is limited, but patients often report finding at least some relief from symptoms. For mesothelioma and other types of cancer, there is no proof that craniosacral therapy is a valid treatment, but this does not necessarily mean it should be discounted. It has been found to be a useful complementary treatment as it helps cancer patients feel more relaxed and relieves tension, which results in improved quality of life and better overall well-being.

Who Provides Craniosacral Therapy?

Craniosacral therapy is an offshoot of osteopathy or osteopathic medicine, a branch of medicine that focuses on a holistic approach to treating patients and on the musculoskeletal system. Osteopathic doctors receive all the same training as medical doctors, are licensed physicians, and are able to treat patients and prescribe medications. Their education includes extra coursework and training in osteopathic manipulation, manipulation of the musculoskeletal system to relieve pain, improve mobility, and support the natural healing of the body.
A doctor of osteopathy may also have training in craniosacral therapy and is a good choice for a practitioner for this kind of treatment. Craniosacral therapy is not limited to these professionals, though. Nurses, massage therapists, naturopathic physicians, and physical therapists are other health care professionals who may have been trained in it and who are able to help mesothelioma patients benefit from this type of therapy.

Benefits for Mesothelioma Patients

Mesothelioma patients often suffer from a number of symptoms of the cancer and of the treatments that are fighting the cancer. While craniosacral therapy does not treat the cancer directly, it may help patients get relief from some of the symptoms and side effects of living with this illness. One of the most common symptoms of cancer and cancer treatments is pain, and pain relief is one of the most common uses for craniosacral therapy.

Cancer patients who have undergone surgery, for instance, experience pain after the procedure and craniosacral therapy has been successfully used to reduce that pain. The results have been difficult to quantify through research, but many cancer patients have turned to this therapy to get relief from all kinds of associated pain.

Relief of pain helps to make movement easier and craniosacral therapy may provide patients with greater mobility as a result. Another important benefit is relief of stress and anxiety. Many patients say that the treatment helps them relax and minimizes the negative feelings that are common with cancer. Together all of these benefits have the overall advantage of giving mesothelioma patients a greater quality of life while fighting cancer.

Another benefit of craniosacral therapy is that it may provide a good alternative to massage therapy. Massage has many benefits, but some patients are too sensitive to be able to withstand the physical manipulations. Especially for advanced mesothelioma patients, the touch provided by massage may cause more pain in areas where there are metastatic tumors. Craniosacral therapy is conducted with a very light touch and more sensitive patients are better able to tolerate it.

Risks and Side Effects

Besides the reported benefits, a good reason to try craniosacral therapy is because it is very low risk. Adverse reactions to the treatment are limited. One small study found that five percent of patients receiving the therapy felt worse after, but the rest felt better. Because the tough and manipulation are so light with this therapy, risks are low. Even so, it is important to talk to your medical team before trying craniosacral therapy. Your doctor can tell you if you have any limitations that should be considered before undergoing this kind of treatment.

What to Expect

If you choose to work with a practitioner of craniosacral therapy, you can expect to first be examined and to be questioned about your health and current treatments. It is best if your practitioner is in contact with your medical team too, to ensure that you are getting the best and safest care. Once the practitioner has examined you for how your body moves and any physical restrictions, the craniosacral therapy can begin.

For the treatment you will likely be lying on an examination table or a table similar to those used by massage therapist. The practitioner will make sure you are comfortable and then will begin to use his or her hands to manipulate your head, skull, and the lower part of your back, the sacrum. The touch should be very light and you should not feel any discomfort. In fact, you should experience a sense of relaxation. Your practitioner may also use some light massage therapy techniques. You should speak up if anything feels too intense or uncomfortable and the practitioner can make modifications. The session may last between 30 and 45 minutes.

Craniosacral therapy is an important type of alternative treatment for many patients. Mesothelioma and other types of cancer patients rely on treatments like these to complement traditional medicine and to help relieve symptoms like pain and immobility. If you want to try craniosacral therapy, be sure to discuss it with your doctor and medical team and find a practitioner who is licensed as a professional health care worker with extra training in craniosacral therapy and manipulation.

Page edited by Dave Foster

Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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