If you’re looking for a bodywork technique that can ease chronic fatigue, consider craniosacral therapy (CST).

Even though it has sparked some hard criticism, it’s a very gentle type of hands-on bodywork. Some doctors describe it as flat-out worthless, citing the lack of scientific studies verifying its effectiveness. Yet in the US, practitioners of CST include osteopathic doctors, naturopathic doctors, dentists, physical therapists and nurses—and many thousands of their patients say that the therapy has helped them.

CST is used to treat pain from head, neck and back injuries… constipation… hypertension… headache… chronic fatigue… fibromyalgia (chronic pain in muscles, ligaments and tendons)… temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ (jaw joint inflammation)… Parkinson’s disease… Bell’s palsy… vertigo and instability… and depression. CST also is used for children with behavior problems, learning disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism.

How it is done: The practitioner places his/her hands on the patient’s head and gently manipulates the bones of the skull. The basis of CST is the concept that the membrane encasing the brain and spinal cord fluid oscillates at a certain frequency, independent of the heartbeat. Accidents, illnesses and emotional trauma can restrict this oscillation. Specific manipulations of the skull (and sometimes near the tailbone) release membrane restrictions, freeing the cerebrospinal fluid to flow more efficiently throughout the cerebrospinal system. CST does not heal directly, but rather starts the body on a path toward self-healing. Because all bodily systems are interconnected, CST may indirectly benefit all tissues and organs.

CST sessions typically last 30 to 60 minutes. The frequency and number of treatments depend on the practitioner and ailment. Generally, patients go once or twice weekly for a month or more, then have occasional maintenance sessions. Cost varies depending on the region and type of practitioner. Health insurance, including Medicare, usually covers CST performed by a doctor of osteopathy (DO) and sometimes by other practitioners.

Although I did not take CST training in medical school, I did receive CST myself just to check it out. I believe it can be useful, especially for people with back or neck injuries… patients who do not like or cannot receive chiropractic adjustments… newborns who suffered neck torsion (twisting) during delivery… and children with behavior disorders. I also recall a seven-year-old patient whose very enlarged tonsils shrank by 30% after two CST treatments—and thus far, she has not needed surgery. CST may be particularly helpful when used along with chiropractic care, physical therapy and/or massage therapy. Caution: If you have a history of stroke, ask your cardiologist before trying CST—in theory, it could increase stroke risk.

First devised by an osteopathic doctor in the 1930s, CST was further developed by John E. Upledger, DO, formerly a professor of biomechanics at Michigan State University. For more information or to find a practitioner near you, visit the Web site of the Upledger Institute of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (561-622-4706. www.Upledger.com).