What Is Craniosacral Massage Therapy?


Nancy Rizner, a massage therapist at Integrative Medicine at APD, creates an individualized care plan for each client.

“I sit down and listen to what the person is saying: what goes on in their life, what issues they might be having, stressors, illnesses, allergies,” she said. “I unwind the story from the person and create a care plan from that story.”

Her tool kit combines Swedish massage with Japanese Shiatsu, creating “my own gentle, full body technique,” said Rizner, who has been practicing massage since 2016. “It’s an integrative approach using the zen Shiatsu I know and love and anatomy and physiology concepts of Swedish massage.”

Craniosacral massage therapy is typically hands-on bodywork on the skull, where the pulse and rhythm of the craniosacral system can be felt. In her practice Rizner expands the gentle, intuitive technique, bringing deep listening and gentle unwinding to a client’s entire body.

“There’s a gentle holding of different channels to help the body relax and rebalance,” she said. “I’m listening, waiting for the body to tell me it is relaxing. It can be subtle, and the body can tell you to hold or move on. It takes knowledge of anatomy as well as intuition and expertise.”

Craniosacral massage therapy has helped a client with sciatica, a severe radiating pain caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, as well as those with difficult pain: nerve pain, chronic muscle tension, or injury pain.

“After rotator cuff surgery, one client could not raise his hands above the waistline and needed to drive. All the tools came out, including hot stone massage and craniosacral therapy, and he was able to get back into his truck,” Rizner said.

Rizner was a home health aide working with older adults in Vermont when she injured her back. She tried a variety of techniques — tai chi, Shiatsu massage, Qigong, acupuncture — for several years and the experiences led her to a career as a massage therapist. “I took my first class in Swedish massage and that was it. I was there,” she said.

Now, at Integrative Medicine at APD, she shares her love of massage with clients from New Hampshire and Vermont. “A massage could be huge for someone with a lot of things going on,” Rizner said. “I call it ‘a window of opportunity.’ A window, or a breath, of something different.”