Book your appointment online now at

References and Citations

Massage Therapy

definition of massage therapy in California  

Here’s a definition the CAMTC – California Massage Therapy Council – is considering:

“(A) The practice of Massage Therapy means the manual application of a system of structured touch to the soft tissues of the human body, including but not limited to:

(1) Assessment, evaluation, or treatment;

(2) Pressure, friction, stroking, rocking, gliding, kneading, percussion or vibration;

(3) Active or passive stretching of the body within the normal anatomical range of movement;

(4) Use of manual methods or mechanical or electrical devices or tools that mimic or enhance the action of human hands;

(5) Use of topical applications such as lubricants, scrubs or herbal preparations;

(6) Use of hot or cold applications;

(7) Use of hydrotherapy;

(8) Client education.”

definition of soft tissue:

A generic term for muscle, fat, fibrous tissue, blood vessels, or other supporting tissue matrix

~McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine

In anatomy, soft tissue includes the tissues that connect, support or surround other structures and organs of the body, not being hard tissue such as bone. Soft tissue includes tendons, ligaments, fascia, skin, fibrous tissue, fat and synovial membranes (which are connective tissue), and muscles, nerves and blood vessels (which are not connective tissue).

~Wikipedia definition sourced from National Cancer Institute

...body tissue except bone, teeth, nails, hair, and cartilage

~Mosby's Dental Dictionary, 2nd edition

Massage Therapy has the following effects on systems of the body:

(Integumentary/Skin, Muscular, Skeletal, Nervous, Circulatory, Respiratory, Digestive, Urinary)

Integumentary System (Skin)

  • Exfoliates skin cells. The act of rubbing the skin aids turnover of cells in the epidermis.
  • Stimulates sebaceous glands, which improves the softness, suppleness and elasticity of skin.
  • Increases scar tissue mobility regardless of the age of the scar (though it is ideal to work with a newly formed scar).
  • Increases local circulation, which brings fresh nutrients to the skin and aids in the removal of waste products.
  • Lubricates the skin. The lubricants used in massage therapy nourish and condition the skin

Muscular System

  • Decreases muscle tension in hypertonic muscles.
  • Reduces muscle spasm.
  • Reduces adhesions in muscles and fascia.
  • Strengthens weakened muscles by movement against resistance.
  • Promotes muscular balance, leading to better posture.
  • Increases flexibility and range of motion.
  • Decreases soreness, fatigue, and muscle recover time after strenuous exercise.
  • Promotes healing after any injury (physical, emotional, or psychological).

Skeletal System and Joints:

  • Increases circulation, which nourishes joints and increases waste removal.
  • Reduces tension on joints and joint stiffness. Releases joint strain.
  • Increases range of motion.
  • Reduces fascial restrictions.
  • Restores posture and alignment.
  • Reduces inflammation.

Nervous System:

  • Stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which sends the body into rest and recovery (healing) mode.
  • Changes the levels of chemical messengers, which influence both physiological and psychological functions.
  • Increases oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin.
  • Decreases cortisol and histamine.
  • Supports natural biological rhythms and homeostasis. Sleep is improved after receiving massage.
  • Neuromuscular and somatic reflexive mechanisms can be manipulated by massage techniques to alter muscular tension, reeducate proprioceptors and facilitate developmental milestones.
  • Decreases pain through gated mechanisms. Massage interrupts the pain-spasm-pain cycle by releasing nerves trapped in soft tissue and by deactivating trigger points.

Circulatory System:

  • Improves local circulation.
  • When muscle or other tension is decreased through massage, blood can flow more freely.
  • Massage creates torsion/twist in the tissue, stimulating the release of histamine (a vasodilator) which opens the blood vessels and promotes greater circulation.
  • Initially massage stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which flushes the body with blood. After a short time the parasympathetic nervous system takes over and blood flow is shunted back to the core of the body so healing can occur.The movement of blood to the core of the body is why many clients feel cold during a massage if not adequately warmed with blankets or table heating pads.
  • Massage mechanically pushes interstitial fluid into circulation, increasing blood volume.
  • Supports venous return by using distal to proximal strokes on extremities.
  • Decreases blood pressure, resulting from the combination of vasodilation and the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. If a relaxing massage is received once a week, blood pressure can stay low.

Respiratory System:

  • Facilitates the client’s awareness of breathing, and can help establish deep, free natural respiratory patterns.
  • Loosens mucus in the lungs and aids mucus expulsion.
  • Increases oxygen saturation levels, thoracic gas volume, peak flow, forced expiratory volume, and forced vital capacity.
  • Decreases laryngeal tension by using techniques focused on the muscles of the shoulder and neck.

Digestive System:

  • Activates the parasympathetic nervous system so the body goes into recovery mode, which reduces stress related digestive disorders. Digestive system becomes activated in parasympathetic mode. (You may hear gurgling when receiving a massage. It's OK!)
  • Regular massage therapy can be important in the healing of chronic digestive disorders.
  • Massage therapy helps to relieve constipation when applied in a clockwise manner to the abdominal area, specifically the large intestines.

Urinary System:

  • Increases blood circulation, which increases the blood volume and filtration rate within the kidneys, thus increasing the production rate of urine.
  • Activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes urine production, leading to increased urination after a massage. Drink water after a massage to help replace fluids expelled during post-massage urination.

CranioSacral Therapy


  • Recent brain hemorrhage or stroke.  Proceed after your physician,verifies there is no more bleeding and gives the go-ahead,
  • Recent spinal tap or puncture in the craniosacral system. Proceed after your physician verifies there is no more leaking of spinal fluid and gives the go-ahead.
  • Arnold Chiari Malformation. This is an incomplete Foramen Magnum in which the inferior poles of the Cerebellar hemispheres and the Medulla protrude and may herniate through the Foramen Magnum. Proceed after your physician gives the go-ahead.
  • Recent fracture of skull bones, vertebral column or ribs.
  • Any condition that would be made worse by increasing the amount of pressure on the Brain or Spinal Cord (intracranial pressure) including cerebral hemorrhage or acute aneurism.
Even if you get your doctor's permission for CranioSacral Therapy, make sure to tell your therapist about these recent conditions so she can modify the session as necessary.

Published research and articles of interest in scientific journals

Craniosacral Therapy Shown Beneficial in Management of Chronic Neck Pain.

J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2016 Jul 1;116(7):486-7. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2016.095.

King HH


Benefits of Craniosacral Therapy in Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

J Altern Complement Med.  2016 Aug;22(8):650-7. doi: 10.1089/acm.2016.0068. Epub 2016 Jun 27.

Castro-Sanchez AM, Lara-Palomo IC, Mataran-Penarrocha GA, Saavedra-Hernandez M, Perez-Marmol JM, Aguilar-Ferrandiz ME


Feeding in the NICU: A Perspective from a Craniosacral Therapist.

Neonatal Netw. 2016;35(2):105-7. doi: 10.1891/0730-0832.35.2.105. 

 Quraishy K


20+ Years of Infant Craniosacral Therapy Practice

Midwifery Today Int Midwife. 2015 Winter;(116):16-9.

Gray C.


Cranial Treatment and Spinal Manipulation for a Patient With Low Back Pain: A Case Study

J Chiropr Med. 2015 Mar;14(1):57-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jcm.2014.12.001. Epub 2015 Jan 22.

Powell W 2nd, Knaap SF


Craniosacral Therapy for the Treatment of Chronic Neck Pain: A Randomized Sham-controlled Trial

Clin J Pain. 2016 May;32(5):441-9. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000000290.

Haller H, Lauche R, Cramer H, Rampp T, Saha FJ, Ostermann T, Dobos G


Treating the sequelae of postoperative meningioma and traumatic brain injury: a case of implementation of craniosacral therapy in integrative inpatient care

J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Feb;21(2):110-2. doi: 10.1089/acm.2013.0283. Epub 2015 Jan 21.

Haller H, Cramer H, Werner M, Dobos G

Credibility of a comparative sham control intervention for Craniosacral Therapy in patients with chronic neck pain.

Complement Ther Med. 2014 Dec;22(6):1053-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2014.09.007. Epub 2014 Oct 6.

Haller H, Ostermann T, Lauche R, Cramer H, Dobos G.


Heart rate variability and the influence of craniosacral therapy on autonomous nervous system regulation in persons with subjective discomforts: a pilot study.

J Integr Med. 2014 May;12(3):156-61. doi: 10.1016/S2095-4964(14)60021-2.

Girsberger W, Banziger U, Lingg G, Lothaller H, Endler PC.


Is craniosacral therapy effective for migraine? Tested with HIT-6 Questionnaire.

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2013 Feb;19(1):11-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2012.09.003. Epub 2012 Nov 9.

Arnadottir TS, Sigurdardottir AK


Multipractitioner Upledger CranioSacral Therapy: descriptive outcome study 2007-2008.

J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Jan;17(1):13-7. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0644. Epub 2011 Jan 9.

Harrison RE, Page JS


A randomized controlled trial investigating the effects of craniosacral therapy on pain and heart rate variability in fibromyalgia patients.

Clin Rehabil. 2011 Jan;25(1):25-35. doi: 10.1177/0269215510375909. Epub 2010 Aug 11.

Castro-Sanchez AM, Mataran-Penarrocha GA, Sanchez-Labraca N., Quesada-Rubio JM, Granero-Molina, J., Moreno-Lorenzo C.


Craniosacral therapy (2): postnatal care for parents and babies.

Pract Midwife 2010 Jun;13(6):31-2.

Copp S


Craniosacral therapy (1): from conception to birth.

Pract Midwife. 2010 May;13(5):20-2.

Copp S

The effects of massage therapy on pain management in the acute care setting.

Int J Ther Massage Bodywork 2010 Mar 17;3(1):4-11.

Adams R, White B, Beckett C.


Temporal bone misalignment and motion asymmetry as a cause of vertigo: the craniosacral model.

Altern Ther Health Med. 2009 Nov-Dec;15(6):38-42.

Christine DC


Case study in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: the corrective aspect of craniosacral fascial therapy.

Explore (NY) 2009 Sep-Oct;5(5):296-8. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2009.06.003.

Gillespie BR

Influence of craniosacral therapy on anxiety, depression and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia.

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2011;2011:178769. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nep125. Epub 2011 Jun 15.

Mataran-Penarrocha GA, Castro-Sanchez AM, Garcia GC, Moreno-Lorenzo C, Carreno TP, Zafra MD


Cerebrospinal fluid stasis and its clinical significance.

Altern Ther Health Med. 2009 May-Jun;15(3):54-60.

Whedon JM, Glassey D


Effect of craniosacral therapy on lower urinary tract signs and symptoms in multiple sclerosis.

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2009 May;15(2):72-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2008.12.006. Epub 2009 Jan 30.

Raviv G, Shefi S, Nizani D, Achiron A.


Craniosacral therapy in the midwifery model of care.

Midwifery Today Int Midwife 2008 Autumn;(87):14-5, 65.

Spencer KM.


Craniosacral still point technique: exploring its effects in individuals with dementia.

J Gerontol Nurs. 2008 Mar;34(3):36-45.

Gerdner LA, Hart LK, Zimmerman MB.


Case study in pediatric asthma: the corrective aspect of craniosacral fascial therapy

Explore (NY) 2008 Jan-Feb;4(1):48-51. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2007.10.001.

Gillespie BR


Treatment Preferences for CAM in children with chronic pain.

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2007 Sep;4(3):367-74.

Tsao JC, Meldrum M, Kim SC, Jacob MC, Zeltzer LK.


The impact of acupuncture and craniosacral therapy interventions on clinical outcomes in adults with asthma.

Explore (NY). 2007 Jan-Feb;3(1):28-36.

Mehl-Madrona L, Kligler B, Silverman S, Lynton H, Merrell W.


Changes in elongation of falx cerebri during craniosacral therapy techniques applied on the skull of an embalmed cadaver.

Cranio, 1992 Jan;10(1):9-12.

Kostopoulos DC, Keramidas, G.


Dental considerations of the craniosacral mechanism.

Cranio, 1985 Sep-Dec;3(4):380-4.

Gillespie, BR.

(c) 2012-2019 Breathe Easy Bodywork at Breathing Retraining Center LLC

12 Mitchell Blvd., San Rafael, CA 94903

Massage and bodywork is provided for the basic purpose of relaxation and relief of muscular tension. Massage or bodywork should not be construed as a substitute for medical examination, diagnosis or treatment. Massage/bodywork practitioners are not qualified to perform spinal or skeletal adjustments, diagnose, prescribe or treat any physical or mental illness. Nothing said in the course of bodywork sessions should be construed as such. Massage/bodywork should NOT be performed under certain medical conditions. Please fill out your intake form with care and advise us of updates.