Could craniosacral therapy be a key to migraine treatment?


Local bodyworker Sue Bovenizer has been treating clients using craniosacral therapy since the 1990s.  Rammelkamp Foto Local bodyworker Sue Bovenizer has been treating clients using craniosacral therapy since the 1990s. Rammelkamp Foto

As a migraine sufferer who’s been on and off different prescriptions and treatments for 12 years, I’m skeptical of any alternative therapy with claims to address or heal chronic headaches. But I’ll try anything once, so after making some calls to Common Ground Healing Arts, I found myself covered with a bedsheet, face down on a massage table in a room with deep purple walls for my first session of craniosacral therapy (CST).

CST is a gentle, noninvasive form of bodywork that corrects restrictions in the cranial system. In layman’s terms? Someone pokes around your back, neck, head, and hips to get your spinal fluid flowing to your brain properly.

“The body is in a state of organized dysfunction in its normal state,” said local craniosacral therapist Sue Bovenizer. “Craniosacral disorganizes and reorganizes it so it functions better.”

CST involves gentle touches to the sacrum, spine, and head to feel for the motion and rhythm of cerebrospinal fluid around the brain and spinal cord, and any distortions or restrictions in those areas. Soft pressure is then used to release any tensions and realign the cranial bones so the fluid can flow freely. Bovenizer, who’s also certified in massage and aromatherapy and runs her own practice when she isn’t practicing and teaching yoga classes at Common Ground, asked before the session if I wanted to experience the full-spectrum treatment, which combines CST with massage and open dialogue.

“I kind of throw everything in on the first step,” Bovenizer said, noting that different treatments can play off of and enhance one another. “They’re all keys that can unlock the secrets of healing, and who knows which key will be the one to open that magic door that heals my client?”

I’ve had massages before, so the deep pounding and prodding on my spine and shoulders was nothing new. What I hadn’t had before was the feeling of someone else’s fingertips digging into the base of my skull. It wasn’t painful, but my migraine-prone noggin tends to be sensitive to the touch—I can’t even let another person brush my hair—and the pressure was intense.

We chatted as she worked, and when I shared that I was there in an attempt to alleviate the migraines I’ve had on a nearly weekly basis since I was 14, she began asking me questions about the onset of the headaches. Did I experience some sort of physical or emotional trauma at that age? Did I have braces? Surgery? Do I remember the exact scenario of my first migraine?

I hadn’t been prepared for a psychoanalysis, but Bovenizer explained her belief that all traumas, both physical and emotional, are stored in cellular memory. Most of her clients come to her for relief from physical pain, and she said she finds that sometimes the only solution is to access the trauma that’s locked in the cellular memory so that it can be fully released. Not everyone is into the concept of cellular communication, so she adapts her practice based on the client’s comfort level. 

“If you can drop any judgments, you’ll find that your brain is talking,” she said. “The body has so much to say if you can access its wisdom.”

I left the session feeling equal parts energized and foggy-brained. I’m not sure I’ll be trading in my prescription of Maxalt for regular craniosacral therapy sessions, but it’s worth noting that I haven’t had a migraine since then.


Feeling a little stressed and tense? If you have a few minutes while you’re running errands on Friday, stop by Rebecca’s Natural Food for a quick massage. Local massage therapist and Urban Roots Wellness Center owner Karen Rossignol will be stationed at Rebecca’s 11am-2pm providing $1 per minute chair massages that will leave you feeling rejuvenated and ready to finish out the day.

Calling all yogis! Yogaville, the ashram located 40 miles south of Charlottesville that’s known far and wide for its extensive teachings, is hosting a weekend retreat this weekend. Certified Yoga and Dharma Master Poep Sa Frank Jude Boccio will lead the two-day retreat titled “Taking refuge in a tumultuous world,” incorporating beliefs and practices from the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Tuition is $235. Make your reservations at

Club Mo Fitness, a mobile fitness club that provides on-site personal fitness in your home, office, or outdoors, is offering free classes through July 4. Visit for more details, or check out the club’s Facebook page.