(Investigator 163, 2015 July)
The idea behind the craniosacral system is attributed to Dr. William G.
Sutherland (1873-1954) who, as a former student of Dr. Andrew Taylor
Still (1828-1917), the founder of osteopathy, developed his theory and
technique of cranial osteopathy over a thirty year period. Dr.
Sutherland presented a paper at a meeting of the American Osteopathic
Association in 1932.
A small number of chiropractors also practice cranial manipulative
therapy although they attribute Nephi Cottam, D.C., with the discovery
and development of the technique in the 1920s.
In the 1970s, Dr. John E. Upledger, D.O., F.A.A.O., and a team of
researchers at Michigan State University's Department of Biomechanics,
set about establishing a scientific basis for a craniosacral system.
They showed that the system could be used to evaluate and treat a
number of health problems such as migraines, toothache, physical and
psychological shock and neurological disturbances.
The theory revolves around the perception of the cranial rhythmic
impulse, involving the circulation of the cerebral spinal fluid within
the brain's central nervous system. It is believed that the brain
expands and contracts as a means of transporting cerebralspinal fluid
throughout the brain and spine — a pumping action providing nutrients
to keep them healthy.
A practitioner will begin a treatment by placing his hands lightly on
the patient's head or under the sacrum to feel the cranial rhythm. This
is considered to be at the rate of twelve cycles per minute in a
healthy individual. If it is found to be low in amplitude or
functioning eccentrically, it is corrected by a gentle, non-invasive,
hands-on manipulation. Sometimes it is combined with neck or spine
manipulation to help relieve stiffness in the neck, headaches and
"Unwinding" is another technique employed, whereby the patient is
physically supported while at the same time the practitioner maintains
contact with the craniosacral rhythm.
Craniosacral therapy is used by many healthcare professionals including
acupuncturists, chiropractors, dentists, osteopaths, occupational
therapists and medical doctors.
Dr. Still asserted that God had revealed osteopathy to him and taught
that the removal of structural defects enabled the body's "life-force"
to create health. It is essentially a holistic science and art. There
is some doubt about the basic tenet of craniosacral manipulation — the
claim that CO practitioners are able to feel small cranial pulsations
with their fingertips.
Nowhere in the entire field of scientific neurophysiology is there any
evidence to support the concept of a fundamental cranial rhythm. The
bones of the skull fuse during infancy and cannot actually be
manipulated by hand.
Any success using this therapy can only be equated with that of faith
Magner, G. 1995. .
Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY.
Raso, J. 1994. "Alternative" Health
Care: A Comprehensive Guide. Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY.
Chiropractic: the victim's perspective
Sokolow, S.M. 1983. "An Open Letter on Dr. Viola
Fryman's course." Elevator. 1983; 18(7):5.
Upledger, John E. (No date) The
Therapeutic Value of the Craniosacral System. The Upledger
Institute, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
From: Edwards, H. 1999 Alternative, Complementary, Holistic &
Spiritual Healing, Australian Skeptics Inc.