Dr. William Garner Sutherland is the founder of the theory and practice of craniosacral techniques as part of osteopathy.
Dr. John E. Upledger popularized these techniques in the form of craniosacral therapy and made their practice available to all professionals in the healing field within the United States.
Craniosacral therapy operates on the following basic principles:
- The bones of the skull continue to move until we die. The sutures that connect these bones are live tissue, containing nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. Thus, any trauma to the head or face may shift these bones and result in numerous different symptoms, such as changes in vision, headaches, nausea, mental fogginess, fatigue, mood changes, hormonal imbalance, and many more. These symptoms occur because a shift in the head bones may compress or stretch the cranial nerves as they exit the skull.
- The brain and the spinal cord are contained as one unit within a membranous sac , called the meninges.
- The meninges are attached to the inside of the skull, the first two vertebrae below the head, and the base of the sacrum. Since the spine is the highway of the nervous system, relaying messages via the spinal nerves from the brain to the body, and from the body back to the brain, any trauma to the head or spine may result in musculo-skeletal pain, impaired breathing, digestive upset, irregular bowel movements (constipation or loose stools), difficult periods (menses), and PMS, among others.
- The brain and the spinal cord are surrounded, bathed, nourished, cleansed, and supported by the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), all contained within the membranous sac.
- The CSF moves in and out of this unit at a rhythm that is slower than the heart rate and faster than the respiratory rate. It is unique for each individual.
- This rhythm is called the primary respiratory rhythm. It is also referred to as the craniosacral rhythm.
- The primary respiratory rhythm is transmitted from the craniosacral system (membranous sac, attached to the head (cranium) bones at one end and the sacrum at the other end) to the rest of the body via the connective tissue..
- The meninges are part of the connective tissue that holds all the cells, tissues, organs, and body structures together.
- The craniosacral therapist can detect this rhythm anywhere in the body.
- When the body is injured, or stressed via poor posture, repetitive motion, asymmetric activities, emotional distress, mental strain, infections, etc., the connective tissue becomes distorted, and the primary respiratory rhythm changes accordingly. These changes are also picked up by the therapist.
- Through gentle touch, the therapist assists the body in releasing the tensions in the connective tissue resulting from these stresses, allowing the primary respiratory rhythm to re-balance itself.
To learn more about who benefits from craniosacral therapy and how this therapy affects the body, see the posts on who benefits from, and the goal/effects of, craniosacral therapy.