Cranial osteopathy and craniosacral therapy

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Craniosacral Therapy is the result of pioneering work by American Osteopath John Upledger DO FAAC. Upledger, an osteopathic surgeon, noticed a rhythmical motility of the spinal cord while observing spinal surgery.

Dr Upledger understood that this was the cranial rhythm that he had heard about in Osteopathic school. His re-discovery of this movement, prompted him to inquire into the little understood, and often arcane, branch of conventional osteopathy known as Osteopathy in the cranial field.

In the 1950s the early osteopaths, headed by the founder of Cranial work, William Sutherland DO, introduced the novel idea that the cranial and spinal dura of the body moved in rhythm, and that the cranial and all other bones reciprocated this innate movement. All tissue could be palpated as possessing a very minute movement, and that all tissue–whether bone, ligament, mucle, viscera–moved, when in health, at the same time and in various but particular planes of motion. This movement had its prime origin in the cranium, originating from a filling and partial emptying of the fluid spaces (ventricles) within the brain, as well as the brain tissue itself, and that a reciprocal movement occurs in all the vertebra and sacrum, as well as all other bones and tissues, augmented by the transmission of this rhythm and the force of it, through the ubiquitous fascial network of the body. This summated rhythm was palpable at the rate of about 10 cycles per minute. They referred to this process as the Cranial Rhythmic Impulse (CRI) and believed that this was an innate rhythm which provided a pump for the circulation of cerebral spinal fluid. The cerebrospinal fluid was found to flow through the dura, fascia and the perineural spaces of the spinal nerves. They maintained that the ventricles were the motive power of this movement and suggested that this fluid flow augmented healing, induced homeostasis, altered tissue tensity, and quieted noxious stimuli in the sympathetic system.

Physical trauma, poor diet, posture, and visceral ptosis altered the structure of the body, which in turn disorganized the musculature and its attendant fascia. These aberrant structures then caused feedback up into the spinal cord through nerve receptors relaying altered structural tone and position. The sympathetic plexi also become altered and they too, send ‘noise’ up into the spinal cord. Eventually the combined ‘noise’ of sub damaged tissues sends enormous yet often erroneous neurological information to the brain, which registers this summated display as pain or certainly as an ‘alarm’ and automatically re arranges, via the motor cortex, the intrinsic musculature of the spine and the trunk to try ‘silence’ the noisy receptors. The osteopath maxim was to

Find it (the lesion), fix it and then leave it alone
— Dr A.T Stills

The lesion, they said, was the disturbed structure which then altered the function of the system.

John Upledger took this original model and further refined it, making the dura the initial lynch pin around which his work would be founded. He called this simplified model Craniosacral Therapy. Whereas Osteopathy in the Cranial Field had long been the province only of Osteopaths, Upledger introduced this extraordinary system to practitioners of many types of body therapies.

Upledger has developed his training to assist people in growing their skills. The work is initially taught as a protocol, whereby the practitioner is taught to induce a still point, unwind fascia or dura or free the fixations of the cranial bones. This approach serves people well, and teaches a very good base of cranial work and understanding.

As student’s skills improve the training goes ‘beyond the dura’ inferring that their approach touches on the inner physician (sic) and the innate capacity for healing to arise spontaneously. This approach moves beyond the simple unwinding and facilitative protocol initially taught.

Cranial Fluid Dynamics further expands Upledger’s work by introducing the idea that it is human consciousness that governs structures, and ultimately alters the function of the human being, creating states of dysfunction and disease. The use of Ontological Kinesiology enables the practitioner to “dialogue” with the client at the deepest levels of subconscious to determine not only the precise nature of the dysfunction, but also what is needed to begin to resolve the aberrant state. This revolutionary method pays tribute to the innate wisdom of the being, enabling the practitioner to step away form the role of “healer” and into that of facilitator of the client’s own process.