Craniosacral Therapy

Craniosacral Therapy

About Craniosacral Therapy

CranioSacral Therapy (CST) is a gentle, hands-on approach that releases tensions deep in the body to relieve pain and dysfunction and improve whole-body health and performance. Using a soft touch – practitioners release restrictions in the soft tissues that surround the central nervous system. CST is increasingly used as a preventative health measure for its ability to bolster resistance to disease, and its effective for a wide range of medical problems associated with pain and dysfunction.

How is CranioSacral Therapy Performed?

CranioSacral Therapy is a gentle, non-invasive manipulative technique. Seldom does the therapist apply pressure in excess of five grams or the equivalent weight of a British 20p piece. Examination is done by testing for movement in various parts of the system. Often, when testing is completed, the restriction has been removed and the system is able to self-correct. Trained therapists are able to palpate the motion of the craniosacral system anywhere on the body.

The Therapeutic Value of the CranioSacral System

We are all familiar with the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Like them, the craniosacral system also influences many body functions. An imbalance in this system can adversely affect the brain and spinal cord which can result in the sensory, motor and intellectual dysfunction.

The name craniosacral is derived from the system’s associated bones. Included are those of the skull, face and mouth – which make up the cranium – and of the spinal column which extend down to the sacrum. Membranes enclosing a hydraulic system connect the craniosacral system.

For 20 years, osteopathic and surgeon Dr John Upledger has been the chief proponent of using the craniosacral system to evaluate and treat medical problems associated with pain and dysfunction. His reseach and clinical work with the craniosacral rhythm has led to the development of CranioSacral Therapy, a ligh-touch manipulative approach which has been effective with poorly understood dysfunctions, chronic pain, lowered vitality and recurring infections.

The positive effect of CranioSacral Therapy relies to a large extent upon the patients natural self corrective physiological activities. The therapists light, hands-on approach assists the hydraulic forces inherent in the craniosacral system to improve the internal environment.

Because of its influence on many body functions, CranioSacral Therapy is used by a wide variety of healthcare professionals including osteopaths, doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, dentists, psychologists, psychotherapists, massage therapists and acupuncturists.

A brief History of Craniosacral Therapy (CST)

While the existence of the cardiovascular and respiratory rhythms is not disputed today, a debate concerning their reality raged medical communities around the globe for centuries.




Craniosacral Therapy (CST) started off as Cranial Osteopathy (which itself is a branch of Classical Osteopathy), and then diverged from the Osteopathic mainstream, whilst retaining many elements of the philosophy of Osteopathy.

Osteopathy was devised by Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917). A surgeon-doctor during the American Civil War. Still became disillusioned by the heroic medicine of the time (consisting mainly of opium and mercury salts) after he lost two of his children to meningitis.

Osteopathy has a philosophical foundation in the New Thought movement, followed by people such as Ralph Waldo Trine. In turn, this owes many of its principles to the writings of Emmanuel Swedenborg, the 18th century Swedish scientist-engineer-philosopher and Christian mystic. Andrew Taylor Still Still was also strongly influenced by his childhood contact with the Shawnee American Indians that he met and played with on his parent's farm. He had a deep spiritual belief that informed all of his actions, and both traditional Osteopathy and CST have continued that, having a fundamentally Vitalist view of the body.


In the early 1900’s, as an osteopathic student in Kirksville, Missouri, Dr William G Sutherland a student of Andrew Taylor Still, was struck by an idea. He saw that the bones of the skull were designed to provide for movement in relationship to each other. For more than 20 years he pondered the prospect of moveable bones in the adult skull. He performed experiments on himself developing a system of treatment which became known as Cranial Osteopathy.



Further research followed over the years, with a major discovery in 1970 by a surgeon, Dr. Upledger, who was quick to understand how a hydraulic system might function inside a membranous sac encased within the skull and the canal of the spinal column.

In 1975 Dr Upledger joined the Michigan State University Osteopathic College as a clinican researcher and professor in the Department of Biomechanics and he led a mulit-disciplinary research team which first established the scientific basis for the existence of the craniosacral system and function. The team was able to explain in scientific and practical terms the function of the craniosacral system. It showed how this system could be used to evaluate and treat malfunctions involving the brain and spinal cord as well as a myriad of other health problems.  Dr John Upledger coined the term Craniosacral Therapy.


Upledger Institute


In the two decades since his origional research. Dr Upledger has written three text books: CranioSacral Therapy, CranioSacral Therapy II Beyond the Dura and SomatoEmotional Release and Beyond which explain the functioning of the craniosacral system in detail. In 1985 he established.

The Upledger Institute, a clinical and educational resource center in Florida. Since then thousands of healthcare professionals have studied the therapeutic value of the craniosacral system.

Different Streams

Since Dr John Upledger first coined the term, craniosacral therapy (CST) has broadened and diversified over recent decades into a number of distinct styles that all share a common heritage, but differ in how the work is applied in clinical practice. Now CST is truly on its way to becoming a new health technology and has effectively demonstrated its usefulness to the human race as a tool for good health.

There are now several different approaches to the philosophy of CST, for example, Upledger CST, Franklyn Sills Biodynamic CST, which has further developed into Process CST, Hugh Milne’s Visionary Craniosacral work, and many others have developed schools of philosophy and published books on the subject. There are many independent schools, which align with one approach or another or claim synthesis across the spectrum of teachings. However, they are all based on a common approach: listening to the client’s body and using very subtle techniques to effect profound change.


How to Find Practitioners Skilled on CranioSacral Therapy?

John Williams and Isabel Machado-Williams are graduates of the Upledger Institute U.K. which is based in Perth, Scotland and follows the methods of the Upledger Institute in Florida.

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