William Sutherland, the discoverer of cranio-sacral was in the osteopathic bone library studying the joints of the cranium, which interested him, being a mechanical engineer in his first career. There are 26 bones in the cranium. The joints, William noticed, were shaped to allow certain motions. Some joints were tongue-in-groove, other joints met like interlaced miniature fingers. Some joints abutted like blocks. Then one joint type, in particular, gave William the “Aha!” moment; The joint above either ear looked like a fish gill—a thin overlapping arc spanning over the ear across the side of the head. The head is breathing! Even though William was being taught that ALL cranial joints “fuse” in adulthood, he could see that, no, the cranium is designed to move…and is in fact designed to “breathe” with an expanding/contracting movement.

William Sutherland began to practice with his hands on his own head, and also on his fellow classmates’ heads. After a while he was able to perceive and to document exactly “how” the cranium moves…the speed, the amplitude, the arcing pattern of each of the 26 bones in the head (or cranium) was documented by him.

Once he became an osteopathic doctor, Dr. Sutherland was out there working his method on his patients, and telling other osteopaths about it. There is a twelve-second pulse in the body that can be focused with manipulation into the stuck spots to gain openness and normalcy to the area again. The pulse emanates from the cranium and spine, but it also runs everywhere in the body, all the way down to the toes.

It is still not clear to this day what creates the pulse

Dr. Sutherland tried for years to get his techniques and understanding to be accepted and taught by schools of osteopathy, and, long story short, he finally succeeded. It is due to this one man that brought forth the understanding of cranio-sacral manual therapy, first to his followers, then to students of osteopathy as a whole, and now to cranio-sacral therapists all over the world.

We would be missing an important part of the story if we did not give some honor to the man who brought cranio-sacral to the masses in recent history. Used to be, cranio-sacral techniques were only taught in osteopathic colleges. Cranio-sacral techniques were protected,…just like you have to go to a doctor of chiropractic to get a chiropractic adjustment, or a licensed acupuncturist to get an acupuncture treatment. But with the changes in the osteopathic profession and with less attention being paid to the teaching and performance of all manual therapies within osteopathy, one osteopathic doctor named John Upledger wanted to keep the cranio-sacral traditions alive. Against the wishes of his profession, Dr. Upledger started teaching these techniques to anybody who had a license to work on bodies. This occurred in the 1970s. Dr. John Upledger started the “Upledger Institute” in Florida which still teaches “Cranio Sacral Therapy ™ ” nationwide. Now massage therapists and other types of doctors may learn and practice cranio-sacral techniques.

Copyright Sylvia Skefich 2019