By Riva Preil
The craniosacral (CS) system refers to the brain, spinal cord, and surrounding membrane (referred to as the Dura Mater). The CS system also contains cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) which is constantly being produced and reabsorbed. It is a semi-closed hydraulic system that undergoes pressure changes continuously due to the fluid pressure changes with the cerebrospinal fluid. The system was first explored by Dr. A.T. Still, an osteopath who studied the body as a unit, in the early 1900s. His student, Dr. William Sutherland, continued his work in the 1920s. Dr. Sutherland realized that the sutures of the brain, the joints where the cranial bones meet, are designed for movement and mobility. (This opposed the previously held belief by most in the medical community that the sutures are fixed and immobile structures.) He explained how impaired movement of these bones and joints can interfere with the craniosacral system and must be mobilized in order to restore full health and function. He also described the primary respiratory mechanism, the phenomenon of constant rhythmic motions, especially the temporal bone, due to the cerebrospinal fluid pressure changes.
Dr. Sutherland opened the Cranial Academy in 1947, where his student, Dr. John Upledger, known in the field as the father of craniosacral therapy, furthered his studies. He confirmed that the cranial bones are not fused, that the sutures are vascularized, innervated, and fibrous structures, and the presence of energetic fields. He also put forth the Pressurestat Model, the concept of the craniosacral rhythm being palpable throughout the body (not just within the brain and spinal cord) due to the aforementioned fluid filled hydraulic system. This model takes into account the effect of both the osseous (bone related) and membranous factors in contributing to the craniosacral system function. He also worked with children who have autism and discovered that cranial work helped improve their learning abilities, concentration, and social skills. Dr. Upledger created the Upledger Institute International which trains medical care providers in the practice of craniosacral therapy.
Several therapists at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy are trained in these techniques which help mobilize and restore function to the craniosacral system. To experience the benefits of this subtle yet powerful method, please contact us and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding this powerful work.