Craniosacral Therapy History

The first written reference to the movement of the spinal nerves and its importance in life, clarity, and “bringing quiet to the heart” is found in a 4,000-year-old text from China. Craniosacral work was referred to as “the art of listening.” Bone setters in the Middle Ages also sensed the subtle movements of the body. They used these movements to help reset fractures and dislocations and to treat headaches.

Andrew Taylor Still

Andrew Taylor Still, M.D. Craniosacral Therapy has its roots in the work of Andrew Taylor Still, M.D. (1828-1917). . Dr. Still was the first to identify the human immune system and develop a system to stimulate it naturally. He believed that the body was holistic and that a disease process in one part of the body could affect another part.

On June 22, 1874, after years of medical study and clinical observation, he named his new medical philosophy of drugless, manual medicine, Osteopathy. On October 3, 1892, he opened the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri.

William Garner Sutherland

William Garner Sutherland, D.O. (1873-1954) is credited as the originator of osteopathy in the cranial field, commonly known today as Craniosacral Therapy.

At the age of 25 in 1898, Sutherland enrolled in A.T. Still’s School of Osteopathy. One day when looking at a disarticulated skull bones, the thought struck Sutherland that it was designed for motion, and that restrictions would inhibit health, which would lead eventually to pain and disease.

By the mid 1930’s, Sutherland’s work became more refined. His interest moved beyond bone and into fascial membranes, the central nervous system and the cerebrospinal fluid and its influence all the way to the sacrum.

By the mid 1940’s, Sutherland starts utilizing lighter and more delicate forces in his work and had the awareness that when fluids are inhibited, this had an effect on the entire central nervous system and thus, the body.

By 1953, Sutherland established the Sutherland Cranial Teaching Foundation as an organization to continue the teachings of his cranial work. He died in 1954, at the age of 81.

Harold I. Magoun, Sr., D.O., F.A.A.O.(1898-1981) was one of Sutherland’s first generation students, a dedicated teacher and who contributed greatly to the ongoing field of cranial osteopathy as author/editor of Osteopathy in the Cranial Field.

John E. Upledger

John E. Upledger, D.O., O.M.M., (1932-2012), creator and developer of craniosacral therapy, was one of Dr. Magoun’s students. He started using the cranial techniques he learned from Dr. Magoun with great success.

Dr. Upledger set out to scientifically confirm the existence of cranial bone motion. From 1975 to 1983 he served as clinical researcher and Professor of Biomechanics at Michigan State University, where he supervised a team of anatomists, physiologists, biophysicists and bioengineers in research and testing. The results not only confirmed Sutherland’s theory, but led to clarification of the mechanisms behind this motion — the craniosacral system.

Dr. Upledger integrated the cranial techniques of cranial osteopathy with other osteopathic manual modalities, most notably myofascial release and unwinding. He is widely credited with renewing interest in the cranial osteopathic work of Sutherland while presenting craniosacral therapy in a direct and practical way to healthcare practitioners throughout the world. Dr. Upledger’s continued work in the field ultimately resulted in his development of CranioSacral Therapy.