What's in a Name?
The term Craniosacral Therapy was originally coined in the 1970s by American Osteopathic physician Dr John Upledger. Its origins, however, go way back to the turn of the century and the work of the osteopath William Sutherland. He was examining the bones that make up the human skull and observed that their construction was obviously designed for movement between these bones. Medical schools then, and still today, maintained that these cranial bones fused together to form an immovable vault to protect the brain. (This is probably a consequence of the use of cadavers to elucidate human anatomy – live bodies behave differently to dead ones!). After many years of mostly self-experimentation of what he termed Cranial Osteopathy he found that very gentle manipulation of the cranial bones could have profound physical and physiological effects.
He also discovered a subtle and rhythmic movement which seemed to originate in the brain and spread through the spinal cord and from here through the entire body. This rhythm could be sensed anywhere on the body and seemed to give important clues to its functioning. Sutherland called it the Primary Respiratory Impulse (PRI), though it goes by several other names, most commonly, and more simply, Cranial Rhythm. There are several competing theories to explain its origin, but it is beyond the scope of this short article to go into them here.