Learning Discoveries
Psychological Services

Rosemary Boon
Registered Psychologist
M.A.(Psych), Grad. Dip. Ed. Studies (Sch.Counsel),
Grad. Dip. Ed., B.Sc., MAPS, AACNEM.

Sydney (+61 2) 9637 9998
Sydney (+61 2) 9637 8799


P.O. Box 47
Harris Park NSW 2150

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CranioSacral Therapy by Gregory J. de Montfort

Please Note: We are not a teaching body - but use the technique in clinical practice.
For information about learning CranioSacral Therapy a link is provided to the Upledger Institute at the end of this article.

CranioSacral therapy has been shown to be effective for many childhood disorders, including the autistic spectrum of disorders, learning difficulties, hyperactivity, and related problems because of the pioneering work of John Upledger (D.O., F.A.A.O.), in studies and work done at the Centre for Autism in the United States.

Due to the success of the work at the Centre for Autism, Upledger went on to open his own clinic for brain-dysfunctioning children at Michigan State University. Here he received and had positive results with patients suffering from a wide array of problems including paralysis of all types, with causes ranging from birth trauma to cerebral palsy, nerve root compressions, head injuries and spinal cord injuries. Seizure disorders of all types, hyperkinetic (hyperactivity) disorders, attention deficit disorders, dyslexia, dyscalcula, and a wide range of developmental delay problems were also responsive to CranioSacral Therapy. The results demonstrated by Upledger and his team have since been duplicated around the world.

Not everyone with every condition will be responsive to CranioSacral work, but it has been clinically shown to prove helpful in a large number of cases. All cases cited by Upledger reported a minimum of an improved state of wellbeing, and as it is non-invasive and gentle, no harm can be done.

The History of Craniosacral Therapy

As a student of Osteopathy, at the turn of the century, Dr William Sutherland was taught in school that, in the adult, the bones of the skull (the cranial bones) were fused at their sutures. The medical profession as taught in the English derived schools, did not believe the bones in the cranium could move at all, although European schools of anatomy, particularly the Italian and French, appear to have been more enlightened in this regard. Sutherland noticed that the edges of the individual cranial segments were shaped, as if they were designed and created to perform a function, that being, movement. As research now indicates, the segments of the skull do slightly shift, and they can be gently, slowly adjusted in a non-invasive way for improved joint movement, fluid flow and general health. The kinesthetic energetics of cranial work is nothing short of phenomenal.

Dr. Sutherland, as an American osteopath, continued his discovery of the intrinsic movements within the cranium. His further research revealed different rhythmic tidal motions in the body. These movements, which can be measured with delicate scientific instruments, are a direct expression of the health of the nervous system. Palpation of these tides allows Craniosacral practitioners to monitor and facilitate change, in areas of restriction, i.e. where the health is not being fully expressed.

Movement is an important concept in Chiropractic and Osteopathy, as any restriction to a natural physiological movement will lead to a reduction in the function of that area. In his continued search for a "truth", Dr Sutherland used a slightly unorthodox method of research. He set out to prove that the cranial bones did move, by personally wearing a helmet he had specially designed with bolts, to hold still the individual bones of the skull. These abnormally produced restrictions, within the varying positions of his head, led to a number of very distinct states in him, ranging from gastric disorders to severely disturbed psychological states. Dr. Sutherland concluded that movement was vital between the cranial bones, in order for health to exist. Over his 60 years of research, he further discovered that this rate of motion was 8-10 cycles per minute.

Dr. Randolph Stone, also worked with the cranial concept in the earlier part of this century. He was an Osteopath and Chiropractor, and the originator of Polarity Therapy which he developed out of an understanding of the energy patterns which underly the body's structure, form and function. He developed a keen understanding of the energy centers that are described in traditional Indian Ayurvedic Medicine and applied this understanding to his work with the cranial system. His concepts and life's work did much to unite the approach of energy-medicine with the structural approach.

Dr. John Upledger, in the 1970s, re-discovered the craniosacral rhythm for himself, while he was assisting in a surgical operation, in which he had to hold still the thick membrane surrounding the spinal cord, called the dural membrane. During this procedure, Dr. Upledger found great difficulty preventing its motion, and discovered that it moved in a rhythm of 8-10 cycles per minute. This original experience frustrated him, leading him to search for the cause; followed by 25 years of research and dedication to the principles. In 1975, as a professor of biomechanics, Dr. Upledger joined Michigan State University, where he led a research team of biophysicists, anatomists and other professionals to perfect the scientific basis for the craniosacral system, and to advance contemporary knowledge of how to alleviate chronic pain and dysfunction.

Dr. Upledger's work stresses the importance of the connective tissue in holding emotional patterns. He developed what he called the "somato-emotional release", which is the release of the emotions as these patterns of resistance are resolved.

So What Is CranioSacral therapy?

Craniosacral Therapy is a subtle and profound healing form, which aids the natural bodily intelligence (both the central and the autonomic nervous systems), by assisting to remove impedements to the flow of cerebrospinal fluid which have been created within the cranium and spinal cord. A nervous system, which is free of impingement, allows fuller support of the natural processes of healing, and balance is the key to normal function.

A very gentle touch is used to 'listen' to the slow pulsation generated by the cerebrospinal ebb and flow throughout the whole body tissue to find where the motion is disturbed or affected by constriction or resistance within the body structure and consequently where the body function is being affected. The therapeutic side of the work is in helping the body to re-establish the original movement flow by assisting in the resolution of any resistance patterns. (For more information on cerebrospinal fluid and it's role in the body, please see the article THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN VITAL ENERGY AND THE HUMAN BRAIN AND NERVOUS SYSTEM).

The gentle procedures used in CranioSacral work are geared toward bringing ease to the body and in turn to bring the body’s own healing potential to bear on the affected tissue, organ or structure, thus allowing a return of optimal functioning. Cranial work is client-led; the body sets the pace of work so that the person receiving Craniosacral Therapy remains comfortable and in control and able to integrate the changes that occur. The receiver may feel a deep sense of relaxation combined with sensations of heat, tingling, and pulsation during the session.

CST works with the natural rhythms of the body. It is non-invasive -a light touch is usually all that is needed to achieve a response. As frequently found in structural bodywork approaches, distortional patterns in one part of the body may be compensatory for imbalances in another area. For example, a condition in the pelvis may arise from the cranium. It is quite usual for symptoms in one part of the body to originate elsewhere, and for distortions to be corrected, when other apparently unrelated distortions are normalised.

To realise that the mental and emotional aspects of our lives cannot be separated from our bodies, and that one affects the other, particularly at the level at which CranioSacral Therapy operates, it is easy to see how profound a healing system CranioSacral Therapy can be, and because the touch, which is used, is very gentle, it can often be applied where other more direct interventions are too invasive.

The craniosacral system of the body consists of fluid and membranes that surround and protect the spinal cord. The system encompasses the bones of the skull, face, and mouth, which make up the cranium, or head, all the way down to the sacrum and coccyx, or tailbone. This physiological system begins functioning in the womb and continues its function until death.

Like, and separate from, the cardiovascular and respiratory rhythms, another body rhythm -- the craniosacral system (AKA the cerebrospinal pumping mechanism)-- influences many body functions. An imbalance in this system can adversely affect the development of the brain and spinal cord, which can result in sensory, motor and neurological dysfunction. CranioSacral Therapy (CST) encourages your body's natural mechanisms to improve the functioning of your brain and spinal cord, dissipate the negative effects of stress, and enhance your general health and resistance to disease. CranioSacral facilitators recognise health as an active principle, and that it is a natural expression of Life - an innate ordering force. CranioSacral Therapy is a subtle and profound healing form, which assists the natural bodily intelligence. CST helps increase physical vitality and well being, not only affecting structural change, but also having much wider implications.

The positive effect of CranioSacral Therapy relies largely upon an individual's natural self-corrective physiological activities. The therapist's light, hands-on approach assists the hydraulic forces that are inherent in the internal environment of the body.

Three of the essential concepts in Craniosacral Therapy are:

 function is dependent on form and form is in constant movement

 the body is self-healing and self-regulating

 the human system is a unified whole and functions as such

This movement comprised an expansion/contraction, and ebb and flow movement, which Sutherland called "The Primary Respiratory Mechanism" (of the cerebrospinal pump).

The components of this "Primary Respiratory Mechanism" include:

 the gentle ebb and flow in the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, the Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF)

 the slight curling and uncurling movement of the Central Nervous System (CNS)

 the small regular movement of the cranial bones which is transferred through the spinal column to the sacrum

Clinical Significance

The rhythmic cerebrospinal fluid movement is generated in the central axis of the body, to which all the other bones and the organ systems relate. This motion, therefore, is transferred to and taken up by the more peripheral bones of the body, the connective tissue and all the organs. Hence, the motion becomes a whole body motion.

An important bodyworker's axiom is that "form affects function". This means that if our form or structure is affected by restriction or congestion, then its function is affected.

Who Can Benefit from Craniosacral Therapy?

Everyone can benefit from receiving Craniosacral Therapy. As the touch used is gentle, but firm and reassuring, everyone who has received CST reports a feeling of ease, comfort and relaxation, and increased feelings of general wellbeing long after the session.
By complementing the body's natural healing processes, CST is increasingly used as a preventive health measure for its ability to bolster resistance to disease, and is effective for a wide range of medical problems associated with pain and dysfunction, including:

 Seizure Disorders
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Cerebral Palsy and Spacticity
Learning Disabilities
Hyperkinesia (hyperactivity)
Attention Deficit Disorder
Dyslexia and Dyscalula
Developmental Delay
Motor-Coordination Impairments
Emotional Difficulties
Stress and Tension-Related Problems
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Migraine Headaches
Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)
Chronic Pain Syndromes
Arthritis and Joint Pain
Fibromyalgia and other Connective-Tissue Disorders
Low Back Problems and Backache
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
Traumatic Injuries including Brain and Spinal Cord Injuries
Central Nervous System Disorders
Stroke and Post Operative Rehabilitation
Assisting in Cases of Difficult Labour

Is Craniosacral Safe?

The answer here is - most definately!. Craniosacral therapy is quite different from standard massage and structural forms of chiropractic and osteopathic adjustments. Within different positions on the head, the bones are invited by gentle pressure to move into ease ... The movements are extremely subtle and sensitive, they are not at all hard, sharp or quick.

Craniosacral Therapy is not Cranial Osteopathy or Chiropractic - although its principles are similar in many respects. Instead of imposing physical forces to effect a change in the body, the body's natural waves and rhythms are followed, and monitored for the ease, which develops.
Craniosacral Therapy is so gentle that it is suitable for babies, children, and the elderly, and in fragile or acutely painful conditions.

The weight of a single coin is about the same amount of gentle pressure used in a wholistic session of Craniosacral balancing. This very gentle pressure and monitoring of the 22 bones in the cranium and sacrum is performed over an extended period of time. Craniosacral therapy is based on the understanding of the human energy field and how to achieve the proper flow and balance of this energy - the goal being to assist the body in restoration of the flow of CSF and the development of spinal flexibility, ease of the nervous system, and improved general health and wellbeing.

The subtle qualities of touch used in Craniosacral work is what makes it one of the safest methods for use with a wide range of presenting problems. It is typically non-directive, non-invasive in its approach—essentially the art of listening and enobling the body to heal itself.

References & Reading:-

Ornstein, R., & Thompson, R.F., (1984) The Amazing Brain, Houghton, Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts

Upledger, J., (DO,O.M.M.), A Brain is Born, 1996, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California

Tortora, G.J.(MA.BS), and Grabowski, S.R.(Phd), Principles of Anatomy and Physiology, 1993, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, USA

Cohern, D., (D.C.), 1995, An Introduction to Craniosacral Therapy, North Atlantic Books, Berkley, CA

Upledger, J., (DO,DC, F.A.A.O.), Vredevoogd, J.D., (M.F.A.), 1983, Craniosacral Therapy I, Eastland Press, Seattle, Washington.

Upledger, J., (DO,DC, F.A.A.O.), 1987, Craniosacral Therapy II, Beyond the Dura, Eastland Press, Seattle, Washington.

Upledger, J., (DO,DC, F.A.A.O.), 1997, Your Inner Physician and You, North Atlantic Books, Berkley, CA

Krebs, C., (Dr.), A Revolutionary Way of Thinking, 1998, Hill of Content Publishing, Melbourne, Australia

Sutherland, W.G., (D.C.), The Cranial Bowl, 1948, Mankat, MN Free Press Co

Stone, R., (DO, DC), Polarity Therapy - Vol I, - 1986, CRCS Publications, Somertown, TN, USA

Stone, R., (DO, DC), Polarity Therapy - Vol II, - 1987, CRCS Publications, Somertown, TN, USA

For appointments for CranioSacral Therapy,

Please contact Rosemary Boon or Gregory de Montfort at:-

Learning Discoveries
Psychological Services
Rosemary Boon
Registered Psychologist
M.A.(Psych), Grad. Dip. Ed. Studies (Sch.Counsel),
Grad. Dip. Ed., B.Sc., MAPS, AACNEM.

Sydney (+61 2) 9637 9998
Sydney (+61 2) 9637 8799


P.O. Box 47
Harris Park NSW 2150


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