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Origin of Craniosacral Therapy

"Anyone can find disease. If you find health and align with it, the body's blueprint for healing will follow." - Dr. Andrew T. Still

In the late 1880's, the lives of Dr. Still and most Americans were rocked by the great epidemics sweeping the US and disputed lands. After finishing his apprenticeship in medicine and serving as a doctor in the Civil War for the Union, he lost three children to spinal meningitis and another from pneumonia. Countless more he could not save. Dark experiences led him to question and later denounce his contemporaries methods of blood-letting, mercury, and amputations.

With a hands-on bedside manner, he had rediscovered a felt sense to trace the forces of health and pathology to its root, and resolution. He evolved to believe the body contained all the elements needed for health and healing, and that proper functioning of the musculoskeletal system was vital. He believed in preventative medicine and in treating the whole patient, not the symptom or the illness itself.

Dr. Still faced much resistance in his life. He couldn't find a place to settle and practice for over a decade. His methods incurred accusations of sacrilege from ministers and local physicians and he was repeatedly ostracized. After curing a minister's daughter, and many from the congregation of small pox, he earned confidence and respect. He set down roots and in 1892 he opened the first school of Osteopathy and trained tens of thousands in its time.

With success came controversy, as friction with the American Medical Association arose. Despite Dr. Still's resistance during his dying days, the AMA added the ability to prescribe drugs to the licensure status of DO's. Following that, Osteopathic school curricula included proficiency requirements in the emerging pharmaceuticals and procedures originating from medical establishment ties. This ensured less antagonism with the AMA but at a price. Nowadays, Osteopathy is divided; there are physicians who operate like MD's, and those who treat patients manually, as Dr. Still prescribed. Osteopathy branched out all over the world, and this division remains, in the U.S., Europe, and beyond.

After Dr. Still died, his followers continued his research and practice, and the methods evolved yet again. One student, William Garner Sutherland, took another leap, and from that, the knowledge of the Craniosacral system was born. Sutherland's research extended from musculoskeletal system to the central nervous system and further to that which holds all of those together: the movement of fluids in the body, regulated by the cerebral spinal fluid.

Researching anatomy in a light different from the medical establishment showed that the cerebral spinal fluid in fact protects and maintains the central nervous system, the coordinating higher glands, and everything else down the line: the peripheral nervous system and its subjects: material muscles effecting what is immaterial, willpower and intention, both conscious and unconscious. They found fluctuations of the cranial sutures at 40 microns (half the width of a sheet of paper), as well as fluctuations of the cerebral spinal fluid known as "tides." And so on.....

Sutherland was the first to quantitatively demonstrate the link between cranial bone movement with the circulation of cerebral spinal fluid, which he believed is the most important substance in our body. To this day, the circulation of cerebral spinal fluid in the Craniosacral system remains the focus of the three contemporary branches of Craniosacral Therapy: the biomechanical, biodynamic, and visionary.

Modern day practice stems from these revelations and from others such as Rollin Becker, James Jealous, and later, John Upledger.

Upledger's contributions are significant. He expanded the scope of Cranial Osteopathy under the name Craniosacral Therapy to include licensure for a broader scope of health care professionals. He successfully popularized CST, created training programs, established medical validity, and built name recognition. His work fully anchors Craniosacral in anatomy and physiology, thereby distinguishing it from energy medicine such as Reiki. As such, Upledger best represents the biomechanic branch of Craniosacral Therapy.

I am so thankful to him, Sutherland and Still, especially, who have paved this gentle, profound path of healing and integration.

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