by Fadel Behman,
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Roots - Dr. A.T. Still's Contribution:
Therapy has its roots in the work of Andrew Taylor Still, M.D.
(1828-1917). The third of nine children, his father was a Methodist
preacher and physician and also acted as a mentor for his son.
At the age of 25, Andrew married with two children, moved with
his family to Kansas. In 1861, during the American Civil War,
he enlisted as a hospital steward where he saw the horrors of
war. During this time, an epidemic of spinal meningitis swept
through the country and killed 2 of his three children - the third
died later of pneumonia. Still's inability to help his family,
together with what he witnessed in the Civil War, brought about
a recognition that there must be a better way of treating the
sick and dying. His new insights were based on nature and natural
laws. Andrew was fascinated by the anatomy of animals and the
function of machines. This led him later to delve deeper into
anatomy and physiology and the relationship of form and function
that would be the foundation of his new system of healthcare called
time progressed, A.T. Still grew to reject the common practices
of doctors of his day, such as frequent amputations and the overuse
of drugs. There was considerable opposition to what he was proposing.
Even his family was embarrassed that he questioned the conventional
medical wisdom of the day and the Church felt his methods of hands-on
healing were sacrilegious. Hoping for a better reception elsewhere,
in 1874, he moved his family to Missouri. By 1885, at the age
of 57, word started to spread about Dr. A.T. Still's drugless,
manual medicine, now called Osteopathy, which had helped many
apparently hopeless cases. Going back to anatomy and physiology,
be believed by correcting structural imbalances in the musculoskeletal
system, that most diseases could be cured by restoring blood flow
and nerve force back into the person.
his success grew, Andrew realized he needed to train people in
his methodology and so, in 1892, at the age of 64, he started
the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, MO. The first
graduating class of 21 students included 5 women and 16 men, including
three of Still's own children. In 1917, at the age of 89, the
"old doctor" passed away, leaving behind him a legacy
of over 3,000 osteopathic physicians at that time.
the United States, A.T. Still was the first to identify the human
immune system and develop a system to stimulate it naturally.
He was the first to openly accept women and minorities into his
schools of Osteopathy, believed that the body was holistic and
that a disease process in one part of the body could affect another
part, and predicted that the United States could have a major
drug problem if physicians did not stop over-prescribing addictive
Beginnings - The Contribution of William Garner Sutherland, D.O.:
Garner Sutherland, D.O. (1873-1954) is credited as the originator
of cranial osteopathy, commonly known nowadays as Cranio-Sacral
Therapy. Sutherland was born in Wisconsin; his father was a blacksmith
and his mother a homemaker. He was the third of four children
and as a child, had a curious and insightful mind. He was very
interested in how things worked and at a young age, took a job
as a newspaper reporter. Sutherland would often comment that this
gave him a critical eye toward information without prejudice or
emotion. In 1898, at the age of 25, Sutherland enrolled in A.T.
Still's School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, MO. While he was there,
he became fascinated with the idea of form and function. As he
looked at a disarticulated skull, the temporal bones appeared
to him as gills of a fish.
Sutherland asked Still if the head had motion available, Still
replied, "It has to, to be able to accommodate for movement."
Sutherland realized that if the bones of the skull were designed
for motion, then restrictions would inhibit health, which would
lead eventually to pain and disease. Using Still's osteopathic
model, Sutherland pursued his interest in testing his ideas on
skull motion by performing experiments on himself. After many
trials and errors over a period of years, he was inspired and
confident enough to use these techniques on his patients.
1927, Dr. Sutherland married Adah Strand, who was a tremendous
support to him and encouraged him to get this important work out
to his colleagues. By the mid 1930's, Sutherland noticed bones
"breathed." Even at that time, what Sutherland talked
about was subtle, and because of this, people again criticized
his work, however, his clinical results, were so dramatic that
he continued to move forward with his work.
Cranio-Sacral System is a physiological system within the body
which, together with the cardio-vascular and respiratory systems,
is one of the three fundamental life-giving systems. Dr William
Sutherland who first identified the Cranio-Sacral System considered
it to be the most fundamental of all systems. He described it
as the Primary Respiratory Mechanism suggesting that it was more
primary even than respiration. It is a system which is at the
very core of our being, believed by Sutherland to be the very
source of life.
cranial work was not only effective with various cases of pain
that had failed to respond to osteopathic treatment, but was also
helpful in restoring good metabolic function and assisting recovery
from endogenous depression and respiratory disorders.
Sutherland started teaching Cranial Osteopathy in 1940. By the
mid 1940's, Sutherland starts utilizing lighter and more delicate
forces in his work and has the awareness when fluids are inhibited,
this can have an effect on the central nervous system and consequently
on membranes and bones of the skull all the way to the sacrum.
By 1946, Sutherland's work had now attracted such a following
that an organization was begun known as the Cranial Academy, which
promoted continued research in the field of osteopathy.
Dr Sutherland's experiments including work with the human energy
field and the use of very light touch, sometimes working off the
body, Cranial Osteopathy was to develop very much as an extension
of osteopathy, albeit with light contact, where the bones are
seen as all important and the practitioner focuses on restoring
to proper mobility the joints or sutures between the bones that
make up the cranium. Some of his words which explain the essence
of his work. "The professional task is in a large respect
a finger-task; that of locating etiological factors beneath, as
well as throughout all bodily tissues; being as problematic as
is the 'searching for a needle in a haystack' and requiring fingers
with brain cells in their tips.fingers capable of feeling, seeing,
thinking. Fingers should be like detectives, skilful in the art
of finding things hidden."
1954, at the age of 81, William Sutherland died, leaving a legacy
of important work for people to discover for many years to come.
Contributions of Dr John E. Upledger:
direction emerges In the early 1970s Dr John E. Upledger discovered
for himself, in a most tangible way, the cranio-sacral rhythm
or cranial rhythmic impulse. This impulse was evident in causing
a section of cervical dural tube, which he was attempting to stabilise
during a delicate surgical procedure, to move with a frequency
that was neither cardiac nor respiratory.
the rhythmic movement was so persistent as to prevent Dr. Upledger
from being able to keep the dural tube still. His curiosity aroused,
he went on to learn about the pioneering work of Dr W.G. Sutherland
who formulated Cranial Osteopathy. Impressed by the effectiveness
of Cranial Osteopathy, and following his 1975 appointment as a
clinician researcher and Professor of Biomechanics at Michigan
State University, Dr Upledger employed extensive research facilities
to help understand how the phenomena that Dr Sutherland had discovered
formulation of CranioSacral Therapy:
Upledger's research and his consideration of how cranial suture
restrictions tend to be maintained by structures outside the head
caused him to deduce that it is within the body's membranes or
fascia that the astonishing effects of Cranial Osteopathy are
explained. It is interesting that A.T. Still also regarded the
fascia as being of primary importance. So now back to that tadpole-shaped
envelope that contains the brain and spinal cord. Why is it so
important? Apart from the obvious (that it contains and protects
some rather vital equipment) it is from within this dural membrane
that the cranio-sacral rhythm is generated. Also the dural membrane
is centrally placed within the whole of the fascial system in
such a way that it can influence, and be affected by, the condition
of any and every other part of the body.
membranes - The term fascia is the collective name for the membrane
material that would remain if our hair, blood vessels, viscera,
bones, nerves, muscle fibres and fluids to be removed. It includes
our ligaments and all the membranous sheaths that surround and
connect all our organs, bones and muscles. The tendency of restriction
in one part of the body to transmit dysfunction to other parts
is accounted for by the characteristics of fascial material and
the construction of the whole fascial system. So fundamental are
these aspects to a proper understanding of CranioSacral Therapy
that they are worth going into in some detail.
let's take a simplified look at the components of fascia. There
are three basic components. Variations in their proportions account
for the huge range of qualities and functions that fascia exhibit.
They are collagen - a fibrous material that provides tensile strength;
elastin which when tension is removed causes fascia to return
to its original dimensions, thereby providing 'elastic memory;'
and ground substance which, as it were, fills in the spaces. Ground
substance is wet and proteinous, and provides passage for dissolved
nutrients and waste compounds. Fascia also contains sensory and
motor nerves and has blood supply. It is capable of contraction.
From the electrical perspective relaxed fascia carries negative
electrical potential that supports healthy tissue metabolism.
When under stretch the potential changes to positive. Fascia that
is under continual tension will therefore suffer local metabolic
deterioration and begin to lose some of its qualities.
we should consider the all-pervasive design of the fascial system.
In the embryo, fascia forms from a single fold at a very early
stage of development. Rather than being lots of different structures
that have grown together, fascia is a single structure, holding
together in functional relationship every part of the body. We
can travel from any point on, or in the body to any other without
leaving fascia. In fact, it is so pervasive that it not only connects
every cell but actually penetrates right into the nuclei, providing
a framework for the chromosomes.
the distinction between Cranial Osteopathy and CranioSacral Therapy,
in the reality of everyday practice the distinctions have become
blurred as more and more practitioners are drawn into the fascial
system in pursuit of the needs of the whole person. It really
does seem as if the fascia are holding the centre ground.
the one hand the more structural practitioners who like to focus
on the neuromusculo-skeletal system may care to remember, as A.T.
Still did, that the fascia hold it all together. And on the other
hand those who have more of an affinity for fluids and energy
would agree that fluids need containers and pipes. Likewise energy
needs storage places and pathways. The condition of those containers,
pipes and pathways has a profound influence. The fascia provide
all of these.
summarise, fascia holds, connects, allows movement, helps the
body remember what shape it's meant to be, contracts, feels, contains
the body's fluids (blood, lymph and csf) and transmits load and
strain throughout the body.
connections - Now we can begin to understand the extraordinary
effects of Dr Sutherland's work, how, for instance, the freeing
up of the membranes inside the head by applying gentle pressure
and/or traction to the cranial bones could lead to improved pituitary
(and therefore endocrine) function, resolving many problems including
hormone-related and metabolic illnesses.
Upledger found that many restrictions in the cranium often have
causes outside the head. CranioSacral Therapy practitioners are
used to the emergence of bizarre cause-and-effect connections:
the appendicectomy scar that leads to chronic migraines, the compressed
lumbo-sacral joint to endogenous depression, the restricted upper
neck to digestive disorders or to hyperactivity, the unbalanced
pelvis that may lead to eyesight problems.
the question is asked "What is CranioSacral Therapy useful
for?" The straight answer is "just about any health
problem." But we want clear answers. "I have such-and-such
a problem. What will fix it?" It is at this point that it
helps to think clearly about how pain and illness really tend
to occur. I find the most helpful starting point is to remember
that we have our own self-healing mechanisms.
the core of healing
long as we are breathing, as long as our fluids are circulating,
old structure is being demolished and removed while new material
is being imported and built into new body parts. Our electrical
and chemical systems are constantly informing each other of, and
responding to, the latest developments and needs. In addition
to these routine processes of renewal and repair there are exceptional
items that need taking care of from time-to-time. Some of these
exceptional items we will be aware of, like a minor cut or insect
bite. Others will escape our attention provided we are healthy.
of the qualities of good health is the ability of our self-healing
mechanism to take care of an endless list of minor insults and
repairs without the need to divert our attention. Provided we
don't overload our systems we have the flexibility to accommodate
a whole variety of stressors. It is only when our system loses
flexibility that we start running the risk of deteriorating health
when problems that should be temporary tend to hang on or become
chronic, or we may become very sensitive to substances or energetic
influences that would not trouble a healthy person. (We call some
of these sensitivities allergies.)
sort of things happen to us that reduce our flexibility to renew
and repair routinely? This is where the qualities and functions
of the fascial system really start to account for themselves.
Fascia has great flexibility and is fundamentally influential
in all of our body processes. If fascia in one part of the body
loses its flexibility due to mechanical inhibition or a toxic
or malnourished environment it may affect any other part or system.
of mechanical inhibition include physical injury of any kind,
surgery and occupational and postural strain. Injuries that can
cause retained fascial restriction will include those that happen
around birth. Other causes can be old or current inflammation,
whether or not infection is or was involved. Inflammation tends
to cause normally free-sliding fascial layers, such as the dural
layers around the spinal cord, to bind together. With all of these
causes resultant dysfunctions may not appear until years, sometimes
body tells its story . . .
So the CranioSacral Therapy practitioner is concerned about evaluating
and helping to restore the flexibility of the whole fascial system.
It is here that the cranio-sacral rhythm becomes a really useful
tool. For while the skilled practitioner gains a fair impression
of fascial mobility through light contact with the surface with
the ability to project into deep tissue, working with the cranio-sacral
rhythm brings greater accuracy in locating fascial restrictions.
Evaluating the cranio-sacral rhythm also helps determine the involvement
of the spinal nerves.
extraordinary phenomenon that is the very essence of Cranio-Sacral
Therapy is the responsiveness of fascia to very subtle influences.
Place hands very lightly on a clothed person lying supine on your
treatment table and nothing may happen. Apply one or two grammes
of pressure and all sorts of movements may start, where your hands
are or anywhere else. Emotion may start to surface, and held-in
emotion is yet another cause of reduced fascial flexibility. Even
without a single gramme of imposed pressure or traction, the mere
alteration of thought or attention can facilitate fascial movement.
It is as if the attitude and intention of the practitioner create
an atmosphere where the fascia (at last!) feels secure enough
to risk the idea of starting to let go.. . . and reveals its solutions.
is an appropriate point to consider further the idea that the
elastic nature of fascia enables it to carry the memory or intelligence
of exactly how the body would like to be arranged to enjoy the
greatest ease. Fascia under tension is always trying to pull the
body back to this state of greatest ease. One of Dr Upledger's
great insights is that the body knows in full detail and with
total accuracy exactly what it needs to do, and what assistance
it needs, to return to this state of ease.
good Cranio-Sacral Therapy practitioner learns to respect this
fascial wisdom in preference to anyone's ability to diagnose and
intervene from the outside. By listening and feeling the fascial
wisdom expressing itself we are taken to the deeper causes of
pain and dysfunction instead of being distracted and delayed by
symptoms and their apparent causes.
most helpful answer to the question "What is CranioSacral
Therapy useful for?" would therefore be "Any condition
where the self-healing mechanism can be supported through improved
fascial flexibility," and that covers the majority of conditions
that involve pain, restriction, lowered energy, increased susceptibility
to infection, and poor circulation or breathing. CranioSacral
Therapy also helps many people with specific learning difficulties
such as dyslexia, dyscalclia and clumsiness, our co-ordination
and proprioceptive mechanisms being easily upset by imbalance
of the cranial fascia and bones. Early evaluation and treatment
of newborns is recommended, as colic, feeding difficulties and
hyperactivity will often be quickly and easily reduced or eliminated.
Strains introduced before, during or shortly after the birth process
can also be quickly and easily eliminated that may otherwise be
retained through adulthood with consequences of chronic dysfunction
that would take much more time and perseverance to release from
a less fluid and flexible mature person.
Cranio-Sacral System can be identified through it's inherent rhythmic
motion. Just as the cardiovascular system is manifested in the
rhythmic pulsation of the arteries, and the respiratory system
is evident through the rhythmic rise and fall of respiration,
so the Cranio-Sacral System has an inherent rhythmic motion which
can be felt as a subtle tide-like motion gently ebbing and flowing
and manifesting in all the body tissues.
anatomical structures which make up the Cranio-Sacral System have
been clearly recognised for many years. However the integrated
function of these structures as a primary physiological mechanism
is only recently becoming recognized.
Cranio-Sacral System consists primarily of the Membranes (or Meninges)
which surround the Central Nervous System; the Bones of the Cranium
8 Sacrum which attach to these Membranes; the Fascia, which radiates
out from the Membranes to all parts of the body; and the Cerebro-Spinal
Fluid, a pure and vital fluid produced within the Central Nervous
System and contained primarily within the Membranes surrounding
and enveloping the brain and spinal cord. In a broader sense the
Cranio-Sacral System can be said to encompass every part of our
being since it influences and is influenced by every structure
and every part of our being.
of Cranio-Sacral Motion is a reflection of healthy function
fluency of Cranio-Sacral motion in each part of the body is a
reflection of the healthy function of that part of the body. Restricted
mobility is an indication of reduced health and vitality in that
region - leading to (or caused by) disease and dysfunction. A
free and unrestricted rhythmic motion is an indication of a healthy,
unimpeded vitality in that region.
Cranio -Sacral Therapist's role therefore is to identify areas
of restricted mobility and to enable the body to release any such
restrictions in order to encourage free and fluent Cranio-Sacral
motion. This restoration of unhindered tissue mobility and free
flow of body fluids and vitality will in turn enable the elimination
of disease, the restoration of health and the maintenance of optimum
to Cranio-Sacral motion may arise from a number of different causes
- from physical injury,
infection, inflammation, structural imbalance, muscular strain,
emotional tension or disease and dysfunction of any kind. These
restrictions may arise in any of the body tissues - the bones,
the soft tissues, the nervous system, the organs, the fluids or
in the subtle energy systems.
two-way process of reciprocal interaction
or restrictions to the peripheral structures of the body will
inevitably reflect into the core of the system leading to imbalances
and asymmetries within the Cranio-Sacral System. Restrictions
at the core of the system will similarly reflect out to cause
manifestations of imbalance may be alleviated by more superficial
forms of therapy. But it is because Cranio-Sacral Therapy penetrates
to the very core and alters patterns at the deepest level of our
being that it brings about more profound, significant and lasting
changes - as well as eliminating the more superficial symptoms.
Cranio-Sacral System reflects the accumulation of all our life
experience, recent or long past, physical or psycho-emotional.
Interaction with the Cranio-Sacral System stimulates a natural
reorganisation of the system enabling the release of these accumulated
patterns of injury and tension and bringing our whole being into
a more balanced and orderly state in which it can function at
it's optimum level.
Therapy -What is it?
Therapy is an exceptionally gentle yet extremely powerful form
of treatment which can be helpful to most people and in most conditions
- from minor aches and pains to severe and persistent chronic
health problems. It is a profound healing process which can influence
the deeply held patterns of disease - both physical and psychological
- which accumulate throughout life as a result of injury and illness
and become held into the body tissues, leading to ill-health and
dysfunction. It has the potential to transform these patterns
of restriction and resistance in our lives at a very fundamental
level, thereby eliminating disease and restoring health.
does it work?
Cranio-Sacral Therapy involves a very gentle touch of the practitioners
hands, both for diagnosis and for treatment. This light contact
may be taken up on the cranium, the sacrum or any other part of
the body as appropriate. Through this light touch the practitioner
is able to pick up subtle patterns of motion within the body -
rhythms, pulls, pulsations - emanating from deep within the core
structures of the body. These movements are a reflection of Cranio-Sacral
motion which is expressed in all tissues throughout the body.
condition affecting a person influences this movement, creating
asymmetries or restrictions to Cranio-Sacral motion. The Cranio-Sacral
Therapist can therefore diagnose every condition through the corresponding
patterns of resistance within the Cranio-Sacral system. By responding
appropriately to these patterns - in other words by gently allowing
the subtle movements deep within the body to unwind themselves
- the Cranio-Sacral Therapist can enable and facilitate the release
of Cranio-Sacral restrictions. Release at these profound regulatory
levels in turn enables the release of disease conditions throughout
does it involve?
Therapy is most often carried out with the client lying down,
fully clothed in a quiet and peaceful environment. Treatment is
usually experienced as a very profound relaxation which may pervade
the whole person, physically, mentally and emotionally, often
accompanied by a feeling of lightness and ease. The gentle approach
of Cranio-Sacral Therapy is entirely non-invasive. The subtle
interaction of two systems - brought together by this light contact
- stimulates and enhances self-healing mechanisms within the body
to respond, release and open up to a more balanced healthy state.
can it treat?
Therapy is primarily concerned with creating and maintaining a
healthy, balanced state on all levels. This underlying state of
well-being enables the body's own healing mechanisms to operate
at optimum level, and therefore enables the body to eliminate
disease and restore health.
Therapy works on many different levels and influences many different
structures within the body. It influences the musculo-skeletal
system, the nervous system, the cardiovascular-vascular system,
the immune system, the organs, the connective tissues, the fluids
and the energy systems of the body. It therefore has widespread
and profound effects on conditions affecting all of these systems.
Because it treats the whole person it can influence all conditions
affecting the whole person or any part of the person. Cranio-Sacral
Therapy therefore has a very wide range of applications.
is suitable for all ages from newborn babies to the elderly, including
all ages and stages in between. It is particularly valuable in
babies and children since the establishment of healthy patterns
at an early age sets patterns for the whole future of that individual,
both in their health and in their abilities. It is also particularly
renowned for its profound influence on the effects of Birth Trauma
- the effects of which may range from learning difficulties, hyperactivity
and ear-infections to epilepsy and cerebral palsy.
Therapy is also particularly valuable in solving and resolving
difficult and persistent conditions. The following are just a
few examples of the many conditions that might benefit from Cranio-Sacral
Migraine, Period Pains.
-Asthma, Sinusitis, Bronchitis, Cystitis.
-Frozen Shoulder, Arthritis, Sciatica, Chronic/c Sprained Ankle,
-Digestive Problems, Whiplash Injuries, Spinal Curvatures.
- Back Pain, Neck Pain, Persistent pain anywhere in the body.
-Tension, Anxiety, Insomnia, Visual Disturbances.
- Lack of Energy.
- Problems during and after Pregnancy, Depression, Post-Operative
-Baby Care, Colic, Pyloric Stenosis, Feeding Difficulties.
- Ear Infections, Glue Ear, Tonsillitis, ENT Problems.
-Compression of the skull due to a difficult birth, with its many
- Learning Difficulties, Dyslexia, Squint, Lazy Eye.
- Hyperactivity, Autism, Epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy.
-Behavioural Disorders, Tantrums, Obsessional Behaviour.
-Dental and TMJ Problems.
-Head Injuries, and their subtle influence on personality and
-Meningitis and its chronic consequences.
-Post Viral Syndrome, Glandular Fever, Fatigue.
-The after effects of any chronic illness or debilitating disease.
the early and mid 1990s Dr. Fadel Behman, a former Medical Physicist
in Radiation Oncology, discovered that the long term effects of
cranio-sacral therapy depends upon understanding the root causes
of the accumulated energy blocks restricting the flow of energy
in the fascial system.
find the subconscious ways by which we interfere with the flow
of subtle energy within the physical body, Dr. Behman developed
a new approach of spiritual counselling to apply during the cranio-sacral
treatments. This added spiritual dimension to cranio-sacral treatments
helps to uncover the root causes of subtle energy blocks and restrictions
of the life energy flow in the body. Dr. Behman includes issues
like the meaning and purpose of life; how we relate to other human
beings; subtle attitudes and intentions that govern our behaviour;
and what is our relation to the whole of life and the whole of
higher self and the soul aspects of being are the most subtle
and core forces that influence thinking and feeling, and in turn
can liberate the subtle energy flow in the physical body. Clients/patients
receiving cranio-sacral treatments may feel the energy blocks
being released during the treatment, they might remember the causal
trauma as an emotion, a feeling, an image or a thought. This is
the right time for the holistic cranio-sacral therapist to counsel
and guide the client to change their thinking and feeling pattern
towards that trauma, this new consciousness is the tool to prevent
future energy blocks of the same type.
timely spiritual counselling about the root cause of the energy
block is the key spiritual benefit from holistic cranio-sacral
therapy. Other spiritual benefits of peace, harmony and self-motivation
for long term behavioural change arise from the deep relaxed state
of the client being treated.
Fadel Behman, is a former Medical Physicist in Radiation Oncology
and an Interfaith Minister in Montreal Quebec.
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