Cranial Sacral Therapy sprouted out of the work of Osteopathy. Cranial Osteopathy was originated by physician William Sutherland, DO (1873-1954) in 1898-1900. While looking at a disarticulated skull, Sutherland was struck by the idea that the cranial sutures of the temporal bones where they meet the parietal bones were “beveled, like the gills of a fish, indicating articular mobility for a respiratory mechanism.”[1]

Sutherland stated the dural membranes act as ‘guy-wires’ for the movement of the cranial bones, holding tension for the opposite motion. He used the term reciprocal tension membrane system (RTM) to describe the three Cartesian axes held in reciprocal tension, or tensegrity, creating the cyclic movement of inhalation and exhalation of the cranium. The RTM as described by Sutherland includes the spinal dura, with an attachment to the sacrum. After his observation of the cranial mechanism, Sutherland stated that the sacrum moves synchronously with the cranial bones. Sutherland began to teach this work to other osteopaths from about the 1930s, and continued to do so until his death. His work was at first largely rejected by the mainstream osteopathic profession as it challenged some of the closely held beliefs among practitioners of the time.

In the 1940s the American School of Osteopathy started a post-graduate course called ‘Osteopathy in the Cranial Field’ directed by Sutherland, and was followed by other schools. This new branch of practice became known as “cranial osteopathy”. As knowledge of this form of treatment began to spread, Sutherland trained more teachers to meet the demand, notably Drs Viola Frymann, Edna Lay, Howard Lippincott, Anne Wales, Chester Handy and Rollin Becker.

Now this work is widely sought out to help people heal their body’s from past injuries and chronic pain.

1. Sutherland A (1962). With Thinking Fingers.Indianapolis, IN: Cranial Academy, 13.