Understanding Cranio-sacral Motion

This study into understanding the subtle movement patterns of the living human body commences with the skull, or cranium.

The cranium is not one single bone, even in the adult, but is composed of 26 individual bones, some of which are paired. Wherever bones touch each other in the human body, joints are formed. All joints exist to allow for movement between adjacent bones, otherwise they wouldn't be there. In the cranium the joints between adjacent skull bones are called sutures and they have a unique structure. It was an American osteopath in the early 1900's, William Garner Sutherland, who made a study of the cranial bones and he realised that the sutures were designed to allow for a specific movement pattern of the cranial bones. The cranial bones cannot be pulled apart horizontally, however the sutures do allow for a slight movement of expansion and contraction. In fact, the entire skull is found to move in a constant rhythmic pattern of expansion and contraction (called flexion and extension by cranial workers).

Within the skull is the brain. The brain produces and is surrounded by a fluid, the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which also surrounds the spinal cord. The CSF is enclosed within a membrane system, the dural membranes, or meninges, which together form a hydraulic system. The dural membranes give attachment to the cranial bones and the sacrum, which together with the spine, offer protection to the brain and spinal cord. Our brain and spinal cord, our central nervous system (CNS), is essentially floating inside our head and spine. The CNS has been found to expand and contract in a rhythmic motion, to pulsate, at the rate of about 6-12 times per minute, or should do so in health. To allow for this normal, pulsing movement, the dural membranes must be free and flexible and the cranial bones need to move in a regular, coordinated pattern. In doing so, the CSF is able to circulate around the brain and up and down the inside of the spine. The pulsation is called "THE CRANIAL RHYTHM", the movement pattern of the skull, dural membranes and CNS is known as "CRANIOSACRAL MOTION". Not only the skull and CNS, but all body tissues exhibit cranio-sacral motion, as we shall now see.


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