CranioSacral Mechanism

Craniosacral Mechanism

The Craniosacral System or Craniosacral Mechanism as it is also known is the most important function of the human body. It contains the highest known element to man, Cerebro-Spinal Fluid (CSF). The craniosacral system is comprised of the cranium, sacrum, spine and CSF.

CSF is produced in the choroid plexus of the brain and is the fluid that is the driving force, the hydraulic system, the energetic system of the body. Without this fluid’s mechanics, life would not be possible.

This mechanism was discovered by Dr. William Sutherland, and he called this system the Primary Respiratory Mechanism.

A trained Craniosacral Therapy practitioner can place their hands on any part of the patients body to perceive and influence this important mechanism.

The Primary Respiratory Mechanism has five basic components:

  1. The inherent rhythmic motion of the brain and spinal cord.
  2. The fluctuation of CSF that bathes and nourishes the brain and spinal cord.
  3. The shifting tensions of the membranous envelope / dura mater surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This entire membranous structure acts as a unit and is called a Reciprocal Tension Membrane.
  4. The inherent rhythmic motion of the cranial bones.
  5. The involuntary motion of the sacrum / tailbone between the ilia / hip bones.

The Primary Respiratory Mechanism’s fluid – CSF is the engines oil. It is responsible for maintaining the function of your body. It expresses itself through every cell of the body, influencing all body functions.

Introduction to the Craniosacral Concept

The cranial sacral concept is important therapeutic vision grounded upon certain anatomical, physiological and therapeutic observations. To utilize craniosacral therapy in diagnosis and treatment requires a particular point of view: that of seeing the individual as an integrated totality.

We must initially separate anatomy and physiology from therapy and discuss various parts of the body as discrete topics. This artificial, linear approach to what in reality is an integrated whole necessitates a certain degree of repetition. Concepts and techniques introduced here are later modified, or viewed from different angles at other points of the Craniosacral experience.

As a starting point, we will introduce the concept of craniosacral motion, also known as the cranial rhythmic impulse, together with the anatomical and physiological definitions will serve as a foundation for understanding the content herein.


    The craniosacral system may be defined as a recently recognized, functioning physiological system. The anatomic parts of the craniosacral system are:

  1. The meningeal membranes
  2. The osseous structures to which the meningeal membranes attach
  3. The other non-osseous connective tissue structures which are intimately related to meningeal membranes
  4. The cerebrospinal fluid
  5. All structures related to production, resorption and containment of the cerebrospinal fluid

The craniosacral system is intimately related to, influences, and is influenced by:

  1. The nervous system
  2. The musculoskeletal system
  3. The vascular system
  4. The lymphatic system
  5. The endocrine system
  6. The respiratory system

Abnormalities in the structure or function of any of these systems may influence the craniosacral system. Abnormalities in the structure or function of the craniosacral system will necessarily have profound, and frequently deleterious effects upon the development or function of the nervous system, especially the brain.

The craniosacral system provides the “internal milieu” for the development, growth and functional efficiency of the brain and spinal cord from the time of embryonic formation until death.


   The craniosacral system is characterized by rhythmic, mobile activity which persists throughout life. This craniosacral motion occurs in man, other primates, canines, felines, and probably all or most other vertebrates. It is distinctly different from the physiological emotions which are related to breathing, and different from cardiovascular activity as well. It may be the underlying mechanism of, or closely related to, the Traube-Herring  phenomenon, which has been observed but not yet adequately explained. Craniosacral rhythmic motion can be palpated most readily on the head. With practice and the development of palpatory skills, however, it can be perceived anywhere on the body.

The normal rate of craniosacral rhythm in humans is between 6 and 12 cycles per minute (This is not to be confused with Alpha rhythm from the brain, which is between 8 and 12 cycles per second.) In pathological circumstances, we have observed craniosacral rhythm rates of less than 6 and more than 12 cycles per minute.


    Hyperkinetic children have been observed to present with abnormally rapid craniosacral rhythmic rates, as have patients suffering from acute illnesses with fever. Moribund and brain-damaged patients will often present with abnormally low rhythmic rates. As the clinical conditions improve, the rhythmic rates move toward the normal range.

In non-pathological circumstances, the rate of the craniosacral rhythmic motion is quite stable. It does not fluctuate as do the rates of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems in response to exercise, emotion, rest, etc.  Therefore, it appears to be reliable criterion for the evaluation of pathological conditions.

Under reasonably normal circumstances this rhythmic activity appears at the sacrum as a gentle rocking motion about a transverse axis located approximately one inch anterior to the second sacral segment. The rocking motion of the sacrum correlates rhythmically to a broadening and narrowing of the transverse dimension of the head. As the head widens, the sacral apex moves in an anterior direction. This phase of motion is referred to as flexion of the craniosacral system. The counterpart of flexion is extension. During the extension phase, the head Narrows in its transverse Dimension. The sacral base moves anteriorly while the sacral apex moves posteriorly.

During the flexion phase of the craniosacral motion cycle, the body internally rotates and seems too narrow slightly. A complete cycle of the craniosacral rhythmic motion is composed of one flexion and one extension phase. There is a neutral zone or relaxation between the end of one phase and the beginning of the next phase of each cycle. The neutral zone is perceived as a slight pause which follows upon the return from the extreme range of one phase, and before the physiological forces move into the opposite phase of motion.

Experienced clinicians are able to palpate the craniosacral motion anywhere on the body. Valuable diagnostic and prognostic information can be gained very quickly by palpating the craniosacral motion for rate, amplitude, symmetry and quality. This diagnostic potential was tested at the Loewenstein Institute when neurological patients were examined using the techniques of craniosacral rhythmic motion evaluation, and diagnoses were suggested without any other knowledge of the patient. By close examination for changes in craniosacral motion, we were able to accurately localize levels of spinal cord lesions which were responsible for paraplegia and quadriplegia in cases of poliomyelitis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, cord tumor and spinal cord severance due to trauma. We were also able to localize neurological problems in the cranium which were due to cerebral hemorrhage, thrombosis and tumor.

The craniosacral rhythm was observed to be 20 and 30 cycles per minute in those parts of the body which were no longer under the influence of the higher centers of the central nervous system. Thus, by palpating to determine the spinal level of rhythmic motion change in the paravertebral musculature, the level of spinal cord lesion or injury can be determined. The cord function is interrupted about two segments above the palpable change in the paravertebral muscle rhythm.

Denervated muscles move rhythmically between 20 and 30 cycles per minute, whereas innervated muscles move physiologically in correspondence with the craniosacral rhythm. (6 to 12 cycles per minute is normal.)

Low amplitude of craniosacral rhythm indicates a low level of fatality in the patient; that is, the patient’s resistance is low, hence the susceptibility to disease is high.

Occasionally, the craniosacral rate, as palpated on the head, is twice normal and the amplitude is low; but the internal energy which drives the craniosacral system seems quite high. We interpret this finding as indicating that the boundary of the hydraulic system, which is the meningeal membranes of the craniosacral system, is rather restrictive and lacks accommodation to the craniosacral motion. Therefore, the rate has doubled while the amplitude is reduced by approximately 50%. This condition maintains a normal distance of motion per minute. We often find this situation in cases of inflammatory problems which presently involved, or had in the past involved the meninges and/or the central nervous system. We also frequently find this clinical abnormality and autism. This may mean that autism is the result of a previous physiological problem which involved meningeal membranes, and which rendered them less compliant.

Lack of symmetry in the craniosacral rhythmic motion throughout the body is an indicator which can be used to localize pathological problems of any type which cause loss of physiological motion, such as osteopathic lesion of the musculoskeletal system (somatic dysfunction), inflammatory responses, adhesions, trauma with cicatrix, surgical scars, vascular accidents, etc. While the asymmetry of motion will not indicate what the problem is, it will tell you where the problem is located. Once located, you must rely upon other diagnostic methods to determine the exact pathological nature of the problem. Restoration of symmetrical craniosacral motion to the area of restricted motion can be used as a prognostic tool. As the asymmetry is eliminated and normal physiological motion restored, you may confidently predict that the problem is being or has been resolved.

The above information “Introduction to the Craniosacral Concept”  up to this write-up comes from the Craniosacral Therapy bible (so to speak), written by Dr. John Upledger and Jon Vredevoogd.

The YouTube presentation explains it further.

Presentation on Cerebro-Spinal Fluid

Craniosacral Therapy Research

Over 125,000 CranioSacral Therapy practitioners in over 106 countries around the world are facilitating excellent results with their patients in relation to structural alignment, function and pain reduction, among other measurable outcomes. Research suggests CST has been helpful for individuals with fibromyalgia, dementia, pain, headache, TMJ, scoliosis, concussion, and hundreds of other ailments.

Complete Article (PDF)

About Dr. Kaminsky & Craniosacral Therapy

Dr. Kaminsky is a 1999 graduate of the University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic. He is licensed to practice in NY and has completed close to three thousand hours of professional continuing education since becoming licensed in March of 2000.

The primary approach used in his office is Craniosacral Therapy (CST) which is a method focusing on the cranium (head) and sacrum (a large bone at the base of the spine) scientifically proven to control life sustaining fluid flow throughout the body.

Craniosacral Therapy is a gentle, non-invasive, hands-on manual therapy approach that brings about healing via the fluidity of the body. The existence of the Craniosacral System was first discovered by Osteopath Dr. William Sutherland in the early 1900’s, calling it Cranial Osteopathy.  And later rediscovered, validated, and developed by Dr. John Upledger in the late 70’s early 80’s, who renamed it Craniosacral Therapy after doing five years of research at the Michigan State University, School of Medicine. In 1983 Dr. John, as he was fondly called, established a teaching institute in Palm Beach, Florida, to teach this cranial sacral method to all healthcare providers. The Upledger Institute is still very active today.

The craniosacral mechanism pumps fluid which is produced in the brain, called cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF), through the fascial network of the body, the purpose of which is to lubricate joints, muscles, organs, all cells and all tissues. It is the driving life force for your body’s systems to function properly, CSF also carries healing properties to bodily traumas, injuries and past surgeries.

The proper function of your cranial sacral mechanism, via CSF flow, maintains the normal tone of your muscles, provide nutrients to your organs, and keeps you out of pain. It sustains human life and allows your nervous system to stay responsive to challenges of daily living and your mind-body life experiences. The better your craniosacral mechanism functions, the better the flow of this life sustaining fluid, the better your body can handle physical and emotional stress. The uninhibited flow of this fluid throughout your body allows you to thrive, opposite of survival mode.

CSF is part of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) brain and spinal cord), which is physically encapsulated within the dural membranes of the spine and head.

One of the functions inside of your brain is to automatically generate energetic rhythmic impulses that function to pump CSF throughout your body, regulating your peripheral nerves, nervous system and organ systems, which in turn, sustain your function (physiology) and life. It is an important force that maintains everything functioning in your body. This is what we call the Craniosacral System, or Craniosacral Mechanism. It is the hydraulic, energetic and rejuvenating system of your body.

This measurable life force of moving fluid is palpable to a trained craniosacral therapist, like the heart rhythm, pulse rhythm, breathing rate, that can all be felt, so too can the Cranial Sacral Rhythm (CSR) be palpated and measured. It is the foundational diagnostic tool in real-time used to evaluate your current state of well-being (or lack thereof), and potential for health improvement and healing.

Compromises of your rhythmic impulse, correlates to CSF flow restrictions in the system which the body is unable to self-correct or overcome on its own. This is the reason why over time we develop pain, dis-ease, symptoms, conditions, mind-body disconnect and basically all human physical and psychological ailments.

When the fluid isn’t flowing optimally, your bodily rejuvenation is affected, and this is where the skill of an experienced craniosacral therapist becomes valuable. By placing his or her hands on your body, most commonly on your head and sacrum, for diagnostic purposes, the practitioner can detect, feel, evaluate, and rate the SSQAR (strength, symmetry, quality, amplitude, rate) of the rhythm; then bring forth correction of any limitations with subsequent experienced hand placements on different parts the body during a session.

A craniosacral therapist helps your rhythm reset, restore and renew allowing for healing to take place of the mind-body connection, musculoskeletal tightness and spasms, neurological deficits, autoimmune issues, organ function, many common conditions, and of course pain. Through a practitioners properly focused and attuned touch, your body is facilitated to release channels of fluid stagnation and flow restriction, which ultimately breakthrough, overcome and improve CSR and the function of vital fluid flow.

Dr. Alex Kaminsky is an advanced practitioner of Craniosacral therapy, having studied up to advanced levels including SER and pediatric courses. He has built a solid foundation with many years of experience, treating babies, children and adults.

To learn more, visit the other pages on this website. Call to schedule your appointment with Dr. Kaminsky.