CONNECT back to health


DR. JOHN E. UPLEDGER (1932 – 2012)

Dr Upledger, a doctor of orthodox osteopathy, was assisting in an operation to remove a calcified plaque from the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord of one of his patients. His task was to hold the spinal cord still with two pairs of forceps while the surgeon scraped away the plaque. However, to his increasing embarrassment, in spite of his best efforts the part kept moving. The slightest slip by the surgeon could end up with the patient being paralysed from the neck down. The membrane kept moving in a regular cyclical motion throughout the procedure. Nobody could explain the motion, and he could find no reference to it in any of the standard text books. But the story did not end there. Dr Upledger was determined to find the answer, and he did after some years.

In 1968 John attended a course at The Cranial Academy which was being taught by Dr Magoun. Here he learned to feel the motion of the cranial bones, and the sacrum through the connection of the dural membranes. He realized that this was the movement he had first encountered when he was trying to hold the spinal cord steady for the surgeon. Attending the Cranial Academy changed the course of his life. At that time he had contact with Anne Wales, who, with Harold Magoun, was taught by Sutherland. They, and others, taught John to fine tune his palpatory skills and to trust what his hands were telling him.

In the period 1975 – 1983 John was a research fellow at the Faculty of Osteopathic Medicine at Michigan State University. In addition to being a doctor of osteopathy he was also a professor of biomechanics. He was asked by MSU to head a team to “prove or disprove that the cranial bones were capable of movement in adults” There was still controversy about cranial bone movement in the medical community.

The team consisted of Anatomists, Physiologists, Biophysicists and Bioengineers. The result of their work largely confirmed what Sutherland had discovered by experimenting on himself, and in his clinical experience. That the cranial bones, the membranes attaching to them, the membranes surrounding the spinal cord, and the sacrum, together with cerebrospinal fluid make up a moving body system known as the Craniosacral System. By correcting malfunctions in this system, many poorly understood conditions of the brain and spinal cord could be successfully treated.

While at MSU, and in private practice John continued to develop new ways to use the craniosacral system to solve health problems that did not respond to conventional methodologies. One of his research projects was with autistic children. He found that in examining their cranial membranes that they were, without exception, much tighter than in other healthy children. He developed strategies to relax the membranes which would bring about a change in the self destructive behaviour and improve emotional response from the patients.

He also came to understand that emotional issues could be locked or recorded in the soft tissue of the body, bringing about physical symptoms. These emotions were negative, or destructive, and could originate from physical, psychological or emotional trauma, or any combination thereof. He developed a system for locating and releasing these impediments to healing, which he called Somato-Emotional Release.

When Dr Upledger left MSU he set up a teaching foundation, The Upledger Institute, to train non-medical health professionals in “CranioSacral Therapy”, a term he coined to differentiate it from what was previously taught to only osteopaths. He has written and lectured extensively on craniosacral therapy, making it available to the general public. He has a gift for making complicated subjects easy to understand. Now well into his seventies, he still maintains an interest in research to improve and extend the scope of his life’s work. To date some 100,000 individuals world-wide have received training from The Upledger Institute.

There are many others who are continuing to develop craniosacral therapy, and have published books on the subject, among them are, Hugh Milne The Heart of Listening, and Franklyn Sills Craniosacral Biodynamics.