Introduction To Research

Research supporting Osteopathy in the Cranial Field (OCF) had been well established in the scientific literature long before William Garner Sutherland’s first documentation of the Primary Respiratory Mechanism in the late 1920’s.1,2,3,4 Like Dr. Still, Dr. Sutherland based his concepts on systematic observation, private research, and the published science and philosophy of his time.

In 1914 Louisa Burns DO began her landmark osteopathic research.5 Since then, the osteopathic profession has continued to pursue disciplined research concerning osteopathic principles. 6,7 A significant body of research produced by independent scientists and other health care professions has also proven supportive of OCF.8

Today, research supportive of the cranial concept is flourishing. Recent technological advances and increased funding have enabled research scientists to further study the fundamental principles of OCF.

Research supporting OCF can be classified into three basic categories:

  1. Explaining the underlying physiology (how things work). Dr. Sutherland described five phenomena as the basic premise for OCF. Links are provided below to explore relevant research.
    1. The inherent motility of the brain and spinal cord.
    2. The fluctuation of cerebrospinal fluid.
    3. The mobility of intracranial and intraspinal membranes.
    4. The articular mobility of the cranial bones.
    5. The involuntary mobility of the sacrum between the ilia.
  2. Confirming the positive clinical effects of treatment.
  3. Verifying palpatory reliability

OCF has been substantiated by a sound body of scientific and clinical research. Further research is important for the continued understanding and confirmation of osteopathic principles and practice.


  1. W. G. Sutherland, Contributions of Thought, 2nd Edition, Rudra Press, 1998, p31
  2. Swedenborg E, Animation of the brain coincident to respiration of the Lungs 1868
  3. L. Traube, Ueber periodische Thätigkeits-Aeusserungen des vasomotorischen und Hemmungs-Nervencentrums. Centralblatt für die medicinischen Wissenschaften, Berlin, 1865, 3: 881-885.
  4. S. Mayer, Studien zur Physiologie des Herzens und der Blutgefässe 6. Abhandlung: Über spontane Blutdruckschwankungen. Sitzungsberichte Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien. Mathematisch-naturwissenschaftliche Classe, Anatomie, 1876, 74: 281-307
  5. Louisa Burns DO Memorial, American Academy of Osteopathy, 1994 Yearbook
  6. Selected Papers of John Stedman Denslow DO, American Academy of Osteopathy, 1993 Yearbook
  7. The Collected Papers of Irvin M. Korr, American Academy of Osteopathy, 1979
  8. Bibliography of research related to Osteopathy in the Cranial Field, The Cranial Academy, 1999