Dr. William Garner Sutherland had numerous contributions to American osteopathic medicine.  The most relevant to this site is his contribution to the development and practice of osteopathy in the cranial field, also known as cranial osteopathy, and the prototype for the popular craniosacral therapy developed by John Upledger, D.O.

Dr. Sutherland described many notable aspects of anatomical functioning.  The most well know is the primary respiratory mechanism which describes the rhythmic movement of the cranial bones as well as all of the bodies other tissues. This respiratory mechanism begets another of his notable findings, the movement of the cranial bones.  This has often been a source of contention with the medical, anatomical and other communities which maintain the sutures of the cranial bones to be fixed and thus incapable of movement.  Dr. Sutherland also pioneered balanced ligamentous tension or BLT, which is another modality for treating the body via manual intervention.

However, I feel Dr. Sutherland’s greatest contribution was his discourse on something he termed the breath of life. He maintained the human condition was moderated by a mysterious entity.  It was his experience that this palpable mystery was the source for the organisms intelligence in directing and facilitating the ability to heal itself.  This is the concept I have most resonated with given all my experiences of osteopathy, medicine, healing, and life.  I feel that this is what makes osteopathic medicine special and makes life the magical wondrous journey that it is.


Dr. Sutherland’s Wikipedia.

The Sutherland Cranial Teaching Foundation.