Dr. John Upledger

Dr. John Upledger 

World renowned osteopathic physician and author John E. Upledger, 80, founder of Upledger Institute International and developer of CranioSacral Therapy, passed away October 26, 2012 at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Dr. Upledger gained global recognition for his pioneering advancements in the field of manual therapy, in particular, CranioSacral Therapy. His development of CranioSacral Therapy and the work of Upledger Institute International led to Dr. Upledger serving on the Alternative Medicine Program Advisory Council for the Office of Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C., and his being named in TIME magazine as one of America’s “Next Wave of Innovators” for his proven clinical applications of this therapy.

Trained as a surgeon and clinical researcher, Dr. Upledger’s in-depth investigation into the field of cranial manipulation was prompted by an observation of a dural membrane rhythmic motion during a patient’s neck surgery in the early 1970s. After much research, Dr. Upledger theorized that cranial bones allowed for movement into adulthood – a concept previously accepted only for infants.

Dr. Upledger’s curiosity on this controversial position led to his work with a team of anatomists, physiologists, biophysicists and bioengineers at the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Michigan State University where he served as a Professor of Biomechanics and clinical researcher from 1975 – 1983. They were tasked with proving or disproving the basic tenets of cranial manipulative techniques: the movement of cranial bones.

By studying fresh cranial bone specimens and employing various testing means, Dr. Upledger’s team confirmed the existence of cranial bone motion and attained precise measurements of the frequency and amplitude of cranial bone movement.

Further investigation by Dr. Upledger lead to the hypothesis of the craniosacral dura mater and cerebrospinal fluid being integrated into a comprehensive model of the craniosacral system he termed the “Pressurestat Model.”

Techniques for evaluating and treating the dural membranes were developed largely by Dr. Upledger and distinguish CranioSacral Therapy from other cranial techniques. Dr. Upledger actually coined the now common title “CranioSacral” Therapy.

Dr. Upledger’s success with alleviating pain and dysfunction through the use of CranioSacral Therapy fueled his dream to help vast numbers of people. In 1985, he founded The Upledger Institute, to continue advancing and spreading the word of this effective, light-touch modality to healthcare providers worldwide.

During the past 30 years Dr. Upledger also authored eight books detailing the application of CranioSacral Therapy and SomatoEmotional Release and offering case studies on its effectiveness. His books include CranioSacral Therapy, CranioSacral Therapy II – Beyond The Dura; SomatoEmotional Release and Beyond; Your Inner Physician and You; A Brain is Born; CranioSacral Therapy, Touchstone for Natural Healing; Working Wonders, Changing Lives with CranioSacral Therapy; CranioSacral Therapy, What it is, How it Works.

Working by his side for 25 years has been his son, John Matthew Upledger, who holds the position of President and CEO of Upledger Institute International. John Matthew has been actively engaged in all aspects of the organization – from education to clinical services. His strict adherence to delivering high quality continuing education has solidly positioned Upledger as the leading provider in manual therapy education.

John Matthew Upledger also has been largely credited with expanding the Institute’s teachings worldwide. To date over 100,000 healthcare practitioners residing in more than 100 countries have received Upledger CranioSacral Therapy training. Workshops are held in over 400 cities, in more than 60 countries. The popularity of Upledger’s CranioSacral Therapy curriculum stems from its comprehensive instruction, wide variety of related courses including more than 40 unique course titles, and a Certification program that is recognized globally.

Dr. John and John Matthew Upledger used the prominence and infrastructure of Upledger Institute International to introduce and support other leading-edge alternative and complementary healthcare modalities and promote the general acceptance of hands-on work.

Together they formed The International Alliance of Healthcare Educators (IAHE) as well as the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners (IAHP). Today, among the members of IAHE are Jean Pierre Barral, D.O., developer of Visceral Manipulation, and in collaboration with his colleague Alain Crobier, D.O., Neural Manipulation and Global Joint Articulation; Bruno Chikly, M.D., D.O., developer of Lymph Drainage Therapy; Kerry D’Ambrogio, D.O.M., A.P., B.Sc., P.T., developer of Total Body Balancing; Suzanne Scurlock-Durana, CMT, CST-D, founder of Healing From the Core; Fritz Smith, MD, founder of Zero Balancing, Aminah Raheem, Ph.D., founder of Process Acupressure, Judith Walker-Delany, M.T., developer of NeuroMuscular Therapy, and Ann Harman, D.O., The Feldenkrais Method. IAHP has more than 125,000 members.

As Dr. Upledger’s reputation garnered attention worldwide and the benefits of CranioSacral Therapy became widely accepted, the Upledger clinic attracted patients from celebrities like Brooke Shields to professional athletes such as multiple Olympic medalist Mary Ellen Clark to high profile cases such as the 2-year-old Egyptian twin boys who were born joined at the top of their heads.

Dr. Upledger also implemented multi-hands and one – and two-week Intensive Therapy Programs for difficult cases. Patients’ therapists and visiting CranioSacral Therapy practitioners from around the world would enjoy the opportunity to work in the Palm Beach Gardens clinic with “Dr. John,” as he was affectionately known by his students and colleagues.

While devoted to patient care, Dr. Upledger, who played the piano and accordion, originally wanted to be a jazz musician. He decided on a medical career after a stint in the U.S. Coast Guard during the 1950s. In the eye of a hurricane, he performed an appendectomy with instructions from a surgeon on the other end of a ship-to-shore radio. He later graduated from Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri and became a general practitioner and surgeon.

A light touch, noninvasive technique, CranioSacral Therapy can be safely used on patients of all ages, from newborns to senior citizens – and on those with varying degrees of pain. It complements the body’s natural healing processes and patients report improvement for a wide range of medical problems including headaches, neck and back pain, Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ), central nervous system disorders, motor-coordination impairments, orthopedic problems, neurovascular or immune disorders, fibromyalgia and other connective-tissue disorders, learning challenges such as ADD and ADHD, emotional difficulties, as well as other ailments.

Patients also find the technique extremely relaxing. It is very effective for reducing stress and is increasingly being used as a preventive health measure to bolster resistance to disease.

Among Dr. Upledger’s outreach programs were work with military veterans coping with PTSD and the use of dolphins in conjunction with CranioSacral Therapy.