DO and CST

How Does Cranial Osteopathy Differ From Cranio-Sacral Therapy?

The primary and most significant difference between the Cranial Osteopathy and Cranio-Sacral Therappy is the level of training of the practitioners.

Cranial Osteopathy is a medical treatment applied by licensed physicians who have completed thorough Osteopathic medical education and numerous year of additional training in this specialty. In the United States, only actively licensed physicians are permitted to diagnose and treat using Cranial Osteopathy.

Cranio-Sacral Therapy requires little to no medical background. A single 24 hours course provides a certificate.


Osteopathic Physicians (USA) who are trained in the Cranial Concept:

  • Are taught the depth of Dr. Sutherland’s vision, and the evolution of his legacy dated from the early 1900s.
  • Are fully qualified to practice the full range and scope of medicine and surgery.  This thorough training brings a profound depth of understanding, knowledge, experience, and commitment to the Diagnosis and Treatment process.
  • Receive in-depth training in the applications of Osteopathic philosophy and technique. Cranial Osteopathy is an expansion of basic Osteopathic philosophy. Without this basic Osteopathic background, the full potential of cranial treatment may never be realized.

Comparing Training and Licensing Requirements for  Osteopathic Physicians
and Cranio-Sacral Therapists

 (Data courtesy of Osteopathic Healthcare of Maine)

CATEGORY DO CST*
Graduate Training 4 Years Osteopathic Medical School Variable. Some have PT or massage license, but people without any healthcare training can become certified and practice CST
Post Grad Training and Practice 3-8 Years Residency Training depending upon their specialty. Then 5 additional years in practice before they are eligible to apply for certification One 4 day course is necessary to begin practicing. Two 4 day courses are necessary for certification
Licensure/Scope of Practice Fully Licensed to practice the complete spectrum of Medical and Surgical Specialties in all 50 states No state or federal licensure and no governing body
Professional Organization Dr. Andrew Taylor Still Founded the first Osteopathic Medical School in 1892, based upon the body’s innate healing capacity.In 1939, Dr. Sutherland, introduced Cranial Osteopathy, which he characterized as merely a “Contribution of thought” to Dr. Still’s Osteopathic Science. John Upledger, DO introduced CST in 1983 and chose to teach it to non-physicians. Dr.Upledger gives no credit to Dr.Still and only references Dr. Sutherland to criticize aspects of his Cranial Concept
* The Upledger Institute

Please click here for additional detailed discussion of Cranio Osteopathy and Cranio-Sacral Therapy.