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About the 'STILL POINT'

Still Point was a term used by William Garner Sutherland DO (founder of Cranial Osteopathy) to identify and describe the brief cessation of rhythm attributed to the fluctuation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) observed by palpation during Osteopathic manipulative treatment when a point of balanced membranous tension is achieved.

During the still point, which may last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, all parts of the body become quiescent, and then a profound relaxation occurs as the body rebalances itself releasing strain patterns.

A still point is a variable period of time when the usual pulsations of the Cranial Rhythmic Impulse (CRI) cease temporarily. Therefore to understand a still point one must understand the CRI.


The term CRI describes the observed phenomena of cyclical slow body rhythms and pulsations. It is generated by the body and can be palpated by the hands of the Osteopath who feels these movements at any point around the body. The CRI is considered to be a fundamental, physiological action motivating the mobility throughout the entire mechanism of fluid, membranous, nervous and osseous tissues. In classical Cranial Osteopathic theory deriving from the work of William Garner Sutherland  (1873-1954), this movement phenomena is thought to originate from the functioning of the Primary Respiratory Mechanism (PRM).

The PRM is a term that Sutherland used to describe five inter-related physiological factors (see History of Cranial Osteopathy).


A still point, therefore, is a period of time when the movement of the CRI is not apparent. This temporary cessation of motion can last from a few seconds to minutes, during which time there is a re-balancing of the entire body within the fluid, membranous, nervous and osseous tissue environment.  The fluid level of the body is such an important medium in this process as explained below. From bone to tissue, from organ to vessel, from CNS to nerve root, from cellular to molecular level within this environ.

It is thought that still points occur spontaneously within the body as well as being able to be induced by the practitioner.

“Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible, nothing can surpass it.
The soft overcomes the hard; the gentle overcomes the rigid.”

Lao Tzu
Tao Te Ching

“...A successful response from the cerebrospinal fluid...
is an intensified interchange between all the fluids of the body...
It is definitely evident that the reaction is systemic and includes the whole body even within the bones.”

Anne Wales DO


Fluid Exchange is vital to normal physiology. All the processes of life occur because fluids flow: Through channels, across membranes, and within open spaces. Should the flow of fluids stagnate, all of life becomes diminished... and health is compromised.

Human Beings are comprised mostly of water. Bones are 20% water.



As newborns, water comprises a significant proportion of our bodies (75-80%). As Adults our total body water decreases to about 60%. By the age of 60 years the our total body water decreases to about 50%. As we age... we dry out.



Cerebro-Spinal Fluid (CSF) surrounds our brain and spinal cord. A mere 140 ml of fluid bathes the brain and fills the ventricles (internal cavities of the brain shown in red above).

This Cerebro-Spinal Fluid replenishes itself 3-4 times each day. Once thought only to provide buoyancy, CSF has now been discovered to provide important nutrient functions. Not only are essential substances made available, but harmful substances are cleared away. CSF establishes a stable and specialized fluid environment for nerve cells.

There are no lymphatic vessels within the Central Nervous System (CNS). The brain and spinal cord are instead cleaned by the rapid creation and absorption of the Cerebro-Spinal Fluid. This circulation of CSF was once thought to be a “closed” system. Studies, however, now reveal that CSF is in direct communication with the lymphatic system of the rest of the body, via the nerve rootlets which flow out of the spinal cord 'into the periphery' at every level of the CNS.


“There is no drop of water in the ocean, not even in the deepest parts of the abyss, that does not know and respond to the mysterious forces that create the tide.”

Rachel Carlson
The Sea Around Us

Water moves. It is lively, constantly changing. Water has a close affinity with all of life. It is a primal substance. Water allows for growth, propagation and metamorphosis. Water embraces everything; a universal element shared by all. Water is nature’s regulator. It is balanced and water balances all it comes into contact with. Water has the power to cleanse, purify, and heal.

Water, itself, is considered to be unformed... taking on the shape of the vessels that contain it. Yet water has potency, and as counter-intuitive as this may seem, water actually determines the shape of things.



Even complex forms arise from simple fluid dynamics. These pictures represent water flowing through a small opening into a large tank filled with water. The configurations of the flowing water as it expands into the tank demonstrate how complexity arises from simplicity.



DNA does not shape us. Something came before. Something gave rise to the shape of DNA. Note how this final fluid form (shown on the left above) resembles a 40 day old embryo (shown on the right above)... consisting mostly of fluid.


Jim Jealous DO, who brought us biodynamics, states clearly:

“The geometric configuration of the human body, as well as the metabolic processes, are present before the CNS develops (shown in the two photos above).... The innate wisdom is not contained within cellular structure.... The Original design and function is in the fluids of the embryo....The forces of embryogenesis become the forces of healing in adults.”


Fluid Exchange is essential to Health. The practical application of this principle in daily practice is fundamental to Osteopathy. 100 years before today’s research confirmed his understanding, Dr. Still knew:

“The rule of artery and vein is universal in all living beings, and the osteopath must know that and abide by its rulings, or he will not succeed as a healer.”

“The cerebrospinal fluid is the highest known element that is contained in the human body, and unless the brain furnishes this fluid in abundance, a disabled condition of the body will remain. He who is able to reason will see that this great river of life must be tapped and the withering fields irrigated at once, or the harvest of health be forever lost.”

“The lymphatics consume more of the finer fluids of the brain than the whole viscera combined... The lymphatics are universally connected with the spinal cord and all the other nerves... and all drink from the waters of the brain.”

We know the fluids of the body comprise 60-70% of the total body weight. We know these fluids inhabit multiple compartments. These fluids are not only in a continuous state of communication, but they are also in flux. There is constant interchange and renewal.

One of Dr. Sutherland’s main contributions was the discovery of the fluctuant nature of Cerebro-Spinal Fluid. The CSF is not simply circulating. The CSF fluctuates. Fluctuation is defined in Websters dictionary as: “The motion of a Fluid contained within a natural or artificial cavity, observed by palpation or percussion.”

Dr. Still spoke of the lymphatics drinking from the waters of the brain. We know that Cerebro-Spinal Fluid renews itself up to 3.5 times per day. This is a system that is constantly flushing itself out.

Dr. Rollin Becker spoke about the fluctuation of the Cerebro-Spinal Fluid being perceived as a total body fluctuation because the Cerebro-Spinal Fluid perfuses the lymphatics.

It is with this understanding... almost a poetic appreciation of anatomy and physiology that we can begin to place our hands upon our patients and perceive a single unit of function: A Fluid Body.

This Fluid Body has shape and texture. It is alive. It is filled with potency: A power to heal and transform. Becoming familiar with “normal” is essential. The quality of the fluctuation is far more important than the rate. In health there is a palpatory sense of full amplitude, a sense of vitality, and living dynamics. As a practitioner, we ask ourselves: “Does this mechanism feel alive or tired? ...and ultimately, what is the quality of the primary function of life within this given patient?”

Within the osteopathic literature The Fluids are described with terminology that is difficult to define. The meanings intertwine, and become interdependent:




Somewhere within the above - the Still Point exists and manifests itself throughout all life processes. There is cause and effect in each persons history of a changing developmental process - throughout life. The Still Point is an ever changing and shifting phenomena, which is an innate and integral part of life, influencing the healing processes within us all. 

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