The different rhythms

The osteopaths working with the cranio-sacral therapy learn how to palpate and interact with some types of rhythms generated by the fluctuations of the cerebro-spinal fluid. They distinguish three types of rhythms:

  • the “primary respiration” rhythm (CRI) which, according to certain authors lies between 4 and 9 cycles per minute; according to others between 10 and 14 cycles per minute;
  • a rhythm of 1 to 3 cycles per minute, called “mid-tide”;
  • and a very slow rhythm “long-tide” of 6 cycles every 10 minutes

Most used and more known, the CRI or “primary respiration” is used “to treat” (to return a better mobility, to give again a harmony of movement) the bones, the muscles and the organs which have a certain fixity.

There is a disconcerting agreement between the rhythms palpated by the osteopaths and the frequencies extracted from the analysis of cardiac variability:

  • the cycles of the CRI (4-9/min) correspond to the waveband HF
  • the cycles of the CRI (10-14/min) correspond to waveband LF
  • the cycles “mid-tide” correspond to waveband VLF

Experimental validation of the palpated rhythms

At the end of the 19th century, Traube, Hering and Meyer highlighted a fluctuation of the pressure of the cardiac impulses which one calls Traube-Hering-Meyer oscillation (fig. 4). This fluctuation may still be present in absence of breathing.


Fig 4.: variations of the cardiac pulsations recorded by an auricle laser Doppler system highlighting the Traube-Hering-Meyer oscillations (dark blue curve). The light blue curve represents the monitoring of the variations of the cardiac rhythm (HRV). It is observed that the variation of the Traube-Hering-Meyer wave does not follow the variations of heart rate (HRV).

When one connects the recording of Traube-Hering-Meyer wave and Osteopathic palpation, we obtain a good correlation between flexion and extensions identified by manual palpation and fluctuations of the Traube-Hering-Meyer wave.


Recording of the cardiac Traube-Hering-Mayer wave (light blue curve). In yellow, the recording of the manual palpation. In dark blue, monitoring of respiration. One can observe a good correlation between the upper part of the light blue curve and the manual palpation of the sacro-cranial wave (yellow curve). The lower part of the cardiac signal (light blue) follows respiration (dark blue).


Several authors connected the oscillations of Traube Hering-Meyer with the palpation of the “primary respiration” rhythm (CRI):

  • In 1990, FERNANDEZ and LECINE (reference O1) showed the validity of their palpation of the “primary respiration” rhythm by means of an oscillometer measuring the variations of blood pressure. This experimentation emphasized CRI rhythms of 5-6 cycles per minute.
  • In 2001. 2002 and 2006, NELSON and Al (references O2, O3, O4) showed a good correlation between the palpation of the CRI and the recording of the Traube-Hering-Meyer wave by means of a laser-Doppler system. The first two experiments emphasized CRI rhythms of 4-5 cycles per minute; the experimentation of 2006 emphasized rhythms of 4-5 cycles per minute and rhythms of 9-10 cycles per minute.

Concerning the slower rhythm (mid-tide), it was shown that the intracranial pressure followed oscillations (called B waves) having a periodicity ranging between 30 seconds and 2 minutes (ANDERS EKLUND and Al (reference O5) and Mikael Edsbagge et al. (reference O6)).

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