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The History Of Chiropractic Cranial

Sacro Occipital Technique

By Martin G. Rosen, D.C., CSCP & Charles L. Blum, D.C., CSCP

Sacro Occipital Technique (SOT) was discovered and developed by Major Bertrand DeJarnette. Born on Dec. 23, 1899, DeJarnette was raised in Havelock, Neb. In high school he considered a career in mechanical and design engineering and earned a four-year scholarship as an apprentice in the field of experimental engineering. In 1918 he moved to Detroit to pursue a career in the automobile industry. After an explosion in the factory left him severely crippled, he discovered the osteopathy as a possible way to restore his health. He traveled to the Dearborn College of Osteopathy in Elgin, Ill., for treatment. Inspired by his recovery, DeJarnette decided to enroll in the college. 1,2

After his graduation DeJarnette returned to Lincoln, Neb. Still suffering from serious back problems, he met a chiropractic student who convinced him to receive chiropractic care. After six months of care he was back to normal and decided to enroll in the Nebraska College of Chiropractic, where he received his degree in 1924. 1,2

While there, DeJarnette studied the works of many of the leaders of both the osteopathic and chiropractic professions. He felt that there were several contradictions and inadequacies within the professions as well as in his own practice. He began dividing his time between the actual practice of chiropractic and the researching of its principles. While developing the color filters for his “chromoclast,” DeJarnette invented and patented a process for separating the different colored gels. Scientists involved with color photography eventually purchased the patent, providing him with enough income to give up private practice and concentrate on research. For the next 60 years until his death in 1992, DeJarnette continually researched and perfected his chiropractic techniques and their physiological implications. SOT became an integration of engineering, osteopathic and chiropractic principles honed by years of undaunted clinical research. His body of printed materials, including technique manuals, philosophical discourses and research papers is unparalleled in the profession. 1,2

His definitive works, the 1984 “Sacro Occipital Technique Manual” and the 1979 “Cranial Technique Manual” are the culminations of his years of research and patient care. In these manuals he narrowed down the major subluxation patterns into three distinct categories with their accompanying cranial distortions. This category system recognizes that human structures subluxate. The various subluxations can become anchored in three identifiable, yet interrelated, systems of body reaction. Through the use of specific indicators, location and correction of subluxation patterns are made with greater accuracy and efficiency.

DeJarnette believed that. “Distortions [Vertebral Subluxation Complex] are massive muscular efforts which result in specific and localized fixations. These fixations act as a source of nerve stimulus, to other muscles until the body reaches an impasse. They result from a primary area of segmental neuron stimuli but by the time you see the patient, so many things have happened that it is difficult to make an effort to locate the basic area of subluxation.” 3 SOT is therefore designed to assist the chiropractor in locating and correcting the primary subluxation. This is accomplished through evaluation of indicators relating to specific category subluxation complexes.

Category I deals with the primary respiratory mechanism between the sacrum and occiput. When there is a subluxation of the anterior synovial aspect of the sacroiliac joint (sacral boot mechanism) it puts a strain on the spinal and cranial dura, impeding the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid throughout the spinal-cranial system. This dural involvement creates distortion patterns at Occiput, C1, and the sacrum with accompanying spinal and cranial subluxations in response to compensations created by this primary subluxation.

Category II involves hypermobility of the sacroiliac joint causing a dysrelationship between the sacrum and its corresponding ileum. The sacroiliac weight-bearing subluxation causes neural failure due to loss of the body to maintain itself against gravity. This failure involves the sutural system of body defense. Failure of Category II indicators to compensate for the stress of the subluxation may lead to Category III.

Category III is a complete failure of the compensatory reaction from a primary subluxation and brings about neural failure as a result of nerve root compression or stretch syndrome due to direct involvement of the cartilaginous (discs) joints of the spine.

In SOT, the premise is to peel off the layers of distortion to uncover the causative subluxation pattern and remove it. DeJarnette realized: “The only true subluxation you ever see must be in a child prior to the age of seven years…. If this subluxation goes uncorrected it becomes a primary source of stimulus through life, but the tombs of distortion, which form from one traumatic experience to the other, soon bury this primary subluxation under that ‘tomb of distortions.’ 3 The subluxation that all of us worry about occurred some time between birth and the seventh year of life, and the remedy would, of course, be careful chiropractic care from birth through the seventh year of life.”

DeJarnette dedicated his life and inspired others to dedicate theirs to the pursuit of excellence in the detection and correction of spinal, cranial and visceral subluxation complexes for the good of humanity. Preserving the work of DeJarnette is the goal of Sacro Occipital Technique Organization (SOTO). To preserve the life’s work of someone like DeJarnette is a multifaceted process because he dedicated his life to research and evolving techniques to help mankind. How then, can the historical aspect of his work be both preserved and evolve at the same time?

SOTO-USA has organized SOT methods of treatment for the first time into a modular series of seminars with a workbook based on the completed works of DeJarnette. Regretfully, in the recent past DeJarnette’s work had been modified by others and only in this new SOTO-USA modular series is his work finally preserved in an organized and easy to learn manner This is considered the foundational work of DeJarnette and includes:

Level One and Two SOT covering SOT Categories and Related Adjustments, Bloodless Surgery (CMRT: Chiropractic Manipulative Reflex Technique), SOT Extremity Technique, Level One, Two and Three SOT TMJ and Cranial Techniques, and Level One, Two and Three SOT Pediatrics.

To foster the evolving aspect of SOT, as exemplified by DeJarnette, SOTO-USA offers yearly multidisciplinary clinical symposiums, which allow for integration of new and complementary methods and concepts to further SOT, chiropractic and health care. This year on Oct. 9-12 in Washington, D.C., SOTO-USA is featuring Dr. John Upledger along with Drs. George Goodheart, Marc Pick, Jonathan Howat and many SOT doctors with historical significance such as Drs. Robert Coté, Cleo Bludworth, Harvey Getzoff, and Curtis Buddingh. There will be a whole section on dental chiropractic integration and mutual ways of how our professions can work together. Range of function analysis and treatment of brain trauma will be covered by Drs. Vincent Esposito, Carmine Esposito, and Esther Remeta. Sally Fallon, who is renowned for her studies of the relationship between nutrition and craniofacial dental arch development, will also have a workshop presentation.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s DeJarnette implored the chiropractic profession to perform research and investigate its methods of care. To honor his dedication to research, SOTO-USA has compiled all the published journal articles related to SOT and SOT Cranial to the year 2000 in three separate texts: “The Compendium of Sacro Occipital Technique 4,” “The SOT Collection 5” and “The SOT Collection—Supplement 6.” The gathering of these over 150 articles allows practitioners and/or researchers to access the entire peer review and other related literature on the topic of SOT.

SOTO-USA is also offering a $500 honorarium to anyone writing a paper on SOT for a peer review publication (interested parties can contact SOTO-USA at (336) 760-1618). Representing SOT at many research conferences has been a focus of SOTO-USA as well as supporting chiropractic research in general. The website,, represents the largest information base on SOT anywhere and is updated weekly.

SOT is a paradigm, a method of understanding myofascial neurological distortion patterns common to chiropractic. All chiropractic methods integrate, work well and can be augmented within the SOT indicator based system. For more information on Sacro Occipital Technique and what is new on the horizon contact SOTO-USA, PO Box 24936 Winston-Salem, NC 27114-4936 (336) 760-1618, email [email protected], or visit


  1. Heese, N, Major Bertrand DeJarnette: Six Decades of Sacro Occipital Research, 1924-1984. Chiropractic History. Jun 1991;11(1): 13-5.
  2. Hesse N, Chiropractic Innovator: Dr. Major B. DeJarnette Today’s Chiropractic, Sep/Oct 2000; 29(5): 60-6.
  3. DeJarnette MB, Philosophy Art and Science of Sacro Occipital Technique, Privately Published, Nebraska City, Nebraska, 1940.
  4. Blum CL, Fisher JH, Compendium of Sacro Occipital Technique 1984-2000, Eastland Press: Seattle, Washington, 2001.
  5. Blum CL, Sacro Occipital Technique Collection to the Year 2000, Sacro Occipital Technique Organization – USA: Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 2001.
  6. Blum CL, Sacro Occipital Technique Collection: Supplement to the Year 2000, Sacro Occipital Technique Organization – USA: Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 2002.