Cranial Osteopathy

Cranial Osteopathy



Information Available
What is Cranial Osteopathy?
When should I see a Cranial Osteopath?
How is Cranial Osteopathy Performed?
Does it hurt?
Can I get rebates from my health insurance?
Can Cranial Osteopathy be used in conjunction with other methods of treatment?
The History of Cranial Osteopathy
Extra Information on Principles of Cranial Osteopathy


What is Cranial Osteopathy?

Correctly termed Osteopathy in the Cranial Field, cranial osteopathy is also known as CranioSacral Therapy.

It is a gentle method of both detecting and correcting strains within the body by tuning into the 'Primary Respiratory Mechanism'. This gentle and involuntary movement within the central nervous system and indeed all body tissues is interrupted in areas where tissues and bones have been strained or injured. This in turn affects the efficient delivery of body fluids, which contain essential nutrients and messages (e.g. hormones), from reaching their destination in the cells. Poor health may result.

Cranial Osteopathy encourages your own natural healing mechanisms to recover from the negative effects of stress on your body particularly your central nervous system. This treatment usually improves your overall health and resistance to disease.

For a better understanding of the mechanics of Cranial Osteopathy see the History section.

To better understand some of the principles behind Cranial Osteopathy see Extra Information on Principles of Cranial Osteopathy

Cranial Osteopathy also acknowledges that the mental and emotional aspects of our lives cannot be separated from our bodies, and that one affects the other, particularly at the level at which it operates. Cranial Osteopathy can offer profound emotional healing particularly when used in conjunction with Counselling or Hypnotherapy. Because it is very gentle, it can often be applied where other more direct interventions are too invasive.

When should I see a Cranial Osteopath?

Cranial Osteopathy may be of assistance to people of all ages. The following is a summary of conditions you might consider:

1. Newborns

Cranial Osteopathy is a gentle technique very suitable for treating newborns suffering from the mechanical strains experienced during birth. For simple strains babies will respond quicly. For more complicated strains or the longer a problem such as a birth trauma is left the longer it will take to fix. Treatment later in life can often take a long time and may not always be as successful.

Our cranially trained osteopaths will examine and treat newborn babies for any birth created musculoskeletal problems. If your baby's head looks out of shape, their body looks crooked, the cry a lot, suck poorly, or are too lethargic an examination is indicated.

- Normal Birth
During the normal birth process the baby's head is forced down into the birth canal against the bottom of the pelvis. The uterus contracts to assist the baby to be born and as it does so the baby must turn its head to enter the birth canal and then twist the whole body like a corkscrew.

Sometimes birth takes quite a while and the baby is in an unusual twist for long time. Tests have shown that the baby is often producing very high levels of stress hormones during this time.

Depending on the stresses put on the baby during this time, the shape and balance of the mother's pelvis the baby will benefit from a cranial assessment after the birth.

- Difficult Births
* Breech
Where the baby delivers bottom first instead of head first it is called a breech birth. This puts a lot of stress on the pelvis which is not mechanically as suited to birth as the cranium.

* Forceps Delivery
This is where forceps are used to pull the baby out during a very difficult birth. Oftentimes even when they are placed equally on either side of the head there are indentations left in the baby's skull. These may disappear however they may also have caused the skull bones to jam along the sutures and could be the cause of ear problems or more as the child grows.

If the pressure from the forceps is off centre then the baby is more likely to have a twist through the whole skull. This in turn will manifest itself throughout the whole body.

What symptoms may a baby have that indicate Cranial Osteopathy could help?

Crying: A baby has no other way of telling you they are in pain. The neck maybe hurting just as yours does.

Suckling: Correct suckling depends on the integrity of the nerves at the base of the brain that provide motor nerves to the tongue. If during birth there has been a torsion through the base of the skull then these nerves may be impinged upon in such a way that the baby's tongue does not have enough power to allow it to suckle properly.

Neck Rotation: Suckling may also depend on the baby's comfort when they turn their neck. Sometimes a baby will suckle from one breast and then be unsettled or cry for no obvious reason when put on the other breast. This is usually because it hurts to turn their neck that direction.

Lethargy and Unresponsiveness: Given that there are no serious organic reasons, these are early signs of a structural problem. It may later give rise to the development of ear problems, behavioural problems, or digestive problems.

2. Children

Children are amazing. They are forever testing their world and as a consequence they have falls and accidents that can also affect them mechanically. By having regular checkups many of the residual musculoskeletal tensions from these falls etc can be treated before they become a problem. By treating them early many problems which may have followed them into adulthood will be reversed.

The following problems or conditions may be helped by Cranial Osteopathy:
Learning Disabilities, Concentration and Attention
Ear Infections
"Stomach" Migraines
Some types of Scoliosis
Neck and back pain
Cerebral Palsy and Spacticity, Motor coordination impairments
Infantile disorders
Central nervous system disorders
Emotional difficulties
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Attention Deficit Disorder
Hyperkinesia (hyperactivity)
Some orthodontic problems such as crowding and bite
Dyslexia and Dyscalula
Developmental Delay

While treatment after any major traumas is advised it is also good to check with us if your child complains of any musculoskeletal pain or headaches. We recommend that you bring each child in for a regular checkup just as you would to the dentist to prevent any problems developing.

3. Adults

In adults Cranial Osteopathy may be useful in the treatment of:
Migraines and headaches
Chronic neck and back pain
Motor coordination impairments
Stress and tension related problems
Traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries
Chronic fatigue
Scoliosis
Central nervous system disorders
Emotional difficulties
Temperomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Orthopeadic problems
Seizure Disorders
Tinnitus
Chronic Pain Syndromes
Arthritis and Joint Pain
Neuraligia
Fibromyalgia and other Connective-Tissue Disorders
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
Stroke and Post Operative Rehabilitation
Assisting in Cases of Difficult Labour

How is Cranial Osteopathy Performed?

A history is taken, and normal motion and/or orthopaedic testing is performed to get a working diagnosis and a base line to compare your progress against.

A gentle touch is then used to 'listen' to the'Cranial Rythmic Impulse', the slow pulsation generated by the ebb and flow of cerebrospinal fluid throughout the body tissues. This helps your practitioner to find where the motion is disturbed or affected by strains within the body structure and consequently where the body function is being affected.

The therapeutic side of the work is in helping the body to re-establish its original movement patterns and fluid flow by assisting it to resolve the strain that has developed through injury or disease. During the treatment phase it is the body that does the work and very little pressure is exerted by the practitioner.

While experienced clinicians can detect motion anywhere on your body, they can most easily feel it at the skull, diaphragm and sacrum. The skull and sacrum bones attach to the membranes that enclose the cerebrospinal fluid and therefore exhibit a stronger cranial rythmic impulse. Since the sacrum acts as a 'brake' on the cranial movement your practitioner will probably release this first.

The positive effects of Cranial Osteopathy rely to a large extent on your body's natural self corrective activities. The therapist's light, hands on approach simply assists the hydraulic forces inherent in the craniosacral system to improve your body's internal environment and strengthen its ability to heal itself.

Does it hurt?

In most cases there is little or no pain, and the procedure is very relaxing. Cranial work is client-led, that is the body sets the pace of work so that you remain comfortable and in control and able to integrate the changes that occur. You may feel a deep sense of relaxation combined with sensations of heat, tingling, and pulsation during the session. Many people will go off to sleep.

When there has been severe truama and tissues are quite inflamed pain may be experienced. If this happens in your case just let your practitioner know so the treatment can be adjusted.

Can I get rebates from my health insurance?

Your treatment will be covered as outlined in the section on Osteopathy

Can Cranial Osteopathy be used in conjunction with other methods of treatment?

Usually Cranial Osteopathy can be used with other modalities without causing any kind of interference. It is best to discuss your case directly with your practitioner.

The History of Cranial Osteopathy

Cranial Osteopathy was originated by physician William Sutherland, DO (1873-1954) in 1898-1900. While looking at a disarticulated skull, Sutherland was struck by the idea that the cranial sutures of the temporal bones where they meet the parietal bones were "beveled, like the gills of a fish, indicating articular mobility for a respiratory mechanism."[6] This idea that the bones of the skull could move was contrary to North American contemporary anatomical belief.

Sutherland stated the dural membranes act as 'guy-wires' for the movement of the cranial bones, holding tension for the opposite motion. He used the term reciprocal tension membrane system (RTM) to describe the three Cartesian axes held in reciprocal tension, or tensegrity, creating the cyclic movement of inhalation and exhalation of the cranium. The RTM as described by Sutherland includes the spinal dura, with an attachment to the sacrum. After his observation of the cranial mechanism, Sutherland stated that the sacrum moves synchronously with the cranial bones. Sutherland began to teach this work to other osteopaths from about the 1930s, and continued to do so until his death. His work was at first largely rejected by the mainstream osteopathic profession as it challenged some of the closely held beliefs among practitioners of the time.

In the 1940s the American School of Osteopathy started a post-graduate course called 'Osteopathy in the Cranial Field' directed by Sutherland, and was followed by other schools. This new branch of practice became known as "cranial osteopathy". As knowledge of this form of treatment began to spread, Sutherland trained more teachers to meet the demand, notably Drs Viola Frymann, Edna Lay, Howard Lippincott, Anne Wales, Chester Handy and Rollin Becker.

The Cranial Academy was established in the US in 1947, and continues to teach DOs, MDs, and Dentists "an expansion of the general principles of osteopathy"[7] including a special understanding of the central nervous system and primary respiration.

Towards the end of his life Sutherland believed that he began to sense a "power" which generated corrections from inside his clients' bodies without the influence of external forces applied by him as the therapist. Similar to Qi and Prana, this contact with, what he perceived to be the Breath of Life changed his entire treatment focus to one of spiritual reverence and subtle touch.[8] This spiritual approach to the work has come to be known as both 'biodynamic' craniosacral therapy and 'biodynamic' osteopathy, and has had further contributions from practitioners such as Becker and James Jealous (biodynamic osteopathy), and Franklyn Sills (biodynamic craniosacral therapy). The biodynamic approach recognises that embryological forces direct the embryonic cells to create the shape of the body, and places importance on recognition of these formative patterns for maximum therapeutic benefit, as this enhances the ability of the patient to access their health as an expression of the original intention of their existence.

From 1975 to 1983, osteopathic physician John E. Upledger and neurophysiologist and histologist Ernest W. Retzlaff worked at Michigan State University as clinical researchers and professors. They set up a team of anatomists, physiologists, biophysicists, and bioengineers to investigate the pulse he had observed and study further Sutherland's theory of cranial bone movement. Upledger and Retzlaff went on to publish their results, which they interpreted as support for both the concept of cranial bone movement and the concept of a cranial rhythm.[9][10][11] Later reviews of these studies have concluded that their research is of insufficient quality to provide conclusive proof for the effectiveness of craniosacral therapy and the existence of cranial bone movement.[12]

Upledger developed his own treatment style, and when he started to teach his work to a group of students who were not osteopaths he generated the term 'CranioSacral therapy', based on the corresponding movement between cranium and sacrum. Craniosacral therapists often (although not exclusively) work more directly with the emotional and psychological aspects of the patient than osteopaths working in the cranial field

Taken from
Wikipedia on Cranial Osteopathy

In Australia a branch of the Sutherland Cranial Teaching Foundation provides training for osteopaths wishing to learn this philosophy.

Extra Information on Principles of Cranial Osteopathy

Three of the essential concepts in Cranial Osteopathy are:

1. Function is dependent on form and form is in constant movement

2. The body is self-healing and self-regulating

3. The human system is a unified whole and functions as such

Cranial movement is comprised of an expansion/contraction, and ebb and flow movement. The system which drives this movement Sutherland called "The Primary Respiratory Mechanism" (or the cerebrospinal pump).

The components of this "Primary Respiratory Mechanism" include:
- The Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) is the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord and undergoes the gentle ebb and flow mentioned above.
- The slight curling and uncurling movement of the Central Nervous System (CNS)
- The small regular movement of the cranial bones which is transferred through the spinal column to the sacrum
- The Dura, or linings around the brain and spinal cord which act as links or guys to control motion.

Clinical Significance

The rhythmic cerebrospinal fluid movement is generated in the central axis of the body, to which all the other bones and the organ systems relate. This motion, therefore, is transferred to and taken up by the more peripheral bones of the body, the connective tissue and all the organs. Hence, the motion becomes a whole body motion, thus an interruption of motion in one area can be tranferred to another and may result in ill health.

An important Cranial Osteopath's axiom is that "form affects function". This means that if our form or structure is affected by restriction or congestion, then its function is affected. Poor function leads to "dis-ease".

Therapy is applied to reverse this process :
- disease arises from stasis in body fluids produced by poor motion
- therapy improves motion in one area then releases another
- motion improves circulation which clears up stasis
- health improves and motion improves. Pain decreases.

Useful Links: Orthobionomy, Kinesiology

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