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Cranial Osteopathy

Cranial Osteopathy

Cranial osteopathy is a specialist field, which extends the principles of osteopathic medicine. It involves the gentle release of the skull bones as well as the spine, extremities and myofascia. This relieves interference to circulatory, brain and spinal cord function, allowing the nervous system and skeletal connective tissues to function and develop normally.

The cranium is made up of 29 bones each joined by various forms of joints. The most common form of joint is a suture. Sutures can be compared to stitching, which allows yielding movement while at the same time binds the cranium tightly. The 29 bones join together to form a total of 102 joints. Early anatomists believed that the sutures ossified after birth, but recently it has been confirmed that the cranial sutures should not ossify, but should allow a yielding movement. At birth, there are more than 29 cranial bones because many of the bones are formed by several parts which have not yet ossified together. This is an important point for the child's normal growth and development because if the bones ossify in a distorted manner this can affect the child's development and health.

The cranium is a most complex structure, except in health it functions incredibly simply as the Craniosacral Mechanism.

The Craniosacral Mechanism
The Craniosacral Mechanism refers to the inherent expansion and contraction which occurs between the cranial, spinal and sacral joints, due to the inherent fluctuation of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) into and out of the skull. The skull houses the brain – the vertebrae and sacrum house the spinal cord. The brain and spinal cord is further protected by a membranous sac-like covering called meninges. The CSF is contained between layers of these meninges and is free to fluctuate as it is produced and absorbed in a rhythmic fashion by certain areas of the brain and meninges. This rhythmic fluid fluctuation contributes an internal pressure to the semi closed hydraulic system allowing the bones to yield.

Inside the membranous boundaries of the meninges are crucial structures such as the brain and pituitary gland. If any one of the joints or bones of the craniosacral mechanism becomes restricted in the normal movement for whatever reason it will impede the function of the whole system. The craniosacral mechanism functions as a closed kinematic chain, analogous to a gearbox (ie. One bone moves another bone in a predictable fashion). For example, if one of the cranial joints becomes restricted in its movement in an infant, it will impede the CSF fluctuation, blood circulation and drainage causing pressure on the brain. This will interfere with the child's nervous system development possibly resulting in learning disability, hyperactivity etc.

Infant Development
All body functions depend on the integrity of the body structure. This simply means that for normal function the body must have normal structure. The two most important criteria for normal infant development are proper bone growth/formation and proper neurological formation and organisation. Of these two points, proper cranial bone formation is probably the most important, because with normal craniosacral function there can be no interference to neurological function. Research has shown that it only takes slight pressure on nervous tissue to cause impairment of function.
It is crucial for the child's normal development and health that no overlapping, compression or other positional abnormality remains in the infant skull. If an abnormality remains this will affect the yielding mobility of the bones and may result in interference to nerve function. Also, it is critical that no abnormality remains as the bones are forming because it could produce a permanent distortion in the bone which will require compensations in the rest of the body. Nature is a hard taskmaster; fixation of the cranial vault in whatever position it is left will begin shortly after birth unless it is released.

Craniosacral Treatment
Cranial Osteopathy and Craniosacral Therapy provide a major breakthrough in treating childhood developmental problems. By releasing the craniosacral mechanism the child is liberated to develop to its maximum potential, unimpeded. In some cases neurological patterning, sensory stimulation, visual, auditory and spatial awareness therapy/exercises by a kinesiologist may be required to augment the child's progress through the various stages of development (ie. Once the blind man can see he still has to learn to read).

Extremely light, but highly specific pressures and holds are used in the treatment. It is more beneficial to use light contact pressure because it is possible to harness the inherent powers of the craniosacral system. Trained hands can specifically direct the forces of the system so that the whole system may release. The release of the whole system is ultimately the goal of treatment so that the nervous system may function and develop unobstructed.

Causes of Cranial Lesions
The causes of craniosacral lesions are many and varied. Trauma is probably the most common cause. This trauma can be from falls, twists, dental work, surgical procedures, postural abuse or the actual birth process itself. Carnio
therapy is outstanding in the care of newborn infants and children. Many children have suffered trauma from the birth process, handling or even severe febrile illness (fevers).

During normal labour, the child's skull is molded to accommodate the compression and relaxation of the uterine contractions. In ideal circumstances, this process is essential and beneficial for normal skull, brain and nervous system development. Problems arise if the birth labour is too long, too short, or traumatic.

For example:
• In a caesarian delivery the child's head misses out on the beneficial contractions and molding.
• Breech presentation – all forces concentrate in the skull which may cause distortion and abnormal pressures
• Long Labour – abnormal compression
• Instruments/Forceps – possible injury because of harshness of contact, force used and twisting force.

Common Childhhod Symptoms
Because we address the causes of the condition, many seemingly unrelated symptoms are alleviated by osteopathic treatments.

Specifically in children's problems, craniosacral lesions are commonly found in:
• Learning Disabilities
• Hyperactivity/Attention Deficit Disorder
• Developmental Disorders
• Colic
• Reflux
• Suckling problems
• Middle Ear Conditions
• Respiratory and tonsillar conditions
• Autism
• Cerebral palsy

Early Intervention
Ideally, the earlier a craniosacral lesion is corrected the less it will affect the child. Many chronic or recurring adult problems are a result of an early craniosacral or spinal lesion which never settled down. If a lesion exists while the person is still growing, the body will adapt to it and a distortion pattern will evolve. It is most frustrating for a physician with this type of problem because they can only hope to control it. This type of problem can hardly ever be totally corrected in older children because of the long standing bony and connective tissue adaptive distortion pattern.

It is recommended that all children be initially checked as soon as possible after birth. From this point they should be monitired throughout their growth and development years to assure smooth transition and development to their maximum potential.

“AS THE TWIG IS BENT, SO THE TREE GROWS”

Health Dimensions ©2004