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What is Cranial Osteopathy?

Cranial Osteopathy is a refined and subtle type of osteopathic treatment that uses very gentle manipulative pressure to encourage changes throughout the body, including the head. Cranial Osteopaths treat the whole body not just the head.

In 1899 William Garner Sutherland, a student of Andrew Taylor Still, observed that the 26 bones of the skull were connected by modified joints which permitted a tiny degree of physiological motion expressed through the skull and its membranes, fluids and brain within. This motion can also be felt throughout the body, similar to a very refined form of breathing. This minute rhythmical shape change has come to be seen as the body’s (and cranium’s) response to the "breath of life" or "primary respiratory mechanism", and an expression of the individual’s state of health and well-being. Unlike flexing an arm or taking a deep breath, this motion is beyond our voluntary control, and so is called "involuntary motion". 

One of the fundamental principles of Osteopathy is that "the living body is a self-correcting, self-regulating, self-healing mechanism", constantly working to establish its optimum level of health. This principle is particularly emphasised in Cranial Osteopathy, wherein the practitioner seeks to be as receptive as possible to the intelligence of the "inner physician", in order to sense how the body is seeking to rebalance itself. This informs the practitioner’s mind and hands as to the body's state of health, and what support or intervention the system requires to re-establish balance and harmony, restoring the freedom it needs to get on with its job of self-healing.

The primary concern of the Cranial Osteopath is therefore to learn to listen. The treatment process arises out of this attitude of quiet respect and receptive attention.

Why is Cranial Osteopathy different?

Osteopaths are taught a variety of methods and techniques, ranging from the well known ‘high velocity thrust’ with its dramatic clicks, to the very gently applied methods used by so called ‘Cranial Osteopaths’. Osteopaths vary their treatment methods, depending on their own preference and individual patients’ problems. ‘Cranial Osteopath’ is the name by which osteopaths who work at the more gentle, subtle end of the spectrum of different treatment approaches, have become known.

Osteopaths may have different specialities including sports injuries, paediatrics, visceral (treating the internal organs of the body). Cranial osteopathy embraces all of these.

Osteopaths use their highly trained palpatory skills to detect areas of tension or restriction in the body, and to gently release them to restore a state of balance within the musculoskeletal system of the body.

What does treatment involve?

An Osteopath takes a detailed medical history from the patient followed by a careful examination. He will make a diagnosis of what is causing the symptoms, and try to put together the ‘story’ of why they have developed.

Using very subtle and gentle techniques, the accumulated stresses and strains in the body are gradually released. The aim is to relieve the current symptoms and also improve the underlying health of the tissues as far as possible in order that they do not recur.

This type of treatment is suitable for everyone from newborn babies to the very elderly, being extremely gentle.

What does Cranial Treatment feel like?

Patients may feel sensations of pressure or warmth, either under the osteopaths hands or elsewhere. Most patients feel that gradually the tension is being drawn out of their body and they become deeply relaxed.

Benefits of Treatment

Osteopathic treatment is aimed not only at the relief of symptoms, but towards helping the body function better in all respects. Patients often report an improvement in general well being, energy levels, sleep patterns and also in areas of symptoms other that those that brought them to the osteopath in the first place.

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