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What Is Cranial Osteopathy?
If you’re looking for a cranial osteopath, Leeds Good Health Centre osteopaths have specialist training in both paediatric and cranial osteopathy techniques.
Our osteopaths are extensively trained in the use of cranial osteopathic techniques to aid wellbeing and recovery in all patients, from newborns to those in later life.
Is cranial osteopathy different from other osteopathy?
Rather than being separate from other types of osteopathy, cranial osteopathy is an extension of the same practice. It is underpinned by the study of anatomy, physiology, neurology and embryology.
Although it’s called ‘cranial’, the technique is directed at the whole body. In this way, it’s a truly holistic form of therapy. As with all osteopathic treatment, a cranial osteopath aims to reduce issues in the body that prevent it functioning at its best.
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How Can It Help Me?
Cranial osteopaths consider that the whole body undergoes a natural, regular, rhythmic movement – a bit like the movement of breathing, but smaller and slower.
Osteopathy is based on the principle that the structure and function of the body are intimately related. If the structure is not balanced and healthy then the function is affected.
In just the same way, cranial osteopaths aim their treatment at harmonising the body’s structure to allow it to function at its best. They assess how your body functions as a unit and aim to make tiny interventions that improve the whole function. You could liken it to a sailor who feels how well their boat is running and makes small adjustments to the ropes that enable the sails to fill and the hull to move smoothly through the water.
The Cranial Osteopathy Treatment
The aim of treatment is to facilitate all elements of the body to work harmoniously. Because of that, it can be beneficial in most circumstances. Since it’s such a gentle treatment to receive, it’s widely considered particularly appropriate for babies and patients who would feel uncomfortable with more direct treatments. This might include people who have had a significant trauma or are frail or infirm.
Cranial Osteopathy for Babies
We treat a lot of babies and young children here at the Good Health Centre. We assess them to see how treatment might help ease any factors that could be contributing to discomfort.
Compression of the skull happens normally during the birth process, which is why babies sometimes have oddly shaped heads for a while. This compression generally resolves over time.
The ‘cranial nerves’, which exit through the base of the skull, have wide-ranging effects. Some go to structures in the head, such as the muscles that move the eye. Dysfunction of this nerve can cause a squint. Some nerves pass further into the body, such as the vagus nerve, which has functions in swallowing and digestion, among other things. It also sends messages back to the brain about what is happening in the gut.
Just like adults, babies can experience restriction and discomfort. For example, restriction around the jaw and the neck can mean uncomfortable feeding. You might see this in irritability or unsettled behaviour during feeds. You might also notice that your baby prefers to turn their head to one side rather than the other.
Our experienced osteopaths are highly trained in anatomy and physiology as well as in cranial techniques. They not only have a profound knowledge of a developing baby’s structure and function, but an understanding of what’s ‘normal’ at any age or stage. They can assess and advise, and they will always refer to a medical practitioner if appropriate.
Evidence for Cranial Osteopathy
Most of the research in this field comes from small studies undertaken by osteopaths. Right now, there’s no definitive science to back up this technique. But scientific improvements in how we understand the workings of the body increasingly support the cranial osteopathic approach. You can find some of this research listed below.
The great majority of evidence for cranial osteopathy is ‘anecdotal’ and comes from patients and families who have experienced the changes it can make. One clinical study has been looking at how cranial osteopathy can help babies. Of the first 110 families, 66 were not familiar with osteopathy before getting involved. 99.1% of the families would now recommend cranial osteopathy to others. You can read more here.
Matsumae M, Kuroda K, Yatsushiro S, et al. (2019). Changing the Currently Held Concept of Cerebrospinal Fluid Dynamics Based on Shared Findings of Cerebrospinal Fluid Motion in the Cranial Cavity Using Various Types of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Techniques. Neurol Med Chir (Tokyo). 59(4):133-146. doi:10.2176/nmc.ra.2018-0272https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6465527/
Rasmussen TR, Meulengracht KC (2020) Direct Measurement of the Rhythmic Motions of the Human Head Identifies a Third Rhythm. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies.
Sergueef N, Nelson KE, Glonek T. (2002). The effect of cranial manipulation on the Traube-Hering-Mayer oscillation as measured by laser-Doppler flowmetry. Altern Ther Health Med. 8(6):74-76.
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If you have back pain, whether new or long-term, you know how it can interfere with your daily life.
If you have knee pain, you’re not alone. Frequent knee pain affects around one in four adults.
From a wry neck to arthritis, muscle spasm to a ‘dowager’s hump’, necks are a common source of pain.
Under normal circumstances, the shoulder has the greatest mobility of any of the body’s joints. But when something goes wrong, it can mean pain, limitation and frustration.
Sciatica refers to pain that runs from the low back into the buttock and down the back of the thigh. It may go below the knee and into the foot.
There are many causes of heel pain. These include plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinosis, heel spurs, and stress fractures.
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Cranial Osteopathy FAQS & Further Reading
What is an Osteopath?
An osteopath is someone who assesses, diagnoses and treats people with conditions and injuries, primarily using their hands.
Legally, to use the title ‘osteopath’, they must hold a recognised qualification (usually a three- or four-year degree) and be registered with the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC), which ensures the high standards of the profession.
Osteopaths are primary care practitioners. That means patients don’t need a referral from a GP or other doctor to see an osteopath. Please note, though, that some private health insurance companies will require a medical referral before they cover the costs – do check with your provider if you are planning to use health insurance.
They are part of the group recognised by the NHS as Allied Health Professionals (AHPs), along with physiotherapists, radiographers and paramedics, among others.
Osteopathy is based on three main concepts. Firstly, all parts of the body are interrelated. Secondly, the way a body functions adapts to its structure, and vice versa. And thirdly, the body has an inherent capacity for healing.
These principles mean that osteopaths evaluate and treat holistically. They consider all the physical, social and psychological factors that might be contributing to a problem.
What is cranial osteopathy?
Cranial osteopathy is a technique used by trained osteopaths to help people of all ages.
It’s a very gentle treatment. The osteopath uses their highly developed sense of touch to detect and alleviate areas of strain, both at the head and throughout the body.
Because it’s so gentle, it’s a safe method of treating people who are more vulnerable. That might be babies, the very elderly, or those who have significant injuries or trauma.
How does cranial osteopathy work?
Cranial osteopathy works by gently easing areas of strain or restriction in the body to enhance function and overall health.
Osteopaths often work at the head. They use their knowledge of the bones of the skull, the connective tissues and other anatomy to build up a 3D picture. Sensing the movement in this anatomy gives them information about how well the different areas of the body are working in unison.
They can then direct a subtle pressure to help release areas that are not working at full capacity. This release can allow that part to re-integrate with the rest of the body, meaning cranial osteopathy can have far-reaching benefits for health.
You could liken it to re-tuning an instrument in an orchestra, allowing full harmony to return.
What does a cranial osteopath do?
A cranial osteopath treats holistically. They ease restrictions or dysfunctions wherever they find them. They seek to enhance the health and function of the whole body.
Cranial osteopaths learn how to listen to the body with their hands. This heightened sense of touch, or ‘palpation’, enables them to feel the natural rhythms that occur in our bodies. They focus on the quality of these rhythms to understand whether the body is functioning healthily, and how well the different parts integrate and contribute to the whole.
When an osteopath detects areas that feel strained or restricted, they use a very subtle pressure to encourage a return to full and free function.
Is cranial osteopathy just for babies?
Cranial osteopathy is often associated with babies. That’s because many parents and carers have found it to be enormously beneficial in comforting and relaxing babies. In fact, our osteopaths often find that distressed babies calm down and even fall asleep during a session!
But cranial osteopathy isn’t just for babies. A treatment that’s safe, gentle and effective for babies is just as helpful for people of all ages. An osteopath may suggest cranial osteopathy treatment to a patient if they feel it would be particularly suitable for them. For example, the patient may be frail, or have injuries or conditions that mean other treatment techniques may be inappropriate.
Some patients may request cranial osteopathy as a treatment of choice. They may find it particularly effective, and many people enjoy the sense of warmth and relaxation that it can give.
Can children benefit from cranial osteopathy?
Yes, cranial osteopathy is well-suited to children, including babies and infants, older children and teenagers.
Young children may not be able to say where they have pain and discomfort. A cranial osteopath uses touch to evaluate the body and may be able to discover problems that the child is unable to express.
And many children like the very gentle approach that cranial osteopathy brings. They may feel more comfortable with the light touch and subtlety that it offers.
What training do cranial osteopaths undergo?
Osteopaths learn about cranial osteopathy as part of their undergraduate degree course. But many will go on to do further training in cranial osteopathy after they have graduated.
There are institutions that offer specific training in cranial osteopathy to qualified osteopaths, including the Sutherland Cranial College and the Osteopathic Centre for Children. Several of our osteopaths have postgraduate qualifications in cranial osteopathic technique.
If you’d like to know more about our osteopaths’ training and qualifications, feel free to get in touch.
What can cranial osteopathy help with?
Cranial osteopaths, like any osteopaths, treat people rather than conditions.
Cranial osteopathy can be seen as a way of assessing the healthy functioning of a person’s body, and of treating areas of poor function.
Osteopaths recognise the body’s own ability to heal and restore itself, and the aim of cranial osteopathy is to remove blocks to healthy function. That way, the body can establish full health again.
Cranial osteopathy is effective at relieving tensions and strains throughout the body, reducing discomfort and aiding relaxation. It’s a wonderful way to treat people of all types and ages, including adults and the elderly, pregnant women, young people, children and babies.
What happens during cranial osteopathy?
Seeing a cranial osteopath is like seeing any other osteopath. They will ask about your symptoms, your medical history and your lifestyle. They may do other tests, such as examining your movement or flexibility, or testing your reflexes, nerve function or blood pressure.
Although cranial osteopathy is just one of many osteopathic techniques, it may look and feel different to others. For example, you can usually be assessed and treated while remaining fully clothed. The osteopath places their hands very lightly on your head, at the base of your back, or on another part of your body. They may sit quietly for some time, while they concentrate on feeling the rhythms and tensions of the body to build up a picture of how you’re functioning.
Assessment and diagnosis often flow into treatment. The osteopath adjusts their touch to treat areas of restriction as they find them.
As always, the osteopath will make sure you understand what they’re going to do and that you’re happy before starting treatment. And if you have any questions, just ask!
Does cranial osteopathy work?
As far as scientific evidence goes, at the moment, the jury’s out. This is largely because scientific research studies are difficult and expensive to carry out.
However, promising evidence that supports the use of cranial osteopathy is building. For example, the rhythms that cranial osteopaths have long stated they can feel have now been measured by instrumentation. And there’s a growing number of studies demonstrating that cranial treatment can reduce the length of time newborn babies need to stay in hospital.
But most evidence is still anecdotal – it comes from the thousands of people who have cranial osteopathy every year. Here are a few things people have said about our treatment:
“My baby has made great progress and his neck muscles are a lot less tense. He has a better range of motion and his reflux symptoms have pretty much gone now!”
“After just one session we saw such a huge improvement, our baby felt so much more relaxed.”
“Went in as a sceptic but was quickly a convert.
Cranial osteopathy works.”