What is Cranial Osteopathy?
Cranial osteopathy is a refined and subtle type of osteopathic treatment that encourages the release of stresses and tensions throughout the body, including the head. It is a gentle yet extremely effective approach and may be used in a wide range of conditions for people of all ages, from birth to old age.
The Cranial Osteopathy Rhythm
Osteopaths trained in cranial osteopathy feel a very subtle, rhythmical shape change that is present in all body tissues. This is called Involuntary Motion or the Cranial Rhythm. The skull is made up of 26 bones which are intricately joined in such a way that during the rhythmical cycle of involuntary motion, the skull can actually change shape very slightly to accommodate the normal involuntary motion of the brain inside.
Impact to the head can block or disrupt this movement. This can cause a wide variety of problems both in the head and in other areas of the body. Using involuntary motion in the tissues, Osteopaths can use cranial osteopathy to feel whether a person is in an optimum state of health, or whether there is something preventing healthy movement of the tissues from occurring.
Most of us have been exposed to physical trauma at some stage in our life. The body may have been able to absorb the effects of an accident at the time, but a lasting strain often remains. Illnesses and emotional trauma can also leave a lasting physical effect. Gradually the body may find it more and more difficult to cope with accumulated stresses, and symptoms may start to show.
The movement is of very small amplitude, therefore it takes practitioners with a very finely developed sense of touch to feel it. This rhythm was first described in the early 1900's by Dr. William G. Sutherland and its existence was confirmed in a series of laboratory tests in the 1960's and '70's. Tension in the body disrupts the cranial rhythm.
Practitioners in cranial osteopathy compare what your rhythm is doing to what they consider ideal. This shows them what stresses and strains your body is under at present, and what tensions it may be carrying as a result of its past history. It also gives them an insight into the overall condition of your body, for example if it is healthy, or stressed and tired.
Cranial osteopathy treatment is very gentle and often people feel nothing at all. Other people may feel sensations of pressure or warmth and changes in the body while other feel relaxed and sleepy.
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Cranial Osteopathy for Babies and Children
Cranial osteopathy is a safe and natural approach to health care for all life’s stages. Osteopaths are increasingly being asked to treat babies and children for complaints attributable to mechanical strains acquired before birth or during the birth process.
It is a common belief that children and babies should have no structural stresses or strains in their body, because they are so young and flexible. However the reality is very different.
During the birth of a baby, their body is subject to enormous forces as the womb contracts to deliver the baby against the natural resistance of the birth canal. The small amounts of movement that exist in the infant skull permit the baby’s head to adapt to the forces of labour. However the birth process can potentially be a stressful journey into the outside world. If the birth is particularly difficult, stressful, unduly long or fast or when other complications occur such as the need for forceps/ventouse or C-section delivery then the baby may struggle to fully resolve the stresses or strains within its body.
As a result many babies are born with an odd head shape particularly if forceps or a ventouse is used to aid delivery. Normally this head shape or moulding will resolve itself over the first few days of life as the baby breathes, cries and suckles. However if the baby is unable to resolve the stresses and strains within their body it can lead to subtle changes in function leading to problems further down the line for example the baby being unable to fully turn its head one way or the other, feeding difficulties, physically uncomfortable and therefore unable to settle, disturbed sleep patterns or expressing symptoms of colic.