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Cranial Osteopathy


Cranial Osteopathy
Cranial Osteopathy

In This Article
History How does it work?
A typical appointment Timings/ Costs/ Sessions
Is it right for you?
 
Cranial osteopathy evolved from conventional osteopathy first used by physician Andrew Taylor Still in the late 19th century. Still proposed that when bones are out of place, blood flow and nerve impulses become restricted causing disease. By manipulating these bones back into position, the flow is restored and disease can be cured.

In the early 1900s, one of Still's osteopathy students, William Sutherland challenged conventional osteopathic thinking about the fused bones of the human skull. Sutherland believed that the bones of the skull were not in fact fixed, but able to move and he performed experiments on himself to prove the effects of that movement on physical and mental well-being.

Sutherland used a helmet-like device to apply varying amounts of pressure to different parts of the head. He described emotional changes, pain and lack of co-ordination depending on the area that had pressure applied to it. From this, he began to develop a system of diagnosis and treatment of the skull that he termed 'cranial osteopathy'.


Body tissues move in a rhythmical motion making subtle changes to their shape (this is known as involuntary motion or cranial rhythm). Cranial osteopathy works on the basis that the bones of the skull move to accommodate changes to the shape of the brain. This is caused by cerebrospinal fluid around the spinal cord pulling the soft tissue connected to the cranial bones.

When there is pressure on the cranial bones it is a result of interference to the cerebrospinal fluid that passes around the brain, spinal cord and sacrum (the bone that joins the spine to the pelvis). This interference can be from accumulated stress, injury or disease from physical or mental trauma and manifests as tension in the head and body.

A cranial osteopath use subtle manipulation techniques to restore the flow of fluids and therefore relieve pressure on the cranial bones. Once this pressure is released, tension is relieved and the body can begin to function efficiently minimising further damage or disease.


Be prepared - It is advisable to choose a cranial osteopath who is a member of, or is accredited by, an association or professional body. This ensures your cranial osteopathy is carried out in a suitable environment and by someone who has received formal training and ongoing development. Members are also bound to a code of ethics and practice. The main cranial osteopathy organisations are listed at the foot of this article.

The majority of osteopaths are trained in cranial osteopathy while some choose to specialise in the field after completing post-graduate qualifications. It is advisable to ask your practitioner about their expertise in this area and ask for testimonials from previous clients.

Before your first appointment, write down your symptoms and concerns and take any prescription drugs or non-prescription drugs with you so your cranial osteopath can make an accurate diagnosis. You will not need to undress for your cranial osteopathy session but it is advisable to wear loose, comfortable clothing as you may have to remove an outer layer.


What to expect - During your first appointment, your cranial osteopath will take a detailed history of your health and ask about your symptoms, lifestyle and diet. They will then do a physical examination that may involve taking your blood pressure and testing reflexes. They will also examine your posture when standing and sitting and your range of movement.

Cranial osteopathy usually takes place with the patient reclining on a treatment couch but if this proves uncomfortable it can take place in a sitting position. The cranial osteopath will place their hands at the base of the skull and feel for tension and the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. Through this gentle touch, they will make a diagnosis of your condition and recommend a course of treatment.

The treatment itself involves a light pressure to the head and other parts of the body using various manipulation techniques. The methods your cranial osteopath uses are very gentle and many people find the sensation extremely relaxing. If other osteopathic techniques would prove beneficial to your condition, your practitioner will discuss them with you first.

Side-effects of the therapy can include a slight soreness or headache and a feeling of tiredness. This should pass after a day or so but should it persist consult your cranial osteopath. After your session, the cranial osteopath will discuss any further sessions you'll need and may give you dietary or lifestyle advice.


Your first session with a cranial osteopath will last about an hour as a diagnosis of your condition is made and treatment given. Follow-up sessions can last between 30 - 45 minutes.

Costs for treatment vary and you are advised to check these with your local practitioner before making an appointment. Expect to pay between £30 - £60 for your first session and £25 - £50 for subsequent sessions.

You will probably feel the benefits from cranial osteopathy after your first session but anywhere from 3 - 6 sessions are recommended, particularly for people with chronic conditions. Your cranial osteopath will discuss this before beginning your treatment and will advise you of your progress throughout.



Cranial osteopathy is a safe and proven therapy used among people both young and old and its benefits are widely recognised in the healthcare profession. Pregnant women with joint pain and back pain have benefited from the therapy and new-born babies with problems associated with cranial disorders are able to have the therapy due its gentle methods.

Consult with your GP and cranial osteopath about any problems or concerns you have as they are trained to recognise what can and cannot be treated with the therapy.




This therapy or modality may help with:

Anxiety Arthritis Back Pain
Circulation Problems Constipation Digestive Problems
Headaches Indigestion Infant colic
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Joint Pain Migraines
Muscle Cramps Neck pain PMS PMT
Sciatica Sinusitis Sports injuries
Stress Tiredness Whiplash

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About Therapist Qualifications

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