Cranial Manipulation – What Is It & Does It Really Work

Cranial Manipulation – What Is It & Does It Really Work. There is a lot of mixed feelings and opinions surrounding Cranial Osteopath London. So we have written the below article to hopefully help explain some theories, describe the treatment process and mention some examples of when it could be beneficial. If you have any questions feel free to get in touch at Wellthy Clinic.

Osteopath To Cranial Osteopathy

Cranial manipulation! Well at one time all physicians presumed that the skull was solidly fixed together. It wasn’t until the early part of the 20th Century (1930s) that William Garner Sutherland suggested that the cranium was a moving structure. Even though these movements are tiny he also discovered that there was a pulse in the cranium that mirrored the cerebrospinal fluid.

When we are healthy this pulse beats between 10 & 14 beats a minute. When we are unwell or have an illness this beat is much lower. By gentle manipulation of the head and the sacrum, Sutherland suggested that he could potentially adjust the timing of the pulse. By restoring balance within the body this could help with multiple pains and conditions.

Can any osteopath perform cranial manipulation?

Yes they can, but this treatment needs a light sensitive touch and feel of the patient’s rhythmic pulse. As a practitioner if you cannot tune into that pulse, then you are probably going to be ineffective with your treatments. Moreover, Cranial Osteopaths typically undergo post graduate training to develop their palpation and understand the underlying mechanisms behind this style of treatment.

How Does Cranial Osteopathy Work?

Cranial Osteopaths believe they are able to feel a subtle rhythmic movement that is present in the body, known as the ‘Cranial Rhythm’ (or involuntary motion). The aim is to be a facilitator and to allow the patient’s body to find better health. By gently supporting the patient by typically holding their head or sacrum, it’s possible to feel restrictions which can be eased to restore balance within the body.

What Bones Can Be Manipulated In Craniosacral Therapy

Cranial Osteopathy is very gentle in comparison to more direct manipulations used within structural osteopathy sessions. Within sessions your Cranial Osteopath will be feeling for subtle restrictions and wanting to encourage a better sense of balance and symmetry within the patient’s body. The group of bones that could potentially be manipulated consists of the skull, vertebral column, sacrum and the coccyx. However, it is important to note cranial bone motion cannot be considered in isolation but one of the 5 inter-related phenomena.

CranioSacral Therapy vs. Cranial Osteopathy

Craniosacral Therapy, which was developed in the 1970s, (John Upledger,) but is often compared to cranial osteopathy, developed by Dr. Sutherland in the 1930s. This led to the early research behind Craniosacral Therapy. Both approaches from a patient’s perspective involve the practitioner mainly holding the cranium and sacrum within a treatment session. However, Cranial Osteopaths requires a higher level of training with all UK Osteopaths required to complete a 4 year full time masters degree course. After that, they complete additional Cranial osteopathy postgraduate courses. Craniosacral therapy requires 1 year of diploma training as a starting point then there are additional training courses.

Bones Of The Skull – Cranial Manipulation

There are 28 bones that potentially could be manipulated in the skull, six ossicles of the inner ear within the temporal bones and the osseous labyrinths. Furthermore the hyoid bone is sometimes considered by some to be part of the cranial region as well.

The 8 Cranial Bones
Temporals (x2)
Parietals (x2)

The 14 Facial Bones
Maxillae (x2)
Zygomatic (x2)
Palatines (x2)
Nasals (x2)
Lacrimals (x2)
Inferior conchae (x2)

What is Cranial Osteopathy Used For?

Cranial osteopaths treats a wide range of conditions, such as:
Headaches – unsurprisingly, cranial osteopathy is extremely good at treating headaches, in our experience often curing them in as little as one session.

Poor sleep – When you sleep your body heals, so if you are not sleeping this is a barrier to your recovery. High quality deeper sleep is really important and helps with your overall well being. Patients often report improved sleep after sessions.

Anxiety and stress – sessions can be deeply relaxing which can help reduce your stress levels and feeling of anxiousness.

Pains and tensions – experiencing stress over a long period of time can contribute towards tensions in your jaws, neck, upper back and shoulders. Over time, this can contribute towards Cranial Osteopath for TMJ & Cranial Osteopath for back pain. Sessions aim to reduce and ease tensions, allowing your body to restore balance and heal.

Cranial Osteopathy For Migraines

Currently, there is not one single cure for migraines. Therefore, the main aim of treatment is to reduce the frequency and/or intensity of your migraines. There are many factors that might need addressing for the successful treatment of migraines and having a combined approach will provide the best results. These could include making positive lifestyle changes, increasing hydration and rest, reducing stress, increasing low impact exercise (Pilates) and addressing vitamin deficiencies.

Cranial manipulation
Cranial manipulation

Who Would Benefit From Cranial Osteopathy Techniques

Many patients with a variety of conditions would benefit from cranial manipulation. Specifically people who have experienced injuries (usually to the head or elsewhere) which have resulted in soft tissue injuries with membranous articular strains to the head. It is a part of the osteopathic manipulative approach to treating the whole body as these injuries or strains could affect other systems causing conditions.

For example, a patient who has a past history of a cycling accident or head trauma experiences TMJ pains and a feeling of a blocked ear. The accident may have caused a restriction to the cranial bones which affected their ability to expand and contract. This could affect the lymphatic drainage channels, so the ear is unable to drain which causes a buildup of fluids. Through gentle cranial manipulation this could help ease joint restrictions, restore balance and allow the lymphatic system to drain more effectively. This could potentially help ‘unblock the ear’ if there are no other physical blockages confirmed by a ENT specialist.

What is cranial manipulation?

Cranial manipulation is the application of an osteopath’s hands to the head (or body) and listening to the cranial rhythmic impulse (also known as the primary respiratory mechanism). Sometimes it can be called the third pulse of the body. Potentially the osteopath can influence the rate and amplitude of the cranial rhythmic impulse.

Then, subtle pressure is applied to the body part to enhance the movement of fluid to that area. Connective tissue and fascia (a web-like covering over all muscle and tissue) tensions could also be addressed through the treatment model of tensegrity. This is where easing tensions in one area of the body could help with another area. This could help the cranial rhythmic impulse and encourage health to be restored. The theory behind cranial manipulation is to have a free and regular pulse helps the body repair itself.

What can I expect to feel during and after a treatment?

During a treatment, you can expect to feel subtle pressures on the head, spinal column and your sacrum. You may also feel warm under the practitioner’s hand, some patients feel a lot of different sensations while others fall asleep with total relaxation. After a treatment, you may feel amazing, really thirsty, you may notice some relief with your symptoms and have the best night’s sleep you have ever had. You could feel a little sore the following day after treatment but then feel a little looser and better afterwards.

Do some patients feel cranial manipulation more strongly than others?

Absolutely, everyone is different and our bodies react differently to treatment depending on multiple different factors. A person with reduced vitality may have a stronger treatment response in comparison to a young, fit and healthy individual with no pathologies. However, given the gentle style of treatment patients generally respond favourably.

How long are the treatments?

Your initial consultation is 60 minutes which involves information gathering about you and your symptoms, what has probably caused this (diagnosis) and hands-on treatment. Follow up sessions are either 45 or 60 minutes which are focussed on cranial manipulation.

How Many Treatments Will I Need

It all depends on your initial condition and how well your body responds to the treatment. It could be that you need treatment twice a week for the first week. Then reducing to weekly sessions and then once per month as your condition improves. But, each case is diagnosed individually and is tailored for the best outcome for you. We generally say lets initially try 3 or 4 sessions and then we will reevaluate to see if we are heading in the right direction but every patient is different so an individual approach is always adopted at Wellthy Clinic.

Is Cranial Manipulation Just For Adults

No, babies generally respond very well to cranial manipulation. Older patients still respond well but unlike babies they have less vitality, more stress and barriers to recovery so it takes a little longer to achieve the desired results. Our London osteopath only offers adult cranial osteopathy at this time.

Matthew Glithero

Matthew Glithero

Matthew is a passionate Cranial Osteopath who has completed post graduated courses with the Sutherland College of Cranial Osteopathy.

Cranial Manipulation – What Is It & Does It Really Work References

Castro-Sanchez et al (2016) Benefits of Craniosacral Therapy in Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine; 22(8): pp.650-7. 

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