Cranial or Cranial-Sacral osteopathy is an accepted osteopathic technique used by some practitioners who have undertaken further training in this field. This technique is based, as all osteopathic practices, on a system of clinical diagnosis and manual treatment. A caring approach to the patient and attention to individual needs are particularly important.

In 1899 William Garner Sutherland observed the potential for movement between the bones of an adult skull (or cranium) which are separate at birth but come together during childhood. At first he tried to prove that such movement was impossible by using bone specimens and then using ingenious mechanical devices designed to compress and hamper any movement in a specific area of the head. Severe reactions both mental and physical demonstrated motion involving the individual cranial bones and also a deep regular pulse throughout the body.

It is this slow pulse or fluid rhythm, which he called the involuntary mechanism, that forms the basis of work in the cranial field. It is an approach that influences not only the cranial mechanics but the fluid dynamics of all the tissues in the body.

An osteopath recognises health to be associated with keeping blood, lymph and cerebo-spinal fluid channels open, allowing the body’s tissues to breathe, absorb nutrients and eliminate waste products. Cranial techniques allow the releasing of tensions in these channels by harnessing the body’s own self-balancing and self-healing powers.

Any part of the body that is restricted, painful or distressed will be reflected by a disturbed quality of the involuntary rhythm. The osteopath will be able to detect this using his/her hands. By using very gentle pressure, the disturbed pattern of movement can be altered.

Treatment & Training

To assess the involuntary mechanism the practitioner places both hands on the body looking for the quality of movement and tension throughout the body’s tissues. Some patients can feel exactly how the osteopath is working, others feel a very specific release of tension, while others nothing until well after the treatment is finished.

This technique is the treatment of choice for all babies and young children. It is useful for people who require a gentle approach, for people with long term pain and discomfort relating to old physical injuries or birth trauma and for relieving everyday stress and tension.

Cranial osteopaths have had a four year full time basic training in osteopathy and then extensive post graduate training. Without either of these components your osteopath would not be a competent, safe practitioner. To be a cranial osteopath, basic training involves courses with either the Sutherland Cranial College or with the British School of Osteopathy. Typical training involves three or more 40 hour courses and five or more three day courses. Cranial osteopaths involve themselves in these post graduate courses, study groups, analytical analysis and with experienced tutors such as Hilary Percival.