Cranial Osteopathy? That’s the head right?
It’s not just about your head!
‘Cranial Osteopathy’ is often used to describe a more subtle, gentle style of treatment than may normally be associated with osteopathy.
I feel like the term itself is misleading. Many times when people attempt to explain ‘cranial osteopathy’, it can be more confusing than helpful. This is my understanding of how it works as a treatment.
Life causes strain.
We don’t always have a good way to get rid of strain and stress.
When we experience any kind of stress on our body, physical or emotional, an accumulation of strain tends to build up in the tissues. This causes the body tissues to tighten. You may be able to associate with this – for example feeling tense in your shoulders when you are ‘stressed’ at work or if you have emotional trauma in a relationship.
Some strain is more obvious; a physical job involving manual handling or moving and handling people. Occasionally we injure ourselves enjoying sports or playing with our children. Sometimes we just have accidents, trips and falls, stumbling on paving slabs or slipping on ice. Then there is the road traffic collision or other accident which puts a lot of strain into the body over a very short time. This kind of trauma gives you no time to react or deflect the impact force.
When strain builds up because you haven’t found a good way to get rid of it, it often hurts.
Even if it doesn’t hurt, things can be stiff.
The human body has the ability to heal itself. You don’t expect a cut on your hand to bleed forever (unless you have a serious medical condition). Nor should you expect other strain to cause pain or discomfort permanently.
Some people can release tension by relaxing with a glass of wine or a night out with their friends. Some people prefer to work it out in the gym or through exercise. For others it is harder to release the strains of every day life.
The body may sometimes be able to adapt to these strains at the time, but lasting tension often remains. The body can easily build up untreated or unresolved tension. Any strains which remain held in the body can restrict its free movement.
Sometimes, the body struggles to deal with strains that we impose on ourselves as quickly as we would like. Occasionally, the physical structure has been pushed beyond it’s capabilities of natural repair.
Gradually the body may find it more and more difficult to cope with accumulated stresses and various symptoms can develop. Sometimes it leads to complete breakdown of body function, sometimes just to constant nagging pain or discomfort. This is where an osteopath can help.
It isn’t just about the head, that’s just lazy labelling.
Supporting the body and guiding it to help it let go of strain can be very subtle and painless.
This approach suits older, younger and more ‘sensitive’ patients.
The term ‘Cranial osteopathy’ gives the impression that it is all about the head. However, stresses and strains can accumulate anywhere in the body. Practitioners using the subtle techniques referred to as ‘cranial osteopathy’ use them throughout the whole body, not just the head.
As a practitioner, my approach to treatment of the body is wholistic. I don’t make a specific distinction between ‘cranial osteopathy’ and any other form of osteopathy (terms you may have heard terms like ‘structural osteopathy’ or ‘visceral osteopathy’). I practice osteopathy.
Sometimes the body needs very subtle, gently nuanced treatment and sometimes it needs a more energetic intervention. My approach to osteopathy encompasses all these different techniques. I assess what the patient & their body needs and what it can cope with and treat accordingly.
The practitioner should be the guide to the body, to help it recover health. The aim is to facilitate healing, not impose their own view of how it should be working. All the techniques available in the ‘osteopathic toolbag’ used in the right context will achieve this.
Some patient groups are more suited to the subtle style of osteopathy than to other approaches. The young and the elderly, those with low vitality and those with reactive conditions are normally more suitable for ‘gentler’ treatment.
The osteopath puts more energy put into the body than just feeling what the body is doing.
However, there is less energy input than when you obviously move, twist, rub or poke things.
It still often doesn’t look or feel like a lot is happening, but many people are very surprised by how effective it is.
When you are travelling somewhere, your choice is to be taken or to get directions to make your own way.
Osteopathy has some parallels. Mobilising or manipulating tissues, more energetic techniques, are like taking a taxi. The practitioner puts the body in the particular orientation that they intend.
Subtle techniques are more like using a map or asking for directions. The practitioner gives directions to the body, guides it to where it can find ‘ease’. An osteopath will point the body toward relaxation or healing without actually forcing it there.
To guide the body towards it’s natural ability to heal, the required amount of force is small. I believe it is the force that occurs when ‘priming’ or ‘pre-loading’ a muscle. Making the muscle ready for action. We don’t notice the ‘priming’ of a muscle in readiness to lift a heavy bag, likewise, the patient and/or practitioner may not even notice this very small ‘force’.
If you are ready to lift a heavy bag, but find that when you lift it, the bag is lighter than expected and it lifts quicker than expected, this is the result of ‘muscle priming’.
This ‘muscle priming’ can be used as a subtle intervention. It points the body in the right direction, assisting it to find positions of less strain or tension. The practitioner uses this minuscule ‘force’ to gently guide the body tissues toward less compromised patterns. This helps the body to facilitate it’s own healing.
You feel more comfortable.
Over a full course of treatment, that comfort lasts a good, long time.
In my opinion, these changes improve movement and therefore raise blood circulation. At the same time, I think this causes the rest of the fluid interchange mechanisms to be stimulated. Cells can therefore increase their drainage, expand clearance of toxins and improve nutrition and oxygenation. This combination leads to healing and repair.