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Cranial Osteopathy

Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment which works with the structure and function of the body.
The maintenance of good mechanical function is essential to good health. Problems in the framework of the body can disturb the circulatory system or nerves to any part of the body, and affect any aspect of health.
Osteopaths work to restore the structure and function of the body to a state of balance and harmony, so helping the whole person.

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.
Osteopaths may have different specialities including sports injuries, paediatrics, and visceral osteopathy (treating the internal organs of the body). Cranial osteopathy embraces all of these.

lnvoluntary Motion- The Cranial Rhythm

Cranial osteopaths are trained to feel a very subtle, rhythmical shape change that is present in all body tissues. This is called Involuntary Motion or the Cranial Rhythm.  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 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.

Accumulation of stress and strain in the body
When we experience physical or emotional stresses our body tissues tend to tighten up. The body may have been able to adapt to these effects at the time, but a lasting strain often remains. Any tensions which remain held in the body can restrict its free movement. Gradually the body may find it more and more difficult to cope with accumulated stresses and symptoms may develop.


A Case History- James.

When he is 6, James has a heavy fall out of a tree onto his bottom. He is bruised and sore for a few days, but soon forgets about it. Unknown to him, he still carries with him compressive strain in his sacrum and lower back, and in the base of his skull.

At age 20, James then has a car accident in which he sustains a mild whiplash. All car accidents put enormous strain throughout the whole spine, and this adds to the existing strain from his fall as a child.

At age 30, when James is now also subjected to stress at work, he begins to develop headaches and a bit of backache. He decides to consult an osteopath who discovers that the top of the neck and base of the skull are compressed and immobile from the effects of the childhood fall and the car accident. Treatment to release these retained strains restores the harmony of the body tissues, James is relieved of his headaches and backache, and also discovers that he has more energy, is sleeping better and coping better with the stress at work.

What qualifications should a cranial osteopath have?
In the UK all qualified osteopaths have  DO, or BSc (Ost) or similar, after their names. Most osteopaths will have had a four year full time or six year mixed attendance mode training. At present there are various recognitions of post graduate training and experience in the cranial approach, your cranial osteopath may have other letters after their osteopathic qualification.
In May 2000 the Osteopaths Act came into effect to maintain standards within the profession.  The title Osteopath is protected by law, and no-one is able call themselves an osteopath unless they are registered with the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC). For a number of years the profession has been working hard to achieve statutory regulation.  The Osteopaths Act is welcomed as final recognition of the role which osteopathy plays within modern healthcare.

What can cranial osteopaths treat?
While it can be highly effective at relieving symptoms cranial osteopathy aims to treat the whole person not just the condition, so a very wide range of situations may benefit from treatment.
In babies and children many of the usual problems of infancy and childhood may be helped. Please see our page about osteopathy for babies and children for details.

If you are not sure whether a problem is suitable for osteopathic treatment, please call your local cranial osteopath from our members list through our page entitled find a cranial osteopath who will be happy to discuss your needs.

What does a visit to the osteopath entail?
The osteopath will ask in detail about various aspects of your or your child's symptoms and general health. The examination may require removal of outer clothing and the osteopath may look at you standing, moving and will then gently assess body movements.
Most osteopathic treatment is gentle and should not cause undue discomfort, although assessment and treatment may require the handling of painful areas. Most people find treatment relaxing. Some patients experience soreness after treatment, similar to that felt after unaccustomed exercise. This usually lasts no more than 24 - 48 hours.
It may be necessary to carry out simple examination procedures such as taking blood pressure or testing reflexes. Most patients come to an osteopath without having first consulted their doctor. Osteopaths are trained in diagnosis, to ensure that no serious problems are overlooked, and will refer patients back to their GP if a problem is not suitable for osteopathic treatment.


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