Many people associate osteopathy with spinal manipulation in order to relieve painful necks and backs, but there are many more facets to osteopathic practice. One of which is cranial osteopathy. Cranial work facilitates deep healing and balances the nervous system, which resolves the asymmetries that lead us to suffer from the same problem areas time and time again.
W. G. Sutherland, a direct student of the founder of osteopathy A. T. Still, was inspired by the joints formed by the bones of the skull and spent the next 40 years studying and teaching the movements of the cranial bones and the cranio-sacral link, which is the connection between the cranium and the pelvis via the dural tube.
Cranial osteopathy, Cranio-sacral therapy, Biodynamics; all these treatment modalities work on the basis of the importance of good and even fluid dynamics throughout the body, the unrestricted motion of the cranial bones and its dural connection to the sacrum.
Why is it important?
Cranial techniques improve the flow and distribution of the cerebrospinal fluid, which bathes our central nervous system and is continuously produced, pumped and reabsorbed. The cerebrospinal fluid brings nourishment to our nerves and brain, clears waste products around them, and is a major medium of body-wide communication via neurotransmitters, hormones and other neuropeptides. In fact our cerebrospinal fluid is the most unique substance of our body, and could never be given in a transfusion from one person to another. Our brain and nervous system could not function without it.
Another reason why we want to remove any restrictions that could interfere with the pathway and comfort of our central nervous system is body hierarchy. If there is a threat to the function of the brain due to a distortion, the body will try to alleviate the situation locally be transferring this distortion to the ‘less important’ musculoskeletal system. This happens because the body acts as a unit, and because the dura (the meningeal lining of the brain and spinal cord) is non-elastic and transfers any tensions to its bony attachment points along the spine and the sacrum. This is how many pelvic and shoulder girdle asymmetries and the so-called ‘idiopathic’ scoliosis start.
Cranial work also encompasses the releasing of fascial tensions. Fascia is the true connective tissue of our body and it can store tensions by changing its molecular structure from a sol to a gel state, i.e. from more liquid to more solid. Many old and unwanted traumas can be held as tensions in the fascia and their release makes more energy available for the individual.
The osteopath will first assess the major restrictions of the system and will start to work according to their relevance, which means that he may not work directly on the site of discomfort. Cranial osteopathy uses techniques that copy and encourage the subtle self-healing mechanisms of the body. It may not feel like the osteopath is doing very much, because his hands stay relatively still, but in fact a lot is happening.
When the osteopath uses these specific techniques to help the body into a state of healing the patient will usually start to feel very relaxed and sleepy. The osteopath continues to monitor and guide the self-healing motions that become apparent, until an overall better motion has been established and the areas of tension have been released.
There is nothing mysterious about these techniques, they just encourage and direct the natural healing forces present in the body. We don’t normally ‘feel’ how we get well, we just notice the lack of discomfort and gain in wellbeing.
Cranial osteopathy is so gentle and safe that it can be used on anyone, even and especially newborn babies, as at this point it is much easier for the body to release dysfunctional patterns and cranial strains that later develop into physical complaints. It is also safe for pregnant women and people who are very weak, like those suffering from serious systemic conditions.
This is not to say that cranial work is only for those who cannot handle stronger treatment. As we have seen the effects of cranial osteopathy are very profound and everyone who suffers from repeating, chronic or stagnant issues is likely to benefit from it.Osteopathy