What is Cranial Osteopathy?
Cranial Osteopathy is a refined and subtle type of osteopathic treatment that uses very gentle manipulative pressure to encourage the release of stresses throughout the body, including the head. It has been extremely effective in treating a wide range of conditions in people of all ages from birth to old age.
Why is Cranial Osteopathy different?
During training Osteopaths are taught a wide variety of treatment methods and techniques, ranging from the well known ‘high velocity thrust’ with its dramatic clicks to the very gently applied methods used in cranial osteopathy. Osteopaths vary their treatment methods depending on their own preference and individual patients problems.
Cranial Osteopath is the name by which osteopaths who work at the more gentle, subtle end of the spectrum of the different treatment approaches have become known.
Cranial Osteopaths are trained to feel a very subtle rhythmic shape change that is present in the whole body. This is called Involuntary Motion. The skull is made up of 26 bones, which are intricately joined in such a way that during the rhythmical cycle of involuntary motion the skull actually changes shape slightly to accommodate the normal involuntary motion of the brain inside.
Impacts to the head can block or disrupt this movement. This can cause a very wide variety of problems both in the head and elsewhere in the body. Using involuntary motion in the tissues, osteopaths can feel whether a person is healthy, or whether there is something preventing healthy movement of the tissues from occurring.
Cranial Osteopathy is a safe treatment for babies and children. Specific gentle pressure is applied where necessary to enable the inherent healing ability of the body to effect the release of stresses which can affect vital functions such as sleep patterns, feeding and digestion. Disturbances of these functions can cause crying and irritability in babies. As your child gets older they can lead to increased vulnerability to aches and pains and ill health. Adults can also benefit from Cranial Osteopathy to help with unresolved musculoskeletal problems due to birth strains, trauma, postural and occupational tension.
Babies & Children
It is a common belief that babies and children should have no structural stresses or strains in their bodies, because they are ‘so young’. The reality is very different.
Birth is one of the most stressful events of our lives. The baby is subject to enormous forces, as the uterus pushes to expel the baby against the natural resistance of the birth canal. The baby has to turn and twist as it squeezes through the bony pelvis, on its short but highly stimulating and potentially stressful journey.
The baby’s head has the remarkable ability to absorb these stresses in a normal delivery. In order to reduce the size of the head, the soft bones overlap, bend and warp as the baby descends. The baby’s chin is normally well tucked down towards it’s chest to reduce the presenting diameter of the head.
Many babies are born with odd shaped heads as a result. In the first few days, the head can usually be seen to gradually lose the extreme moulded shape, as the baby suckles, cries and yawns. However, this un-moulding process is often incomplete, especially if the birth has been difficult. As a result, the baby may have to live with some very uncomfortable stresses within its head and body.
The effects of birth strains & retained moulding
Some babies cope extremely well with even quite severe retained moulding and compression, and are contented and happy. For others it is a different story and they can display a variety of problems…
Sickness, Digestive problems and Wind
Regurgitation of milk between feeds, bouts of prolonged crying due to abdominal tension and wind. Often worse in the evening.
REASON : The nerve to the stomach is irritated as it exits from the base of the skull, which impairs digestion. The diaphragm may be stressed of distorted, which further compromises both digestion and the ability of the stomach to retain its contents.
The baby takes a long time to feed and one feed merges into the next. He/she may be a windy feeder.
REASON : Feeding is difficult and tiring due to mechanical stresses through the head, face and throat. The nerves to the tongue may be irritated as they exit from the skull, which makes sucking difficult.
Crying, Irritable Baby
Crying, fractious, irritable baby, needs to be rocked to sleep. Prefers being carried.
REASON : The baby may be uncomfortable, with a constant feeling of pressure in the head. This is made worse by the extra pressure on the head when lying down.
The baby sleeps for only short periods and may sleep little in the day or night. Wakes to the slightest noise.
REASON : The tension on the bony and membranous casing of the skull keeps the baby’s nervous system in a persistently alert state.
As the child grows
As the child grows, the effect of retained birth strains can lead to other problems such as:
Poor drainage from sinuses and the ear
Causing recurrent sinus and eustacian tube blockages which can affect hearing and cause vulnerability to infection. If you have an infection we recommend you consult your doctor. Osteopathic treatment aims to relieve tissue tensions and improve local lymphatic circulation to help improve drainage and boost the immune system.
Chest Pain and Restricted Breathing
Tension in the chest and diaphragm can lead to shallow breathing. If chest movement is restricted due tension in the muscles between the ribs, stagnation can occur in the lower lungs. This can create an environment in the lungs conducive to increased infections. If you have an infection we recommend you consult your doctor. Often after infection the chest remains tense and the ribs do not return to full function, aggravating a tendency for acute breathing problems. Osteopathic treatment to release stresses and help to improve chest function can be beneficial in reducing the frequency and severity of these problems.
This can lead to the child having difficulty sitting still and inability to relax. This is a continuation of the restlessness and discomfort felt as a young baby. Retained birth strains and compression makes the child uncomfortable in one position for too long – which becomes habit forming. This can affect concentration.
Tension, Neuralgia, Aches and Pains
Tense children often complain of aches and pains, sometimes called growing pains. Postural tensions can make other areas of the body more vulnerable to strain and fatigue.
Could there be any adverse reactions?
Reactions to treatment are variable, often the baby or child is very relaxed afterwards and sleeps well. Others have a burst of energy after treatment, usually followed by a good nights sleep. Occasionally children are unsettled after treatment. This is a temporary situation, and is usually caused when the release of the retained moulding has been incomplete. It is not always possible for all the retained moulding compression to release in one session, especially if it has been severe.
How many treatments will be needed?
On average, 2 to 6 treatments are suggested. This varies according to and the age of the child, the extent of the discomfort and the response to treatment.
When should treatment be sought?
The younger the better, it is never too early to treat. For best results, treatment should be before the age of 5 years. After this, the stresses and asymmetries have become more established, but it is still possible to achieve beneficial release of the stresses throughout life.