Understanding Cranial Osteopathy and CranioSacral Therapy

cranial osteopathy at Alinear Osteopathy

written by Katolen Yardley, DO (EU), MNIMH, RH (AHG)

It has been said that Craniosacral therapy and Cranial Osteopathy are the most gentle forms of manual therapy. Craniosacral therapy uses light pressure- about 5 grams- which is the weight of an American nickel. Understandably, the techniques are ideal for individuals of all ages including infants and adults including sensitive individuals, the elderly, women who are pregnant or those in a delicate state after injuries or recurrent injury or trauma – including those who may not be able to tolerate other forms of hands on therapy.

Osteopathy in general, facilitates the release (or unwinding) of stress and tension within the body and is used for a variety of health conditions.

Cranial osteopathy, in comparison, is not different to osteopathy, in fact, it is an area of specialty that includes the bones and sutures of the cranium and takes into consideration the anatomy and physiology of the head.

In comparison, Craniosacral therapy was developed by Osteopathic physician John E. Upledger as a form of preventive health. His research focused on ways in which craniosacral could assist in increasing resistance to disease, facilitate stress management and it’s application for a range of medical problems associated with pain and dysfunction.

Moving forward we will speak about both therapies simply as Osteopathy in the cranial field.

How Does Cranial Osteopathy Work?

Movement facilitates life.  It has been said that ‘a body in motion stays in motion, similarly a body at rest stay at rest‘. Each cell in our body moves and responds to many internal rhythms. Movement is essential for the distribution of nutrients to cells and the removal of metabolic waste from tissues, movement can facilitate remove waste from lymphatic tissues and for facilitating communication via the nerves and circulatory system. 

When all is well, the body is able to adapt to changes within certain established boundaries; however, when injury or trauma occurs, restrictions in tissues can develop, hindering the flow of fluids and interrupting whole body communication. Pain can manifest and this can start a cascade of compensatory issues throughout the body.

Even daily stresses from normal routines can lead to holding patterns, tissue tightening and subsequent compensations as the body adjusts to cause and effect. Just imagine the widespread impact of clenching your jaw; headaches may be experienced as the temporal muscles are contracted and the shoulder and occipital muscles can tense up and tighten. These contractions or holding patterns can restrict normal range of motion and can compromise function of underlying fluids, nerve pathways and tissues. Contractions of tissues may distort the craniosacral system – interfering with the fluctuation of fluids within the brain and spinal cord resulting in widespread restrictions and nutrient impairment. This can create a barrier to the healthy performance of the central nervous system, and potentially every other body system it interacts with.

The body’s self regulatory mechanisms are always trying to restore the body to a point of health or balance. Osteopathic practitioners are trained to gently tune into and facilitate the release of imbalances and any restrictions in the tissues that could potentially lead to sensory, motor or neurological dysfunctions – encouraging the bodies return to homeostasis.

Who Can Cranial Osteopathy Help?

Cranial Osteopathy is well known for its aid in infant health issues such as fussiness, colic and sleep problems as well as childhood and adult conditions, including assisting women adjusting to the changes of pregnancy.

Indications for Cranial Osteopathy

  • Chronic body pain, head trauma
  • Stress and tension related disorders
  • Post traumatic stress
  • Chronic neck and back pain
  • Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Birth trauma
  • Jaw pain, clicking jaw and TMJ disorders
  • Dizziness and tinnitus
  • Migraine and headaches
  • Sinus pain
  • Some types of arthritic or rheumatic pain
  • Car accidents and whiplash
  • Falls torquing the bodies alignment
  • Athletic and Sports related injuries, enhancing performance and injury prevention
  • Chronic and recurring injury
  • Acute injuries where the patient finds conventional manipulation too painful.

Support for Stress and Tension

Perhaps everyone could benefit from cranial osteopathy as many individuals North America are exhausted, dealing with overwork and stress related conditions including hypertension, anxiety and insomnia. Even physical pain from muscles and joints resulting from poor posture at work or while on the computer can be addressed. Cranial osteopathy can assist with:

  • Anxiety symptoms
  • Feeling physically and emotionally exhausted
  • Overwhelm and trauma triggered
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Depression or low spirits
  • Tension headaches
  • Jaw tension
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings

Most people are surprised at the lightness of touch during the gentle treatment. Many individuals report feeling of a deep state of relaxation and some even fall asleep. Cranial osteopathy can assist in reducing fatigue and assists the bodies self healing mechanisms to better adapt to change while enhancing overall well-being.

At Alinear Osteopathy, our manual osteopathic practitioner has training in both cranial osteopathy and craniosacral therapy – providing numerous options of treatment and optimal care for the client. Email us today to book an appointment in our Vancouver or Port Moody offices or read move about about the history of craniosacral therapy and cranial osteopathy or how osteopathy can assist with TMJ disorders.