Cranial Osteopathy

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.

Many ailments can be traced back to head or sacral (base of the spine) injuries. Forceps / Vonteuse delivery, car accidents and sporting injuries are just some examples which can leave the bones (especially cranial bones) in tension or strain. Cranial osteopathy works with the “Involuntary Mechanism” (also called “Primary Respiratory Mechanism”) in a system of fine, subtle movement, balancing forces and supporting body tissues. The Approach aims to release tension between bones and within bones and other body tissues, realign and relax tissues and balance the whole body so it functions properly.

The definition of the Primary Respiratory Mechanism (PRM):


  1. Primary: it is a system that comes “first”. It underlies all of life’s processes and gives dynamism, form, and substance to all of anatomy and physiology.
  2. Respiratory: It is the spark that gives rise to the breath, as it moves through the tissues. It is the foundation of metabolism. It has both an inhalation and exhalation phase.
  3. Mechanism: It is a system composed of many parts that work together to create a whole, greater than the sum of the parts.


The beauty of primary respiration, is the ability to experience it directly. It is not simply a sublime concept. In the hands of a skilled practitioner, one connects directly with primary respiration to bring about a therapeutic response. It is the guiding principle; it is the inherent intelligence within.

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