Cranial Osteopathy


What is Cranial Osteopathy?

Health and vitality can be experienced as free and un-restrictive movement of all body systems working in harmony together. The aim of all osteopaths is to recognise where this movement is absent and to facilitate its return to normal function.

Whilst all osteopathic undergraduate training is largely focused on gross mechanical movements such as muscles moving bone or ligaments providing stability, cranial osteopathy focuses on a much more subtle movement, or motion deep within the body.


Motion promotes healthy fluid dynamics ensuring that there is a continuous supply of fresh oxygen and nutrients to the body in tandem with the removal of waste products. Where motion is poor, the fluid exchange is restricted which provides a greater potential for disease and a diseased body will struggle to find health if motion is absent.

In cranial osteopathic terms, this subtle motion is referred to as respiration, and similarly to the breath, it moves slowly through the body in waves nourishing all body tissues as it goes.


Cranial osteopaths typically invest more time in post graduate training and practise to gain the ability the palpate this motion but once it is established, it is a very effective tool to recognise where in the body there is health and motion, and where it is missing.


The aim of the cranial osteopath is to restore this subtle motion so that the body can facilitate its own healing.


Is cranial osteopathy just for the head?

The answer is no. The main reason for this title comes from the founder, William Garner Sutherland, who discovered this subtle motion by studying the sutures of the skull in the early 20th century.


Contrary to popular belief that the skull was a fused collection of cranial bones, Sutherland found that the sutures actually permitted miniscule movement with a rhythmic shape change of the skull approx. 8 times a minute, hence the term respiration.


However, although it was first observed in the skull, respiration is evident throughout the body via its global network of intelligent fascial chains and effective treatment can be administered at any point on the body.

What can cranial osteopaths treat?

Osteopaths do not claim to treat any particular conditions but rather to facilitate the vitality of motion so that the body is able to bring about its own healing.


One of the osteopaths founding principles is that “the body has its own medicine chest” with an army of antibodies, inflammatory markers and white blood cells ready to fight when necessary.


However without free motion, they are stuck and unable to fight where they are needed the most. The role of the osteopath is to restore this motion to allow free passage of the medicine chest to anywhere in the body asking for help.

It is important to acknowledge that our mental and emotional state can also detrimentally impact the vitality of this motion which explains why people suffering from stress or working through grief are more susceptible to illness and trauma.


The health of a body depends on the underlying physical, emotional and mental elements working in harmony together.

Cranial osteopathy is an extremely gentle but powerful treatment that works well for anyone, whatever their age.


How does cranial osteopathy work?

Watching or feeling a cranial osteopath at work can be distinctly dull. There is likely to be minimal movement, limited interaction and even periods of silence and you would be forgiven for wondering what exactly is going on.

Hopefully this will provide you with a little insight:

  • After assessing the bodys’ physical movements, a cranial osteopath typically sits quietly and tunes into the subtle motion of respiration. This helps to focus the coming treatment into the areas which are still or quiet, as well as those that are causing pain

  • The body is always trying to facilitate its own healing and it does this by pushing and pulling through the fascias. Fascia is a web of connective tissue formed in bands that wraps around all the internal parts of the body from head to toe and fuses it all together. It can be found immediately beneath the skin, around muscles, groups of muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels, organs and cells. Fascia is everywhere. Biologically, it’s what holds us together. A cranial osteopath is able to palpate these movements and use their touch to facilitate what the body wants by either exaggerating or minimising it.

  • With the help of the osteopath, there will come a point when the body is able to reorganise itself around a balanced midpoint and the tissues will relax. Many patients have described this feeling as either melting, heat or a deep relaxation.

  • The cranial osteopath typically retains contact but is now observing the body as it restores balance, the effects of which can be far reaching.

  • The final skill of the osteopath is to recognise when to take their hands away. When motion is restored, the job is done.

It is important to remember that the healing comes from the patient themselves. You only have to witness a scab form over a graze, or wait patiently while a broken bone reunites, to appreciate the healing capacity of the body itself. The osteopath simply helps to initiate the process leaving the body to do its own healing in the hours and days after treatment.



How do I know if my osteopath has post graduate training in cranial osteopathy?

Unfortunately, there is not currently a register of cranial osteopaths but most osteopaths advertise these skills on their website or are happy for you to ask.