Blue Flower

Cranial osteopathy, also referred to as Cranio-Scaral osteopathy or Craniosacral Therapy is a very gentle way of working with the body using light touch, so is especially suitable for children and new born babies. Many find this very relaxing. You can contact us directly and book in and if we feel it is more appropriate that they see a medical doctor, then we are qualified to advise as such. On the other hand if you are concerned by all means please have your child checked out with their GP &/or Paediatrician. If they are not worried and you are still concerned, then we are also happy to see your child.

The aim of cranial osteopathy is to encourage & maximise health to give the child (or adult for that matter) the best possible chance of optimum health & therefore life thereafter.

Usually the younger the child, the quicker they respond, as they have a greater capacity to heal, compensate & adapt. This is because there is still a huge amount of growth & development going on in the body, brain & nervous system of the new born. Certain problems are so common as to be regarded as 'normal', but we shouldn't confuse 'normal' with healthy. Often parents are told - They'll grow out of it! And many do in time, as their little bodies learn to adapt. But if we are able to release or at least reduce some of the stresses & strains, then the question is why wouldn't you at least try? And why put child & parent through this distressful period if there was an approach that may help?

Cranial Osteopathy FAQ'sBaby recieving cranial osteopathy

Is my baby too young for cranial osteopathy?

No child is too young for treatment. Premature babies have been treated with cranial osteopathy while still in an incubator.

How may treatments are likely to be needed?

For newborn babies, then usually only 2 - 3 treatments are needed. Older children or those with more complex issues may require more treatment.

How will I know that the treatment is helping?

We should know after 2 or 3 treatments, but if there has been no initial response after treatment or gradual improvement by then, then we know that we need to rethink.

How much does treatment cost?

All children & babies are treated at a reduced 'concessionary' rate, please check the price list page.

How long is left between treatments?

Usually weekly. A week is usually sufficient time to adjust for any changes made. In more complex cases of an ongoing problem, then the treatment would initially weekly, then assuming they're improving sessions can be less often depending on their response and needs.

Is there any pressure or manipulation involved?

Only the very lightest of touch is used so no, this would not be regarded as manipulation.

Do you just work on the head?

No - the cranio-sacral mechanism or 'involuntary movement system' (IMS) continues throughout the body, and while the head is a key area to asses & treat other areas are usually treated also.

Theoretical example based on anatomy & physiology

If there is excess tension in the chest and diaphragm, due to ongoing stress, then this may irritate the entrance to the stomach, causing excess production of stomach acid. If we are able to release the tension in the diaphragm, then that could reduce the irritation of the stomach, then the overproduction of acid may calm down.

NB One of the key roles of stomach acid is to sterilise all food in the stomach before it moves into the gut. If the acid is being neutralised or acid production is being inhibited with medication, then there may be an increased risk of germs getting through to the gut and causing infection. Concerns have been raised about this potential problem, but it currently remains the standard treatment. Also, this approach at best can only ease the symptoms and while some may 'grow out of it', there may be a retained tendency toward having a oversensitive/irritible stomach in later life, as the under lying problem was never addressed.

What if there is a more serious underlying problem?

Osteopaths are trained to a very high standard, including medical sciences during their 4 year degree course. Thereafter cranial osteopaths have typically completed a number of postgraduate training courses specifically in cranial osteopathy. They will therefore do their best to ascertain if there is a more serious underlying condition and advise/refer appropriately. We are more than happy to work with GP's, health visitors and paediatricians when and where appropriate

Why can't you just tell me what conditions are likely to be helped with Cranial Osteopathy?

I'm sorry, but without a substantial body of evidence we are no longer able to name any paediatric condition, as that could imply that in turn it can be 'cured' by cranial osteopathy. 

What's the difference between Cranial Osteopathy and Craniosacral Therapy?

The short answer is very little or, rather the other qualifications that the practitioner holds.

Cranial osteopathy was first developed by an American physician - Dr William Garner Sutherland (1873 – 1954) in the 1930's. Sutherland was the first osteopath to conceptualize the cranial approach and systematically teach it. It is based on the principle of a minute rhythmic movement pattern that occurs throughout the entire body. He initially observed this between the bony plates of the skull and much of the attention is focussed on the cranium during treatment, hence the name 'cranial osteopathy'.

Cranio-Sacral Therapy (CST) came much later, developed in the 1970's by osteopath Dr John Upledger. Strangely Upledger claimed to have discovered the cranio-sacral mechanism independently, while assisting a colleague with a spinal surgery. He couldn't have not known about Sutherland's work, but maybe he felt that this approach was too important and should be available for other health care professionals to practice and not just osteopaths. As such he came up with the name Cranio-Sacral Therapy as a distinction. Upledger has made a huge contribution to the cranial field with books, papers, courses, etc and I believe osteopaths attend CST courses also. So a Cranio-Sacral Therapist is, as far as I can establish is a non osteopath using the cranio-sacral approach. This does not mean that they are necessarily any more or less professional or effective, but with an osteopath you would at least know that they are statutory regulated, if there was a problem.

I also believe that now Chiropractors also have their version of a cranio-sacral approach.

 

This should be a pleasant and relaxing experience, with confidentiality maintained at all times. The first session includes a full musculo-skeletal & medical case history, physical assessment and evaluation for a diagnosis, and treatment plan to be agreed.

The Case History

This is important to;

  • Establish the nature & location of the complaint
  • Establish time & nature of onset (when & how it started)
  • Possible causes i.e. lifting, gardening, road traffic accident (RTA) i.e. whiplash trauma
  • Full medical history of recent & historical injuries, operations, current general health, etc.
  • Asses the appropriateness of treatment and certain techniques i.e. someone with osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) would be treated much more conservatively & more gently than, say a 20 year old male rugby player
  • Establish any need for possible tests or referral elsewhere

As thorough as we try to be, it is important that you tell us of any diagnosed medical conditions before any treatment is given. It may even be possible that we can help with these too. Check A-Z of osteopathy page.

Having said that it is important that you allow the osteopath to lead you through the case history to enable them to prioritise what information is most relevant. We can always add any additional information at the end. It is important that you be as honest and as frank as possible, which will mean that we can provide the best health care that we can and can get on with the job of treating you.

Also, don't be afraid to ask if you have any concerns, such as regarding manipulation. Check Articles page for a research article on this subject.

Examination & Assessment

  • Assessment of both active & passive movements
  • Active movement is where you move yourself around;- sitting, standing, bending, etc.
  • Passive movement is where the practitioner moves you about, such as, your neck, hip, knee, etc.

This is because the body behaves differently when actively contracting muscles to move itself, as opposed to when it is been moved.

Further Tests may include;

  • Testing tendon reflexes, muscle strength, etc, to test integrity of the nerves if nerve injury or compression is suspected, such as, from a vertebral disk injury.
  • Blood pressure, various arterial pulses, examination of the retina of the eye, when vascular disease is diagnosed or suspecte
  • An examination of the abdomen if, say the pain is thought to originate from one of the internal organs (viscera) i.e. appendix,  ovarian cyst, etc.
  • Further tests elsewhere may be indicated i.e. blood tests, or Imaging (X-Ray, MRI). For this you would be referred to your GP or elsewhere, as appropriate. We do not routinely X-Ray!

Treatment

With osteopathy assessment & treatment tend to merge into one another. We work with our hands on people every working day & it's only with such regular use of our hands for assessment & treatment that a high sensitivity to touch develops. This is known as palpation, on which osteopaths are very reliant for diagnosis & treatment. The sort of things that would be palpated would include joint health & quality of movement, muscle tone (poor, good, excessive, spasm) & so on.

The osteopath should have a wide range of approaches & techniques that can be adapted, as appropriate for the individual. Some osteopaths treat only people with structural, orthopaedic problems & others do further study & practice cranial & visceral osteopathy, that covers a much wider range of problems..

Normally treatment is included in the first consultation, unless the problem is particularly complex or further investigations are required. The fee is for the consultation, advice and/or treatment, not for the time period involved. It is possible to over treat people and it is said that - less is more - in osteopathy, as the body needs time to adjust to changes.

After Treatment Care

Occasionally people experience flare ups, this is most likely to happen the following day. If this does happen, and we have not advised otherwise, then it is important to do your best to keep moving generally, without over-doing it. This will reduce the build up of inflammation and little & often is the key. Hot & cold compresses (5 mins each) will also help. Other self help advice is often given that may include stretching, strengthening, relaxation exercises, posture, etc., as appropriate. This is to aid recovery and avoid re-occurrence. Follow-up treatments are shorter and charged accordingly.

Miracles take a little longer

Generally speaking, the older the problem - the longer it will take to resolve. It is important to be realistic about the outcome and that you need to do your bit, such as;- stretching exercises, maintaining mobility, etc - we can not do these things for you.

Once the problem has settled it may be recommended that an occasional maintenance or preventative treatment is given to help avoid a further crisis. This also keeps your record open and avoids having to do a re-assessment, with a new case history. Otherwise, we can only keep your record open for 18 months - this is for reasons of legality & safety. If we don t see you in the meantime, then you have another flare up or another problem, then we need to start with a new case history & re-examination and charge accordingly.

The cure of this ill - is not to sit still.

Conditions That May be Helped with Osteopathy & Acupuncture

For the sake of simplicity the below is a list of those conditions that the UK Advertising Standards Agency feel that there is sufficient positive research to support with osteopathy. Certainly if you have another condition that you've not had any help with conventional medicine &/or other approaches, then it's certainly worth asking. 

  • Arthritic pain / Rheumatic pain
  • Circulatory problems
  • Cramp
  • Digestion problems
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Frozen shoulder/ shoulder and elbow pain/ tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) arising from associated musculoskeletal conditions of the back and neck, but not isolated occurrences
  • Headache arising from the neck (cervicogenic)
  • Joint pains
  • Joint pains including hip and knee pain from osteoarthritis as an adjunct to core OA treatments and exercise
  • General, acute & chronic backache, back pain (not arising from injury or accident)
  • Generalised aches and pains
  • Lumbago
  • Migraine (acupuncture) & Migraine prevention
  • Minor sports injuries
  • Muscle spasms
  • Neuralgia
  • Tension and inability to relax
  • Sciatica
  • Uncomplicated mechanical neck pain (as opposed to neck pain following injury i.e. whiplash)

The human being is the most complex thing in the known universe, so what works from one person doesn't necessarily work for another, also the same symptom (i.e. low back pain) in one person may be caused by something else in another. So you can see that the correct diagnosis is critical and osteopaths examine, diagnose and treat people with musculo-skeletal problems all day most working days. Strictly speaking osteopathy and acupuncture are based on principles, rather than merely targeting the symptoms such as pain killing medication, so reality is that everyone is listened to, examined and assessed on a case to case basis. 

The generally accepted list of conditions for acupuncture is different, with the best evidence being for short term relief of;

  • Symptoms of sensitive/overactive bladder syndrome
  • Tension type headaches
  • Migraine headache
  • Chronic low back pain
  • Neck pain or chronic neck pain
  • Temporomandibular (TMD/TMJ) (jaw joint) pain
  • Osteoarthritis knee pain with other approaches

So it appears that the acupuncture provides a window of opportunity, that we can capitalise on by treating immediately after the needles with the osteopathy. Utilising the benefits of the two approaches together to me is a 'no brainer', why wouldn't you? But that's just my opinion.

Italicised words have been added for clarity.

Portrait photo of Doctor Andrew Taylor Still - founder of osteopathy

No summary on this subject can be complete without a mention of Dr Andrew Taylor Still 'discoverer'  of osteopathy, as he put it. Dr A T Still, an American medical doctor and surgeon, founded the first school of osteopathy in Missouri in 1892 - the American School of Osteopathy (ASO), now called the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine.

From Virginia, he served as an army doctor on both sides of the American Civil War. Following the tragic loss of his wife and three children from meningitis he became disillusioned with the orthodox medicine of the day, known as  heroic medicine  with good reason. Inspired by the philosophies of the native Americans and principles of Ayurveda (that he learned from two Swamis he met), he founded osteopathy in 1872. Western influences are thought to have been from the medieval art of bone setting still practiced in some remote areas of the UK.

Photo of Dr Still examining a femur

Ayurveda (science of life), originally from the ancient Indian Veda (some of the earliest known Sanskrit texts approx. 5000 BC), is the oldest known philosophy and health system. It is an holistic approach and has beecome more popular in the west due to the works of Dr Deepak Chopra.

Amongst those who studied under A.T.Still were D.D.Palmer, William Garner Sutherland DO and Dr John Martin Littlejohn. Palmer went on to develop Chiropractics. Sutherland, after many years of study and experimentation developed Cranio-Sacral osteopathy. Like Still he did not accept any credit and insisted that the answers lay in nature and in the writings of A.T.Still. Dr Littlejohn, a British physiologist with many other accreditations, became the first professor of physiology at the ASO. He brought osteopathy home to the UK and  founded the first college osteopathy in Britain in 1917 - The British School of Osteopathy in London, where he taught until he passed away in 1947.

The First Class of Osteopathy

 

Photo of the first class of osteopathy

In America osteopathy was recognised and incorporated into mainstream medicine in the 1960s. As a result they have specialised medical colleges that osteopathy is taught alongside orthodox medicine. However, often by their own admission, this has meant that the osteopathy has been somewhat diluted to a degree in some areas.

D D Palmer

DD Palmer 1st chiropractor

 

DD Palmer 1st Chiropractor

 

Daniel David Palmer or D.D. Palmer (March 7, 1845 – October 20, 1913) was the first chiropractor and founded the first school of chiropractics in 1897 - the Palmer School of Chiropractic.

More about DD Palmer on Wikipedia

Dr John Martin Littlejohn

 

Photo of Dr John Martin Littlejohn father of osteopathy in the UK

John Martin Littlejohn a physiologist from Scotland, advised by his own doctor to move to 'sunnier climes' for his health, encountered Dr Still in America. Taken by Still's ideas, he studied under Still and joined the faculty at the first School of osteopathy teaching physiology, a relatively new discipline at the time.

Dr Littlejohn returned to the UK and founded the first osteopathic college the UK in 1917  with, of course physiology as part of the osteopathic curriculum. This was  the British School of Osteopathy (BSO) and  was the first osteopathic education institution outside the USA, and it still exists today, currently  located at 275 Borough High Street, Southwark, London.

British School of Osteopathy on Wikipedia

British School of Osteopathy official site

Dr Still & Dr Littlejohn

Dr Still and Dr Littlejhn together

Dr William Sutherland

Doctor William Garner Sutherland - first cranial osteopath

Dr William Garner Sutherland

 

Dr William Garner Sutherland (1873 – 1954) was an American physician, that also studied under Dr Still. He was to become a very important figure in the osteopathic profession as he pioneered cranial osteopathy (or cranio-sacral osteopathy). Sutherland was the first osteopath to conceptualize the cranial approach and systematically teach it. Based on the principle of a minute rythmic movement pattern that occurs throuought the entire body, but he original observed this between the bone plates of the skull, hence the 'cranial' name. He always acknowledged Andrew Taylor Still as the discoverer of all osteopathy including the cranial approach.

 

More on Sutherland & the devlopment of cranial osteopathy

Cranio-Sacral Therapy

A later development of cranial osteopathy is cranio-sacral therapy (CST). Developed in the 1970's by osteopath Dr John Upledger. Oddly enough Upledger claimed to have discovered the cranio-sacral mechanism himself, while assisting a colleague with a spinal surgery.  He couldn't have not known about Sutherlands work, but he may felt that this approach was too important and should be available for other health care professionals to practice and not just osteopaths. As such he came up with the name Cranio-Sacral Therapy as a distinction. Upledger has made a huge contribution to the cranial field with books, papers, courses, etc.

The General Osteopathic Council

It wasn't until 1993 that the osteopathic profession got state recognition by act of parliament. As part of the Osteopaths Act in all osteopaths were to be officially registered and regulated by a single governing body - The General Osteopathic Council (GOsC), which only really came into power in 2000.

Combined Osteopathy & Acupuncture

(Acupuncture is optional & at no extra charge)

Osteopathy is typically performed immediately after the Acupuncture, maximising on the benefits of both treatments.

In a simple example of say - low back pain and stiffness. - The local overly tight lumbar muscles are needled to relax them and to stimulate the release of pain relieving & 'feel good' hormones, as well as stimulating the local circulation to assist in the drainage of inflammatory components (cause of pain) and assist healing. This then gives a greater chance of being able to release the stiff joints underlying the problem.

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Osteopathy

Is a safe and natural approach to health care, treating individuals for health problems from birth to the pain of arthritis of 'the third age'. From the cradle to the rocking chair, as it were.

Osteopaths consider the body as the physical aspect of the whole person, rather than merely a structure to protect and support the vital organs. It is a 'hands on' approach using a highly trained sense of touch to examine and identify minor dysfunctions within the body. Treatment is focussed on the underlying dysfunction (where possible), rather than just treating the symptoms. Just rubbing the sore bit rarely works! Improving the function of the dysfunctional areas, optimises the body's ability to heal itself and relief from the symptoms usually follows.

A wide range of approaches may be used including:- soft tissue massage & stretch, passive joint movement and manipulation techniques. For the treatment of the new born and young children cranial osteopathy is usually the treatment of choice. This approach is also referred to as cranio-sacral osteopathy or craniosacral therapy.

Osteopathy is not a quick fix, despite often giving some immediate relief of acute symptoms. If advised, it is wise to have some further treatments to address the underlying problems and reduce the risk of the problem returning.

Everyone is treated as an individual and it is the person that is treated, rather than a condition. This is keeping with the holistic way of the original classical osteopaths of old. The very young or old would be treated using the cranial osteopathic approach & the more robust & younger may be offered the choice of the use of manipulation, as appropriate. This involves the releasing or 'clicking' of joints for which osteopaths are known.  'Clicks' from the spine are from the separation of the 2 surfaces of the small synovial joints called facet joints at the rear of the spine. Mechanically this is similar to pulling on a finger and the knuckle joint releasing with a click.

Legal Status of UK Registered Osteopaths

Since the Osteopath's Act '93 osteopaths have been recognised as Primary Health Care Practitioners. That means that Osteopaths are educated to and on a medico-legal par with doctors & dentists.

This also means that;

  • Osteopathy is recognised as a discrete discipline by the British Medical Association.
  • Osteopaths asses & diagnose according to osteopathic principles, although any medical tests (i.e. X-ray, MRI reports, bone density, blood test results, etc.) you may have had or medication you are taking will be important information for your best care. Please bring these with you!
  • You do not need to be referred by your doctor you can simply call to make an appointment. If you have private health insurance, then check with them first as a few still insist on a GP referral/consent.
  • In some areas you can be referred for osteopathic treatment on the NHS, so check with your GP.
  • Osteopaths can provide a 'sick note' if considered to be appropriate.
  • An osteopath can provide a detailed osteopathic report i.e. in cases of litigation due to a whiplash incident in a road traffic accident, work related injury, i.e. RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), etc.
  • Your doctor should not 'officially' disapprove of osteopathic treatment, but we're all entitled to our own opinion.
  • If your osteopath considers that you would be better helped by orthodox medicine then they will refer you to your GP or elsewhere for further medical tests/investigations.
  • All osteopaths are now registered with the General Osteopathic Council, as it is now a mandatory requirement in the UK to practice under the name of an osteopath, to practice osteopathy or claim to use osteopathic techniques.