By Celine Gallet
Cranial osteopaths spend four, and up to seven years learning their profession. At one level the osteopathy benefits can help improve posture and energy flow throughout the body. This energy flow can be developed further as cranial osteopaths are also trained to move energy, rebalance it and deliver it to where it is needed. It´s a small step from Cranial Osteopathy to Hands on Healing.
Alternative therapies sometimes seem mysterious and even slightly alarming and cranial treatment is no exception. “Something slightly bone-crunching, since it´s practised by specialist osteopaths” you might hazard.
On the contrary, cranial treatment is a gentle, hands-on technique designed to re-balance the stressed body and encourage its innate powers of healing. Cranial osteopaths believe that the flow of spinal fluid in and around the nervous system creates its own body rhythm, distinct from, but no less vital to, health than your heartbeat or breath.
Cranial osteopathy can restore wellbeing and assist natural healing.
Through their hands, cranial osteopaths can feel this rhythm and its subtle changes beneath the bones and membranes of the human body.They don´t use their hands to manipulate; they palpate the head and body so lightly that even restless babies benefit and often begin to sleep sweetly after treatment.
Cranial osteopathy allows the body to make changes to improve its mechanical function and make it operate more effectively.
Principles Of The Founding Fathers
Modern cranial osteopathy developed from the work of pioneer osteopath Dr Andrew Still, an American civil war veteran who lost three children to meningitis and one to pneumonia.
Seeking kinder medical methods than bleeding, blistering and purging, Still drew on alternative practises of the day such as bone setting, hydropathy and homeopathy to research a new way of healing – manipulation to improve circulation and correct altered mechanics.
Soon 400 people a day were travelling the Wabash railroad for treatment at his first School of Osteopathy at Kirksville, Missouri.
Still´s philosophy of medicine focused on the unity of all body parts, on exercise and good diet, a belief that the musculoskeletal system is a key element of health, and that the body is naturally self-healing.
Still died aged 89 in 1917. His student William Garner Sutherland developed the idea that the skull was not a rigid bony structure, but composed of parts that move and shift (a little like the earth´s tectonic plates) to allow the rhythmic fluctuation of fluid beneath.
This Business Of Balance
Cranial osteopaths talk about a state “good physiology” when the whole body is in balance left and right, top and bottom, front and back, inside and out. “This balanced situation helps the immune system, helps the tensions around the central nervous system, In other words it´s like a car going down the road not having to travel with the handbrake on. If that handbrake is on, then a cranial osteopath will “hear” it through his hands.
By gently putting your hand on the surface of the body, and more or often than not this includes the surface of the skull, it is possible to feel a gentle, rhythmical fluid movement. This is thought to arise from the movement of cerebro-spinal fluid around the nervous system. It´s a unique pulsation that carries its own feelings and is affected if a blockage arises. The cranial osteopath can make an assessment of the patient´s vitality and wellbeing and of stresses in the system by feeling this pulse. For the practitioner it´s a very passive process: we listen with our hands and through them we are accepting all sorts of information.
The body itself will direct the treatment, guiding you to areas that need the work.
Seeing Through The Hands
How does a cranial osteopath recognise the body´s trouble spots? “Your hands are the tools that give you a picture of what is going on underneath them. To return to the motoring metaphor, it´s rather like a car mechanic listening to an engine. We can hear whether it´s the engine that doesn´t sound right or whether it´s the tappets, the exhaust or the fan belt – we focuse in on the noise that doesn´t sound normal. When holding somebody´s head there is a feeling of normality – or not – and if the answer´s not, then we are asking why not?” After treatment the tuned body operates more efficiently like a tuned motorcar going more “sparkily” and using less fuel.
The beauty of cranial osteopathy is that it makes patient treatment possible at many levels. There´s the osseous or bony level, the membranous level and the fluid level.