In recent years, as the conversations around concussions have heated up, interest in cranial osteopathy has skyrocketed. Could cranial osteopathy benefit those suffering from concussion symptoms?1
What is cranial osteopathy?
Cranial osteopathy, also widely known as craniosacral therapy, is a subtle treatment using a very light touch to “listen” to the messages communicated by the body, pinpointing areas of dysfunction and restriction which, in turn, contribute to compromised functioning of the body. This treatment can detect and treat subtle restrictions in any of the body’s tissues, including the skull and sacrum (the large triangular bone at the base of the spine).
It is believed that the nervous system has a gentle and rhythmic pulsation which osteopaths are trained to feel. This rhythm, known as the cranial rhythm, reflects the general state of health and vitality of the individual. Furthermore, the nervous system is the main control of all our bodily functions, from breathing to digestion, regulation of heartrate, sleep, and so much more. It can be thrown out of balance by any variety of things, including: chronic stress and trauma (physical, psychological, and emotional) at any age.
When any of these things occur in our lives, our nervous system becomes primed in a chronic state of stress response, also known as the fight or flight response. In this state when the body is primed by external stimuli to either confront or flee from the situation, our bodily functions switch gears to a high alert state. This may cause increased heartbeat and blood pressure, shallower breathing, compromised blood flow to the digestive system (resulting is digestive issues), chronic muscle tension, and an unshakeable feeling of anxiety.
In our busy and high-stress lives, even when the immediate stressor has ceased, the nervous system often remains in this high alert state, which then negatively impacts the body’s ability to heal itself, impacting the functioning of the whole person. This state may manifest as chronic pain in any area of the body: migraines, general body aches, anxiety disorders, digestive disorders, and insomnia, to name a few.
What does cranial osteopathy feel like?
In order to restore the cranial rhythm to the optimal, practitioners use gentle techniques to remove restrictions in the cranial bones, sacrum, and soft tissues to stimulate the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, which is the fluid that flows throughout the spinal cord and the brain.
The pressure used by the practitioner is very light, and it may even feel as though the practitioner is simply placing their hands lightly on your head and doing nothing. In truth, the therapist is deeply engaged with the tissues, feeling and “listening” with their hands for very subtle cues from your body. It is generally very relaxing, with many falling asleep during the treatment. Additionally, many report feelings of wellbeing following their very first session, often followed by a night of very restful sleep.
The goal of the treatment is to initiate a relaxation response in all the body’s tissues, which supports the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
Who can benefit from it?
If you suffer from any one of these issues, cranial osteopathy may benefit you. This is not a comprehensive list, however, as cranial osteopathy has many other clinical applications:
- Headaches & migraines
- Anxiety and depression
- Acute and chronic lower back pain
- Digestive issues
- Sinus pressure & pain
- Unexplained body aches
1Patel, K. G., & Sabini, R. C. (2018). Safety of osteopathic cranial manipulative medicine as an adjunct to conventional postconcussion symptom management: A pilot study. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 118, 403-409. Click here to view abstract.
Cebi Ndlangamandla, Osteopathic Manual Practitioner, Adelaide Clinic