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.
Most osteopaths are trained in cranial osteopathy as part of their degree training, some use it more than others. Our osteopath, Oliver Eaton, mainly uses cranial osteopathy on babies and young children where the usual treatment can be a bit too dynamic and he has found it a useful approach in the following conditions:
Crying, screaming, irritability
The baby may be uncomfortable, with a constant feeling of pressure in the head. This may be made worse by the extra pressure on the head when lying down.
The baby takes a long time to feed and one feed merges into the next. They may be a ‘windy’ feeder. Feeding is difficult and tiring due to mechanical stresses through the head, face and throat. The nerves to the tongue and face muscles may be irritated as they exit from the skull, which makes sucking difficult.
Sickness, colic and wind
Regurgitation of milk between feeds, bouts of prolonged crying due to colic and wind. Often worse in the evening. The nerve to the stomach may be irritated as it exits from the base of the skull, which can impair digestion. The diaphragm between the chest and the abdomen may be stressed or distorted, which further compromises both digestion and the ability of the stomach to retain its contents.
In a research study conducted by Osteopath Clive Hayden, into the effects of cranial osteopathic treatment on babies, some parents perceived the following changes in their children’s behaviour:
Reduced colicky crying, improved sleep, less unsettled irritable behaviour and increased quiet happy spells.
The baby sleeps for only short periods, and may sleep little in the day (or night!). They wake to the slightest noise- “jumpy”.
The tension on the bony and membranous casing of the skull keeps the baby’s nervous system in a persistently alert state.
What problems can cranial osteopathy help with in older children?
As the child grows, the effects of retained moulding can lead to other problems. The following are the most common, but it is by no means an exhaustive list.
Recurrent ear infections, gradually becoming more frequent. May lead to the ear becoming “glued” and some temporary loss of hearing.
Sinus and dental problems
Persistent mouth breathers. Constantly blocked or runny nose.
Impaired growth and drainage of the sinuses and bones of the face due to retained moulding compression. Later, this increases the chance of dental overcrowding.
Headache, aches and pains
Headaches begin age 7-8. Growing pains. Vulnerability to sprains, or other aches and pains.
Retained moulding may focus areas of pressure in the skull, as the bony joints of the skull fully form at around the age of 7-8 years. Patterns of tension retained in other areas make the body more vulnerable to strain and fatigue.
Cranial osteopathic treatment
Osteopathic treatment using the cranial approach is gentle, safe and effective for babies and children. Very specific, skilled, light pressure is applied where necessary to assist the natural ability of the body to release stresses and tensions.
Could there be any adverse reactions?
Reactions to treatment are variable, often the baby or child is very relaxed afterwards and sleeps well. Others have a burst of energy after treatment, usually followed by a good nights sleep.
Occasionally children are unsettled after treatment. This is a temporary situation, and usually clears within 24-48 hours.
It is a common belief that babies and children should have no structural stresses or strains in their bodies, because they are ‘so young’. The reality is very different. Birth is one of the most stressful events of our lives. The baby is subjected to enormous forces, as the uterus pushes to expel the baby against the natural resistance of the birth canal. The baby has to turn and twist as it squeezes through the bony pelvis, on its short but highly stimulating and potentially stressful journey.
The baby’s head has the remarkable ability to absorb these stresses in a normal delivery. In order to reduce the size of the head, the soft bones overlap, bend and warp as the baby descends. The baby’s chin is normally well tucked down towards its chest to reduce the presenting diameter of the head.
Many babies are born with odd shaped heads as a result. In the first few days, the head can usually be seen to gradually lose the extreme moulded shape, as the baby suckles, cries and yawns. However, this unmoulding process is often incomplete, especially if the birth has been difficult. As a result, the baby may have to live with some very uncomfortable stresses within its head and body.
Osteopath: Oliver Eaton