Cranial osteopathy also widely known as craniosacral therapy, is a system of detecting and treating
subtle restrictions in any of the body’s tissues, including the skull and sacrum (the large triangular bone
at the base of the spine.) Osteopaths use a very light touch to ‘listen’ to the subtle messages
communicated by the body, pinpointing areas of dysfunction and restriction which in turn contribute to
compromised functioning of the body unit.
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. The nervous system is the main control of all our bodily functions, from breathing to
digestion, regulation of heart rate, sleep and so much more. The nervous system can be thrown out of
balance by any variety of things such chronic stress, physical trauma at any stage of one’s life including
childhood as well psychological/emotional trauma in childhood and adulthood. 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
In our very 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, insomnia and migraines
to name a few.
What does cranial osteopathy feel like?
In order to restore the cranial rhythm to 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 the body. The
treatment is generally very relaxing, and it is not uncommon to fall asleep in treatment. Many report
feelings of wellbeing following the session, often followed by 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 heal itself.
Who can benefit from it? If you suffer from any one of these, cranial osteopathy may benefit you. This is
not a comprehensive list however, as cranial osteopathy has many other clinical applications: