03 December 2010

Cranial osteopathy, craniosacral therapy

Dr Guy Ashburner explains the difference between cranial osteopathy and craniosacral therapy.


What is the difference between cranial osteopathy and craniosacral therapy?

Where it began
Andrew Taylor Still, a medical doctor and surgeon, pioneered the field of osteopathy in 1874. Dr Still is widely considered the first physician to treat each patient as a whole while searching for the cause of dysfunction rather than treating symptoms. His dedication was rewarded with great success, restoring the dynamic equilibrium of the structures and the quality of natural functioning to the individual. He established the first college of osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri, in 1892.

Research and observation
Early in the 20th century, William Garner Sutherland, D.O. who had been trained by Dr. Still, formed the concept of the primary respiratory mechanism that he used to develop the field of cranial osteopathy. He first realised this fact in 1899 during a lecture with Dr Still when his attention was directed to a disarticulated skull. The pioneering work of William Garner Sutherland included years of research into the anatomy of the skull, clinical observation of skull mobility in normal asymptomatic patients, and abnormal cranial mobility in patients with a variety of symptoms. Cranial osteopathy was introduced to the osteopathic profession in the 1930s. Instruction in this field began in the 1940s yet William Garner Sutherland continued to insist that his students treat each patient with a global perspective, not just limiting themselves to the use of cranial osteopathy.

In the 1970’s craniosacral therapy embraced cranial osteopathic techniques. Originally in the domain of osteopaths craniosacral therapy has been opened up to those with no medical training, in that gentle manipulations do not pose a threat to the body.

Medical training for osteopathy
All osteopaths complete 4 years of medical degree training, and in South Africa are registered with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa. This qualifies them to practise osteopathy in South Africa under the title of Doctor. Osteopaths have a sound background in anatomy, physiology, pathology, diagnosis, biomechanics and paediatrics which enables them to offer patients a valid working diagnosis which is essential prior to application of treatment. Cranial osteopathic treatment, which is similar to craniosacral therapy, can then be directed with medical rationale.

A craniosacral therapist is not qualified to make a medical diagnosis, but you may leave a session feeling deeply relaxed.

What happens in a session
A typical craniosacral therapy session is performed with the client fully clothed, on his or her back, and lasts about one hour. In the Upledger method of craniosacral therapy, a 10-step protocol serves as a general guideline, which includes:

(1) analysing the base (existing) cranial rhythm

(2) creating a still point in that rhythm at the base of the skull

(3) rocking the sacrum

(4) lengthening the spine in the lumbar-sacral region

(5) addressing the pelvic, respiratory and thoracic diaphragms

(6) releasing the hyoid bone in the throat

(7-10) addressing each one of the cranial bones

The practitioner may use discretion regarding which steps are suitable for each client, and may or may not follow them in sequential order, with time restraints and the extent of trauma being factors.

Written by Dr Guy Ashburner for NATURAL MEDICINE I S S U E 4 1
S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 8 | 11

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