Cranial osteopathy is a treatment not often associated with adults, but with babies. So, when my friend Lydia Armitage suggested she used it as a treatment modality during an osteopathic MOT treatment session I was keen to see how it could affect adults.
What is Cranial Osteopathy?
Cranial osteopathy is a very subtle type of osteopathic treatment that uses gentle manipulative pressure on the skull. This encourages the release of stress throughout the body. It treats a wide range of conditions in people of all ages, but is widely know for helping babies with cholic, feeding and sleep issues, and reflux. However, for adults it can help with sleep dysfunction, recovering from a fall or car accident, fatigue, stress, headaches and migraines, and general ill health. If working on the bones of the pelvis it can really help relieve Sacro-Iliac Joint issues and lower back pain too.
Cranial osteopaths are trained at a post graduate level to feel the subtle rhythms which will be felt almost like a pulse. All tissues move in a rhythmical way as part of their respiratory activity. The skull is made up of 26 bones and are so intricately joined that during this rhythmical process the skull actually changes shape to accommodate the movement. Osteopaths can feel this change to determine if there is something preventing healthy movements of the tissues. This then allows them to support the rebalancing or release of areas of stress. Lydia helped explain it to me using the flight or fight response scenario and being on constant high alert. And that the treatment would help to balance my sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and relieve and settle those imbalances.
What Does It Feel Like?
It is a very passive form of treatment. To an outsider looking in you would think nothing is going on, and that the osteopath is just holding their patients head! During the treatment some people feel mild tension, aching or a pulsing sensation that gradually disappears. Sometimes nothing is felt. Most patients become deeply relaxed and will often fall asleep.
Why Did Lydia Suggest it For Me?
At the time of my cranial treatments, I was training for Ironman Wales, anxiety levels were pretty high and even with all the training I wasn’t sleeping very well. She suggested it might help with the sleep so I jumped on it! After a few seconds of Lydia holding my head I joked that “was she just going to hold my head”. She laughed back and basically said “yes!”. She explained that my central nervous system was working over time to support the long training sessions, and that it couldn’t switch off. Hence getting into bed to rest and recover and still being fully wired.
By gently holding my skulls plates she could feel the pulsing, and I could feel it too. It was like a really strong pulsing sensation I could both feel and hear. After a few minutes that disappeared. Lydia explained that the build up of pressure had released as my body had used her fingertips to transport my stresses into her fingers, rather than carry on sourcing through my body. It was really relaxing once that initial sensation had worn off, and I instantly felt calmer. That night I slept well, falling asleep much quicker. I’ve since had further cranial sessions and have always felt the benefit!
There is limited information on how cranial osteopathy can help adults. A lot of the articles I read focus on how it helps babies. So hopefully, this provides an insight into how it can be used as a treatment modality for adults, and what conditions it can help with. To book an appointment with Lydia Armitage please contact The Osteopathic Clinic on 0208 621155.
Written by Rhea Malkin BSc (Hons) Sports Therapist MSST and STOTT/APPI Pilates Instructor.