Cranial Osteopathy does not differ from osteopathy in that the principles are the same. It recognises the subtle mechanics at work in the head and their importance for the health of the whole body. It was developed by another American physician, William Garner Sutherland who was a student of Still’s.
During his first senior year he became interested in the design of the bones of the skull and thought that they must be able to move. He was an original thinker and was driven to determine why the bones articular surfaces have such a unique design. He eventually made the observation that a degree of yield or micro-motion exists between the bones of the skull and concluded that the design was accommodative to the function of the central nervous system, cerebrospinal fluid and dural membranes which surround the brain and the spinal cord. He named this functional unit the primary respiratory mechanism. This movement is now well documented in Osteopathic and other scientific sources.
When a cranial osteopath places her hands on a patient’s head a rhythmic expansion and contraction of the head can be felt. The movement is cyclic and one cycle includes one complete expansion and contraction. There are between and ten and fourteen cycles per minute. This motion is called the cranial rhythmic impulse and can be felt anywhere in the body as well as the head. It is distinct from the heart rate and breathing.
The cranial rhythmic impulse can be disturbed by any kind of physical trauma to the head or body e.g., whiplash injury, head injury, fall onto the back or pelvis, tooth extraction; stress and illness.