Cranial Osteopathy

Cranial osteopathy is a very gentle, safe and effective form of osteopathy, which is suitable for all ages from adults, to babies and children. Although the name implies only the head is treated, any part of the body can be treated cranially.

It works on the principle that there is a very subtle movement between the cranial bones and circulation, and restriction in this movement may cause problems. Diagnosis is made by the osteopath gently holding the patient's head, or other part of the body and using a highly developed sense of touch to feel movement. Treatment is also very gentle and relaxing, using specific adjustments to ease restrictions.


It is a common belief that children and babies should have no structural stresses and strains in their body, because they are so young and flexible. The reality is very different.

The birth of a baby is one of the most stressful events of its life. 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 this highly stimulating and potentially stressful journey.

The baby's head has a remarkable ability to absorb these stresses in a normal labour and most of these stresses and strains are released naturally afterwards. However, there are many factors that can limit the ability of the baby to cope with the labour and to fully recover afterwards, especially if it has been a particularly difficult birth. If the stresses remain unresolved, then the body has to accommodate the stresses and strains as it grows.


Osteopathy can help with an enormous variety of different symptoms and problems in babies, children and adults. Many people find it difficult to understand how osteopathy can help such a wide range of conditions. Part of the answer lies in the fact that osteopathy is a philosophy or a way of thinking. Every part of the body is dependent on other parts working efficiently and to be in good health, it is important that all parts are working well.

There are great similarities with the smooth running of a large organisation, such as a hotel, for example. Every member of the team is important, no matter how minor their job seems. The cooks and the cleaners are as important as the managers and the accountants. Poor performance in any one area will rapidly affect the ability of the whole organisation to function smoothly. In the body, a similar interdependence exists between different parts and problems in one part of the body can affect other parts some distance away. Osteopaths are continually searching to understand the cause of a particular problem, rather than just treating the symptoms.

Many of the problems that osteopaths see in patients, both adults and children, have their origin in unresolved birth stresses.


Excessive crying, irritable or unsettled. Needs to be rocked to sleep. Prefers being carried.

The baby may be uncomfortable, with a constant feeling of pressure in the head. This is made worse by the extra pressure of the head when lying down.

Feeding difficulties. A baby may take a long time to feed and one feed merges into the other. He or she may be a windy feeder.

Feeding is difficult and tiring for baby due to mechanical stresses through the head, face and throat. The nerves to the tongue may be irritated, as they exit through the skull, which makes suckling difficult.

Sickness and wind. Regurgitation of milk between feeds, also prolonged crying due to wind, often worse in the evening.

The digestive system in the baby can be irritated for a number of reasons, often due to mechanical distortion of the head and body as a result of the birth. This can make the baby uncomfortable and aggravate the already vulnerable digestive system.

Sleep disturbances. Baby sleeps for only short periods and may sleep little in the day or night. Wakes to the slightest noise.

The tension in the bony and membranous casing of the skull keeps the baby in a persistently alert state.

Now it is important to note, that if your baby demonstrates some of the above symptoms, it does not automatically mean they have retained moulding/tension within their bodies as there are many other reasons why a baby may be unsettled/colicky and sleeps poorly.

So how do you know if your baby has retained moulding and may benefit from cranial osteopathy?

I would say, if you recognise some or all of the above signs and symptoms coupled with a history of excessive birth trauma/visible moulding of your baby's head and your "mothering" instincts tell you something is not quite right. Then I suggest you could speak to your Health Visitor or GP and other parents who might have taken their children to see a cranial osteopath, to help you decide whether a visit to a cranial osteopath will help you eliminate one possible cause for your baby's symptoms that is causing concern.

Andrew Mills BSc(Hons), BSc(Ost)

Cranial lecturer/technique tutor for the Rollin E Becker Institute and the British School of Osteopathy.


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