Back in 1899 an undergraduate osteopathic student named William Sutherland was studying a disseminated skull when it occurred to him that the structure of the articulations between the bones appeared to be designed for motion. Previously it was thought that the articulations of the cranium did not move. It remained for Dr Sutherland to prove through years of experimental research on himself and his patients, that there is definite, if slight, motion between the cranial bones.
Osteopathic treatment in the cranial field(OCF) is the result of this research. It is gentle, safe and effective. It is the very specific application of light pressure around the skull to assist the natural ability of the body to release stresses and tensions.
OCF can be applied to all ages, from the newborn baby to the aged. Osteopaths can often incorporate OCF with structural treatment such as soft tissue techniques, stretching, articulation and manipulation. The aim is to ‘allow physiological function within to manifest its own unerring potency rather than apply a blind force from without.’ (W. G. Sutherland, 1947).
OCF works on the premise of inter-relationship between the body. An area within the brain called the choroid plexus secretes a substance called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This fluid surrounds the brain and travels along the spinal chord and nervous system in waves much like the ocean. The mobility of the cranial bones, vertebrae and sacrum (tailbone) accommodate this ‘wave’ of movement so that the CSF is able to provide nutrition to the nervous system. Consequently, because nerves influence every cell in the body, cranial osteopathic treatment is a total body treatment – it is truly ‘holistic.’
All the body structures of the skull, vertebrae and sacrum are joined by a ligamentous membrane which links everything together. It is when structural and functional problems in this membrane arise that many different ailments become apparent such as headaches, sinusitis, tinnitus, problems with balance, chronic fatigue, difficulty sleeping and depression, as well as hyperactivity and learning difficulties in children. Again, regular maintenance can assist to reduce these symptoms.