By: Natural Medicine Magazine
Source: Natural Medicine Magazine

What is the difference between cranial osteopathy and craniosacral therapy?

Please can you clarify the difference between these modalities?

Dr Guy Ashburner replies: In the 1970s craniosacral therapy embraced cranial osteopathic techniques. Originally kept in the domain of osteopaths and chiropractors, craniosacral therapy has been opened up to those with no medical training, in that its gentle manipulations do not pose a threat to the body.

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.

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, and (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.

This letter was first printed in NATURAL MEDICINE magazine, issue no 41, page no 11.Natural Medicine serves as a valuable educational vehicle on all facets of healthy living.

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