Cranial osteopathy is an approach to assessment and treatment

Osteopathy is a system of healthcare guided by osteopathic principals and grounded in human anatomy and physiology. It is a combination of hands-on therapy, advice and strategies that promote health. The hands-on therapy has no prescribed or all inclusive set of techniques; instead, there are a variety of broad approaches and treatment techniques used. All approaches to osteopathy have a focus on prevention and promoting good health practices. One common approach is known as cranial osteopathy.

Cranial osteopathy aims to unlock your body’s natural ability to heal.

Cranial osteopaths use gentle assessment and treatment protocols. These generally have a relaxing effect; however, the purpose in relaxing your body is to assess it for deeper indicators, beyond the surface tensions, that show how it’s coping with whatever problem you have.

The cranial approach looks beyond the surface symptoms and targets what impedes recovery. By treating these limitations in your body, the innate healing potential is unlocked, which naturally restores balance and function.

Because cranial osteopathy has gentle protocols, it has a special role to play treating some conditions and groups of people, including: people with chronic-recurring conditions; babies and children; pregnant and post-natal women; the elderly and aging adults.

Osteopathic principals guide treatment

Cranial osteopathic principals guide assessment, diagnosis and treatment. The principals are one of the defining features of osteopathy and distinguish it from other comparable modalities.

The principals are:

  1. You are a unified integrated system of mind, body and spirit – when one part of the system is altered it affects the integrity of the whole system.
  2. Your body is capable of recovery and maintaining health. These are innate abilities; healing can be compromised by imbalance and improved by treatment.
  3. Within your body, structure and function are interdependent. This means that any change in structure will cause some aspect of function to alter, and, conversely, any alteration in function will result in structural changes.
  4. Rational diagnosis and treatment is based on applying medical-scientific knowledge to your problem using the principals as guide.

Osteopathy is recognised as a distinct healthcare system making a unique contribution to healthcare provision. Osteopaths recognise the value of osteopathy; however, they work within the broader healthcare system and with other healthcare providers in the patient’s best interest.


Andrew Taylor Still (1825-1917), an American doctor, was the founder of osteopathy. He was frustrated by the medical practices of his time and dedicated his life to developing an alternative. He studied human anatomy and physiology. He observed the natural world, how “dis-ease” occurs and how our bodies heal.  He applied his ideas working with hundreds of patients over many years, gradually, formulating a system of healthcare that he called osteopathy.

There have been many who have contributed to the further development of osteopathy. William Garner Sutherland (1873-1954) a student of Andrew Taylor Still continued to expand osteopathy developing what is now known as Cranial Osteopathy. The initial research was focused on the head – hence the name cranial – but the approach was broadened to treat every part of the body.

Cranial osteopathy is a particularly gentle form of manipulative therapy. Today, many osteopaths choose this gentle style.