What is it and how does it work?

Cranial Osteopathy is a therapy that’s been around for years. Like regular osteopathy, it uses manipulation techniques such as massage to treat stress and tension in the body. The difference is that cranial osteopathy uses the head as well as the rest of the body.


Gloucester-based osteopath and author of Osteopathy For Children, Liz Hayden explains, “The skull is made up from a number of separate bones that are designed to move slightly like a complex 3D jigsaw. If any part of this movement is restricted, it can cause tension and imbalance in other areas of the body. Osteopaths can feel and gently release areas of strain, compression or distortion in the head and body that have been caused by traumatic events like birth.”

If you’re looking for an alternative therapy to try, it could be just the thing.

Backache is a common complaint in pregnancy

How can it help in pregnancy?

From backache to heartburn, there are plenty of niggles in pregnancy. As not being able to take certain drugs makes treatment tricky, cranial osteopathy is fast becoming the perfect solution for mums to be, says Liz.

“It encourages the body to adapt properly to accommodate the baby. And it can help nausea and vomiting by using treatment to improve the circulation to and from the liver,” she explains.

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How can it help your baby?

Doctors say they’re close to finding out what causes colic. But until then, it can be a problem for up to 30% of babies – and really stressful for their mums. Cranial osteopathy can be really effective at easing the symptoms, says Liz.

“Working on the base of the skull and the diaphragm area can relax the baby, which reduces the reactivity of the whole nervous system. This often reduces the colicky symptoms of discomfort and crying.”

How can it help your toddler?

“If there have been issues from birth that aren’t treated then problems can continue and be problematic when your baby grows older and into the toddler stage,” says Liz. Sleeping problems, tummy aches and sinus infections can all be helped by cranial osteopathy.

You may have a toddler who doesn’t sleep well, does not eat well and complains of tummy aches. “Osteopathy can work on the lymphatic system,” says Liz.

“If the diaphragm is held in a tense state, this can delay the passage of lymph through the chest and in turn this reduces the ability to fight infection.

“Osteopaths will pay attention to the chest and in the head area too and boost the immune system so infections are not picked up so easily.”

The first six weeks with your newborn can be daunting but try to stay calm!

How to get treatment

“It’s important to find a fully qualified osteopath who specialises in cranial techniques,” says Lisa Barnwell from the Me and My Baby therapy rooms and clinic in Chelsea, which has its own trained cranial osteopath. “Some people claim to specialise in cranial osteopathy but don’t have the training.”

To find a qualified osteopath, including practitioners specialising in the treatment of children, contact the General Osteopathic Council, 020 7357 6655.

For information on reduced-cost osteopathy contact the Foundation for Paediatric Osteopathy, 020 7490 5510.

Osteopathy for Children by Elizabeth C Hayden is available for £6.29.

Is TENS right for you?

Mum’s story…pregnancy

“My morning sickness disappeared”

“During my first pregnancy I suffered from really bad morning sickness, and then one day I had a terrible pain that ran down my left side, which turned out to be sciatica. I went to see my osteopath and he clicked my back, my neck and my shoulders, and applied pressure to my skull and abdomen. I felt so much better after just one session. Both the morning sickness and sciatica disappeared.

“With my second pregnancy I went to see the osteopath because my baby was in the transverse position. The osteopath applied pressure to my abdomen and gently pushed and the next time I went to have a scan the baby had shifted into the right position. I would recommend osteopathy to any pregnant women.”

Nikki Wiscarson, 38, from Fareham, mum to Adelaide, 10, and Matilda, 16 months

Mum’s story…baby

“He’s like a different little boy”

“Joshua’s colic kicked in by the end of the first week after his birth. He would scream for hours in the evening, wouldn’t settle, and he would strain to try to pass wind. It was heartbreaking.

“A friend recommended cranial osteopathy so we decided to give it a go. The osteopath did a bit of massage and manipulation of Joshua’s skull and along his spine and tummy. Josh screamed and cried all the way through and twice we had to stop the treatment so I could calm him down. He was a lot calmer in the second session and then did the biggest poo! Something had obviously cleared from his system. For 24 hours he was still a little unsettled, but the day after, the crying had stopped. He was a totally different baby.

“After the second session Josh was completely better and had no symptoms at all. Whenever anyone tells me that their little one has colic, I always recommend going to a cranial osteopath.”

Sharon Moores, 30, from Maidstone, mum to Joshua, 13 months

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Mum’s story…toddler

”Sinus problems are a thing of the past”

“Louie picked up a sickness and diarrhoea bug when he was 6 months old, which went on for weeks and then turned into a cold that never stopped. He was producing too much mucus and his nose was constantly running like a tap, which stopped him eating properly, and he didn’t sleep well, as he snored and coughed all night.

“He’d been on antibiotics for three months solidly and I was advised that he’d have to have his adenoids out. But I felt he was too young to go down that drastic route – I wanted to try something alternative first. Since I took him to a cranial osteopath, he’s been eating normally, his nose has stopped running and he’s sleeping better.”


Julie Kenyon, 44, from Tunbridge Wells, mum to Louie, 15 months