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Cranial Osteopathy as a Treatment for Brain Injury

What is Cranial Osteopathy?

Cranial osteopathy, also known as cranial sacral therapy or craniosacral therapy, is manual manipulation of the cranial bones and membranes to allow the cerebral spinal fluid to flow properly.
With cranial osteopathy, a craniosacral practitioner uses gentle hands to knead the 22 cranial bones, membranes, and CSF. This cranial manipulation addresses areas of restricted movement that compromise function to re-establish normal movement, subsequently reducing pain and improving daily functioning.

Because the craniosacral system encompasses the brain and spinal cord, it influences the entire nervous system, affecting many body functions. Patients often report a sense of deep relaxation during and after the cranial treatment session and may feel light-headed. These effects are popularly associated with increases in endorphins, but research shows they may be brought about by the endocannabinoid system.

Benefits of Cranial Osteopathy

• Improved cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) flow
• Reduces headache pain
• Increases nourishment of brain tissue

The practice of osteopathic medicine has been in use since 1874. Many studies have shown that the manipulation from cranial osteopathy reduces pain, sleep disturbance, anxiety, and all around improved quality of life. After just two weeks of cranial osteopathy, TBI survivors found a decrease in headaches, vertigo, muscle tension, and an improvement in their general well-being.

How Cranial Osteopathy Works

The central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord, has subtle, rhythmic pulsations that are vital to health and can be detected and modified by a skilled craniosacral practitioner. This rhythmic pulsation can be blocked in brain injuries, impeding flow of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) and reducing nourishment for the brain.

With cranial osteopathy, a craniosacral practitioner uses gentle hands to knead the 22 cranial bones, membranes, and CSF. This cranial manipulation addresses areas of restricted movement that compromise function to re-establish normal movement, subsequently reducing pain and improving daily functioning.

Because the craniosacral system encompasses the brain and spinal cord, it influences the entire nervous system, affecting many body functions. Patients often report a sense of deep relaxation during and after the cranial treatment session, and may feel light-headed. These effects are popularly associated with increases in endorphins, but research shows they may actually be brought about by the endocannabinoid system.

Cranial Osteopathy for TBI

It is postulated that head pain may frequently arise from or be influenced by various soft tissues and neurogenic or osseous structures of the head, neck, and upper body. Pain elicits a heightened response of the sympathetic nervous system that can create a vicious cycle by causing vasoconstriction, ischemia, chemical changes, more muscle contraction, and thus, more pain.

Techniques of cranial osteopathy are believed to improve circulation; release restrictions in joints; reduce tension in the muscles, fascia, and dura mater; decrease nociceptive input; and promote the normalization or calming of the central nervous system in traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients.*

*Results may vary; no guarantee of specific results

Prior literature has emphasized the importance of focusing on the occipitoatlantal joint, occipital condyles, and occipitomastoid joint; sphenobasilar syncondrosis in migraine; and use of craniosacral techniques for cervicogenic headache. In at least one small case series, cranial osteopathy was shown to be a helpful adjunctive therapy to traditional pharmacologic therapies for U.S. soldiers suffering from posttraumatic headache attributed to mild head injury.

Scientific References