Understanding Cranial Osteopathy

Kelly Mckay - registered osteopath Islington - treating a patient with cranial osteopathy.
Cranial hand positions
Kelly Mckay - registered cranial osteopath Islington - performing a cranial osteopathic treatment.
in osteopathic treatment

Cranial Osteopathy is  a Highly Specialised techniques used to make subtle adjustments to the soft tissue network of the body. A gentle ‘hands on’ Osteopathic approach used to encourage the release of stresses, strains and tensions throughout the body. This subtle approach is suitable for children at all stages of development.  Kelly aims to treat the person as a whole, rather than just the symptoms by working with the body’s self-healing mechanism.

It is used as a discipline all on its own or in tandem with traditional structural Osteopathic techniques. It offers a Gentle yet effective approach, enabling her to gently palpate various areas of the body, including the spine, tailbone and head to assess the condition and nature of the relationships between an the functioning parts. Although the cranial  sacral approach appears to differ significantly from the more well known structural techniques, the aims and principles of treatment remain the same.

It’s a gentle yet extremely effective approach that may be used in a wide range of conditions for people of all ages, from birth to old age. The ‘Lightness Of Touch’  is a factor which sets this treatment technique apart from a more traditional (or structural) Osteopathic approach that is typically much physically dynamic in its method. Due to its gentle application, Cranial Osteopathy has become popularised (and heavily associated) with the Treatment of Babies, Infants and Young Children.

What Do Cranial Osteopaths Do?

Cranial osteopaths observe, palpate and treat a wide range of complaints (using a highly specialised touch), releasing areas of restriction, block, tension, congestion and strain, to reinstate optimum conditions for health and wellbeing. They are able to pick up on subtle changes in shape, tension, stress and strain reflected through this subtle involuntary expression anywhere on the body. However, the typical ‘Cranial and Sacral’ (top and tail) contact points are often the preferred start point. Their centralised location, relationship to the 26 Cranial bones, spinal column and direct connection to a large amount of the body’s soft tissues are a major vantage point. It is a Highly Specialised technique used as a discipline all on its own or in tandem with structural osteopathic techniques.

Cranial osteopaths offer a gentle yet effective approach where practitioners palpate various areas of the body, including the spine, tailbone and head to assess the condition and relationship between the functioning parts. Treatment consists of applying gentle pressure to encourage the release of stress and strain whilst adhering to its core osteopathic principles. Although the approach appears to differ significantly from the more well known structural osteopathic approach, the aims and principles of treatment remain the same.

Cranial Osteopathy & Craniosacral Therapy. What’s The Difference?

 ‘All the various modern approaches to Craniosacral Therapy have their roots in the work of William Garner Sutherland (1873-1954). In the late 1970s another American osteopath, John Upledger, began to teach cranial work to non-osteopaths, and coined the name ‘Craniosacral Therapy’. In the 1980s Thomas Attlee and Franklyn Sills began teaching Craniosacral Therapy in the UK, mainly to non-osteopaths.’ ~The Craniosacral Therapy Association

William Garner Sutherland D.O (1873-1954) was an American osteopath and a student of Andrew Taylor Still. Although he discovered, developed and taught what he termed ‘Osteopathy in the Cranial Field’ during the early part of the 1900’s, he made it clear that the cranial understanding and approach was merely an extension of Still’s science of osteopathy.

Sutherland discovered the subtle palpable movement within the bones of the cranium and realised their intrinsic relationship to the rhythmic fluid expression and movement throughout the cranium and other tissues of the body. At this time, cranial sutures were said to be fused and unable to move in adulthood, but he understood that a given structure was designed in a way to fulfil a specified set of functions. He embarked upon years of detailed study of the bones of the skull and nervous system—even carrying out experimentation on the bones of his own head—restricting the movement of specific cranial bones and detailing their symptomatic outcomes. He named his discovery ‘The Primary Respiratory Mechanism’, one of fundamental physiological importance.

The primary respiratory mechanism describes the Involuntary Mechanism of movement carried through the organs, tissues and Membranous System of the body. This membranous (or connective) tissue forms a thin yet strong interconnected covering over the body’s organs, muscles, tendons, bones and joints. The membranous system synchronises all of the body’s respective parts through its extensive linking and reciprocal flow of motion. Physical stresses, strain and tension can interfere with the fluidity and ease of this movement expression, most of which can be palpated or felt by the osteopath.

Craniosacral therapy works in a similar way to Cranial Osteopathy — the main difference being the depth of study and duration of time involved in obtaining a qualification. Cranial osteopaths undergo four years training at degree level (and are considered primary healthcare professionals), whereas craniosacral therapists require just two years of training in order to achieve a diploma status. Craniosacral therapy has its roots in osteopathy but works solely via the ‘Cranio-Sacral System’, whereas osteopathy has a more extensive framework. Patients may find differences in the way that osteopathy and craniosacral therapist practice (depending on the training and experience of practitioner seen). It is advised that patients carry out additional research to understand more about the training, approach and experience of individual therapists. Practitioner websites will often detail training and experience, while also providing indicators to areas of special interest and professional approach. Referrals from friends and family members can be useful.

Is Cranial Osteopathy Safe For Children?

Osteopathic Treatment of a 4 week old baby Kelly Mckay - Cranial osteopathy Islington.
baby awaiting cranial osteopathic treatment
Cranial Osteopathic treatment on a toddler.

Mechanical problems can occur as a result of unresolved trauma or accumulating tension. If left untreated, the negative impacts can build over time, causing the body struggle in its attempt to cope. Cranial osteopathy is a Safe, Gentle and Effective Approach to treating both adults and children for a wide range of complaints. Children are treated for symptoms of irritability, feeding difficulties, disturbed sleep and resolving the stressful effects of a difficult birth. Babies are frequently brought in for a mechanical check following a traumatic delivery. In older children and adults, cranial osteopathy is often used to treat a variety of symptoms including stress, malaise, fatigue, head and face pain and general ill health.

Due to its gentle application, cranial osteopathy has become popularised (and heavily associated) with the treatment of babies, infants and young children. However, its use is equally effective in the treatment of older children, adults and the elderly. Some osteopaths prefer to work using predominantly cranial osteopathic techniques. They may also choose to focus their practice in one or more specialised areas such as; sports injuries, visceral complaints (internal organs), paediatrics or treatment of the elderly.  Some practitioners choose to combine the cranial approach with structural techniques while others may choose not to incorporate the technique into their practice at all.

Cranial Osteopathic Treatments

Osteopaths will carry out an Assessment and Palpate areas of imbalance and dysfunction and gently reduce the level of strain to restore optimum balance and greater ease. The cranial approach works complementary to many other treatment modalities. Experiences vary from person to person and can depend on the level of sensitivity. Typically, patients may drift in and out of sleep, while others describe a range of sensations, these may include:

  • Changes felt in and around the symptomatic area
  • Emotional release or ease
  • Physical relaxation or lightness
  • Greater sense of awareness 
  • A range of physical sensations (as the body makes adjustments)
  • Increased feelings of groundedness
  • A desire to rest, sleep or slowdown following the treatment
Cranial osteopathy is generally reported to be a relaxing and restorative  experience for both adults and children.

Cranial Osteopathy Islington - Locations

》295 Upper Street Islington , N1 (Neal’s Yards Remedies – Therapy Rooms)

》265 Upper Street Islington, N1 – The Canonbury Natural Health Clinic. 

Kelly Mckay registered osteopath and founder of BodyMind Gateway (in her osteopathic consultation room).
Kelly Mckay - Cranial Osteopath -Islington
Kelly Mckay - registered cranial osteopath Islington - performing a cranial osteopathic treatment.
Cranial in Osteopathy Islington
Osteopathic consultation room
Canonbury Natural Health Clinic - Islington
registered osteopath authorisation mark for Keely Mckay (registered osteopath)
Registered Cranial Osteopath Islington

What Clients say…

I have been seeing Kelly for cranial osteopathy at Neal’s Yard Remedies for many years now and have also taken both of my sons to be treated at different times. My youngest son plays a lot of football and her treatments have really helped with some difficult injuries. Kelly is a wonderful therapist and I would highly recommend her.”

~Sally. S 

“I took my baby girl to see Kelly McKay for 2 cranial treatments around the ages of 4 and 6 months. Kelly has such a calm and gentle way with babies and I really appreciated this. As a new mum, you of course want people who come into contact with your child to treat them and hold them the same way that you do – and that’s exactly what I got. My daughter warmed to her immediately and gave her lots of smiles!I would highly recommend Kelly’s services – both for adults (I have had many wonderful sessions with her) but especially for babies. The way in which she was able to so gently and profoundly help settle my daughter into her natural way of being was truly incredible and I’m very grateful for her work.”

~Ty. O  

For appointment bookings, send your email enquiry to: info@bodymindgateway.net

Useful Information

The General Osteopathic Council
The GOsC is the regulator of osteopathy in the UK, working with the public and osteopaths to promote patient safety and good practice.

The Institute of Osteopathy
The iO is the UK’s leading professional membership organisation for osteopaths. The purpose of the institute is to unite, promote, develop and support the osteopathic profession.

The Osteopathic Centre for Children
The OCC is a dedicated Paediatric osteopathic clinic, providing care for children, pregnant and post natal women in London.

Sutherland Cranial College
The SCCO are a leading provider of CPD and postgraduate training in cranial osteopathy.

Cranial Osteopath Islington. Also serving:

Upper Street Islington ▪️ Highbury ▪️ Holloway ▪️ Angel ▪️Clerkenwell ▪️Highgate ▪️Hackney ▪️Haringey ▪️Camden ▪️Online Life Coaching also available.