Last week, I read a great post about what cranial osteopathy is and what it is often confused with (cranial sacral therapy, reiki, fish slapping). It is written by a UK osteopath with 20 years' experience and she puts it much better than I can. Her site osteofm is a great resource for osteopathic news and discussion.
Here is an except from her post:
(Cranial osteopathy) is not a completely different treatment modality from “structural”. There is a continuum of osteopathic techniques, from the stronger, coarser and more direct, to the subtler, gentler, lighter and more indirect. They are all based on osteopathic principles, freeing restrictions, restoring comfortable anatomical relationships, taking pressure off co pressed areas and so on, and I would argue that they affect the body on different levels from gross to subtle, and mainly differ in their strength and direction of application.
Different patients and situations need different kinds of treatment, and the best osteopaths can do all kinds. To be a good all rounder is the ideal, but good all rounders are as rare in osteopathy as in the English cricket team. Most osteopaths find their place somewhere along the spectrum. Some at the extremely mechanistic end often can’t feel or understand the subtler end, and might dismiss it as flaky, self-delusional or ineffectual; some at the other extreme might feel that the stronger ones are often too forceful and lack insight and sensitivity and understanding of the body.
Hopefully patients end up selecting the practitioner, by trial and error, that works for them. There is not normal osteopathy (physical therapy) and weird osteopathy (faith healing). There is just osteopathy.
And yes, cranial osteopathy is badly named, as we work on more than just the head. Some of the phenomena we feel as practitioners and our patients experience may sound weird or far out, but it is very similar to what stroke survivor Jill Bolte told her audience at a Ted conference. She found that her perception switched, similar to what we experience in treatment, during a stroke in which only her right brain was working. Perhaps something happens in cranial treatments that gets our right brains firing? That's my guess.
Here is a wonderful video showing what happens from conception to birth. Don't worry, it's all computer animation and no babies were harmed in the process. What is interesting for an osteopath is notice how early all the important structures are formed (within the first 12 weeks) and we are mostly just getting larger after that. Also, look at how the baby has to twist one way and reverse to get out at birth. This may result in birth strains, especially if the labour is a long one. If you are interested in the journey from conception to birth, look out for this really good 3 part documentary Countdown to Life available on ABC iView.
When I walk the dog, it's my podcast-listening time. My favourite is Radiolab, and this recent one had me gobsmacked. It's about a couple having twins, but very early on, they learn that one of the twins won't survive due to a severe malformation of the brain (anencephaly). Despite the tragedy of losing a child a week after the birth, the couple decide to donate Thomas' organs.
The podcast tracks down some of the research labs which received Thomas' genetic material. Because Thomas and his surviving brother Callum are identical twins, it can really help us understand how the same embryos in the same womb can develop in vastly different ways.
So how does this relate to osteopathy? Osteopaths, especially cranial osteopaths, are fascinated by embryology. This study of how external factors can influence prenatal development is called epigenetics. In the future, epigenetics may help explain why some babies are born with cleft palates, tongue ties or hip dysplasia. One of the research projects found that there were 1000 epigenetic differences between Thomas and Callum, which obviously had a profound effect on life and death. Listening to this podcast really made me appreciate how much of nature we don't understand and take for granted.
We get asked this question a lot. I mean, A LOT. Clare Richardson, from wellbeing.com.au, does a commendable job explaining the history behind each modality.
Often, we find ourselves doing a bit of everything, and then some. If you've hurt yourself, we'll look at the site of the pain, as well as what other factors could be maintaining that state of inflammation. If your problem is postural, we'll definitely give you exercises and stretches to prevent recurrence. Our technique choice is based on patient preference and what we think will help the most.
And, as Clare Richardson adds, the most important thing is to find a practitioner you can trust and relate to.
Every so often, we'll hear of someone's child having grommets put in, to prevent recurrent ear infections. According to Medicalobserver.com.au, there is a new technique available to GPs that would avoid surgery.
The intervention is called autoinflation, and it involves using a nasal balloon, says Professor Chris Del Mar from Bond University, UK.
The first large randomised controlled trial involved 320 children, with recent history of otitis media and effusion, and confirmed fluid in one or both ears, from 43 family practices in the UK.
Children receiving autoinflation 3 times a day for 1–3 months were more likely than those in a control group receiving usual care to have normal middle-ear pressure, measured by tympanogram, at both one month (47.3% vs 35.6%) and three months (49.6% vs 38.3%) and to have fewer days with symptoms,
including common colds and earaches
“We have found use of autoinflation in young, school-aged children with otitis media with effusion to be feasible, safe and effective in clearing effusions, and in improving important ear symptoms, concerns and related quality of life over a three-month watch-and-wait period,” the authors write.
Professor Del Mar says there are few effective treatments in primary care. Antibiotics have been shown in a Cochrane systematic review to be ineffective, and surgically inserted grommets have no benefit beyond six months and have no effect on speech and language development.
From an osteopathic perspective, children between the ages of 2 to 4 are most likely to develop otitis media due to the angle of the ear canal. In adults, it is at a slight incline and so helps with drainage. In young children, the ear canal is more horizontal so fluid can get caught in the ears more easily. Osteopaths who have experience treating such conditions will use gentle cranial/biodynamic techniques to improve the circulation and drainage through the head naturally.
Read more about glue ear at the ABC Health & Wellbeing site.
All entries complied by osteopath Dr Wei Chua unless otherwise stated.