Cranial osteopathy is a particular modality taught in manual osteopathy. It originated with Dr. William Sutherland, who was a student of Dr. A.T Still (Father of Osteopathy). It had always been thought that the cranial bones are fused together at the sutures in adulthood and that there is no movement between the bones of the skull. This has since been disproven.  The cranial bones, though separated during the development of an infant, are formed through movement. The movement of the cranial bones is instrumental in the ebb and flow of the cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid fluctuates, bathing the brain and spinal fluid with vital nutrients to every cell in the nervous system. 

In an osteopathic cranial treatment, the therapist places gentle pressure on the sutures of the cranial bones and listens/feels for the pulse of the fluids and bones through his or her fingers. The specific movement of this system is called the primary respiratory mechanism.


There are three linings that surround the brain. The dura mater, the arachnoid mater and the pia mater. The outermost lining is attached to the inside of the cranial bones. These linings also move with the inspiration and expiration of the primary respiratory mechanism.

The last principle is that the sacrum, the tailbone, is suspended between the two hip bones. The sacrum has its own involuntary movement and is connected to the brain through the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.


Cranial Osteopathy can normalize nerve function and counteract stress producing factors. All the cranial and spinal nerves are directly affected by the health of the cerebrospinal fluid. Cranial treatment can eliminate circulatory stasis, especially considering venous (blood) return to the brain. Back up pressure in the brain can result if the veins are compressed. 95% of the blood exiting the brain does so through the jugular vein. One can see how important it is that the circulation surrounding the brain is vital. 

As mentioned above, cranial osteopathy normalizes the fluctuations of the cerebrospinal fluid. It also releases membranous tension. If there is tension in one part of the membrane, it will affect the tension in another membrane.


This treatment serves to correct cranial articulation strains in which there is a compression or compaction between cranial bones of the skull. All the structure inside the skull are influenced by the cranial bones. If there is an injury to a cranial bone through trauma, cranial osteopathy can help restore balance.

Cranial Osteopathy is used clinically in almost all complaints involving the head, neck and face as well as conditions seemingly unrelated to the head like dysmenorrhea and depression.

Some of the symptoms of a cranial dysfunction a person may be experiencing are headaches, stress and anxiety, balance, hearing problems and ear ringing, inner ear infections, dizziness, vertigo and clumsiness. In some cases, learning challenges like dyslexia can be helped with treatment.

Cranial Osteopathy


William Garner Sutherland DO (1873-1954) graduated from the American School of Osteopathy (ASO) in 1900.