This approach applies osteopathic principles to the treatment of the whole body, including the skull and its contents.
In 1899 William Garner Sutherland a student of Andrew Taylor Still, observed that the 26 bones of the skull were connected by modified joints which permitted a tiny degree of physiological motion expressed through the skull and its membranes, fluids and brain within.
This motion can also be felt throughout the body, similar to a very refined form of breathing.
This minute rhythmical shape change has come to be seen as the body’s (and cranium’s) response to the "breath of life" or "primary respiratory mechanism", and an expression of the individual’s state of health and well-being.
Unlike flexing an arm or taking a deep breath, this motion is beyond our voluntary control, and so is called "involuntary motion".
One of the fundamental principles of osteopathy is that "the living body is a self-correcting, self-regulating, self-healing mechanism", constantly working to establish its optimum level of health.
This principle is particularly emphasised in cranial osteopathy, wherein the practitioner seeks to be as receptive as possible to the intelligence of the "inner physician", in order to sense how the body is seeking to rebalance itself.
This informs the practitioner’s mind and hands as to the body's state of health, and what support or intervention the system requires to re-establish balance and harmony, restoring the freedom it needs to get on with its job of self-healing.
The primary concern of the cranial osteopath is therefore to learn to "listen" through gentle manual contact. The treatment process arises out of this attitude of quiet respect and receptive attention.