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Dr Russ Blog - Cranial Osteopathy - Are You "Sick in the Head?"
Cranial Osteopathy - Are You "Sick in the Head?"
Created on 11/10/2009

DL sent in a very good question about the treatment of sinusitis, specifically asking about a therapy called cranial osteopathy.

Sinusitis can cause significant discomfort and may be recurrent. Conventional medical approaches include the use of decongestants, pain medications as necessary, antibiotics if indicated, and even consideration of surgery if sinus flow is blocked due to abnormal sinus anatomy or if the problem simply does not respond to medical therapy.

As defined by The Cranial Academy, an arm of the American Academy of Osteopathy, cranial osteopathy focuses on the anatomy and physiology of the skull and its associated structures and their interrrelationship with the entire body. Practitioners believe their gentle manipulative treatments can be used for both the prevention and treatment of some disorders.

Terminology is important - unlike craniosacral therapy, which is often offered by non-osteopaths, cranial osteopathy exists as part of the larger field of Osteopathic Medicine and is offered by D.O.s (Doctors of Osteopathy or osteopaths). Though craniosacral therapy and cranial osteopathy may differ in some respects, both have the potential to offer health benefits.

Practitioners of cranial osteopathy use their hands to apply very gentle pressure to the head. I have experienced this form of treatment myself and find it very relaxing. The goal is to free up restrictions in the movement of the cranial bones, to help relieve subtle blockages in the flow of certain fluids, and to help balance nervous system function. Most conventional M.D.'s, however, view the treatment more as a gentle massage than an effective intervention for sinusitis.

Osteopaths are trained just like their M.D. counterparts, but also gain expertise in manipulative therapies; however, only about 10-15% of osteopaths continue to offer manual therapies - most are content to practice essentially as an M.D. Thus, finding a practitioner of cranial osteopathy can be challenging. A good place to start would be the web site of the American Osteopathic Association -

While cranial osteopathy may be of benefit, here are some other considerations to discuss with your personal physician if you suffer with sinusitis:

- consider a trial period off dairy products, being sure to get the nutrients found in dairy foods from other sources
- irrigate your sinuses using a neti pot and warmed saline solution
- place a good HEPA filter in your bedroom
- apply moist heat to your sinuses (perhaps using a washcloth dipped in tepid water - not too hot!) when your sinuses are clogged
- acupuncture (may help relieve pain and perhaps promote sinus drainage)

I hope this is of help, DL. Be well.
Dr. Russ

** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **

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