Cranial Osteopathy

Cranial osteopathy can be used on any part of the body, not just the head!

It’s a very gentle form of treatment often used on babies and children. 

Treatment is based on improving mechanics of your body; making sure the whole body works as a unit.  As always the aim is to make your body work to the best of its ability.   And for it to stay that way.

Cranial osteopathy usually feels very relaxing.  During treatment there is very little movement of the practitioners’ hands – you might even comment afterwards that the gentle approach is calming and peaceful.

Cranial osteopathy is very popular for treating babies (click here for our page on treating babies), but it can be used for adults too. 


Whether you are 2 days old or 99 years old there might be things we can do to get you back on your feet.  Our mission is to help and we genuinely care about getting you back to health.

Celia Crook Says:

Seeing the change when people have cranial osteopathy is wonderful. There’s a sense of calm and peace you don’t often see in our over-stressed, over-busy lives.

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Frequently asked questions

What happens at the first appointment?

On your first visit to us a full medical case history will be taken.  We need to know all aspects of your health. We will ask about your previous injuries, surgery, illnesses, and we will want to know if you’re taking any medication.

We will then ask you to perform a few simple movements so we can see what’s happening in the area that is injured, and in the areas around it.

Unless we need further information about your condition we would normally treat you on your first appointment.

You will normally be asked to undress to your underwear so that we can assess what’s wrong, but if you don’t feel comfortable undressing, just tell us – we can work around that.  We want you to enjoy your treatment, so tell us what we can do to make that happen.

Andy says:  If you’re a bit nervous about coming why not book a Free Consultation first?  Come and meet us – we won’t put any pressure on you to have treatment.

What happens during treatment?

Once we’ve made a diagnosis, and we are satisfied that it is safe to treat you, we can use a variety of methods to fix your pain.  We might be famous for our clicking, but cranial osteopathy does not involve clicking, it is very gentle.

During your treatment we will explain what we are doing to ensure you are happy with what we are doing. Decisions about treatment, here as in any other medical practice, are entirely yours. We will never use any technique or procedure on you without your consent; so you can ask questions at any time.

Most patients really enjoy treatment, have a look at our testimonials if you need reassurance.

Take a look

Claire says:  I started studying osteopathy after being treated.  Treatment just feels so nice!

Is Osteopathy Safe?

If you want confirmation that osteopathy is safe, look no further: in 2013 we got an NHS contract for Northamptonshire to treat neck pain, back pain and neck-pain-related headaches on the NHS, which meant that GPs across Northamptonshire could refer patients to us.  Sadly this contract finished in 2016 due to NHS funding, but there wouldn’t have been a contract if the NHS didn’t think osteopathy worked.

NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence produced a document in 2016 called Low back pain and sciatica in over 16s: assessment and management.  This guideline states: Consider manual therapy (spinal manipulation, mobilisation or soft tissue techniques such as massage) for managing low back pain with or without sciatica, but only as part of a treatment package including exercise, with or without psychological therapy.

And that’s exactly what we do!

We always work out an exercise programme for patients because it’s important for you to have ways of managing your pain at home.  And we give you exercises you can incorporate into your day, not sheets and sheets of things you don’t have time to do.

We also consider the fact that psychological problems such as stress, bereavement, work etc can have an effect on your pain.  We believe in treating the whole person.  If we think your recovery will be faster by seeing another osteopath, a different therapist, GP or consultant, we make that happen.

The important thing is always that you get better.

What do you recommend?
Here’s the link to the NICE guidelines on back pain.  I’m not going to say it’s a fun read, but if you like regulatory documents you’ll enjoy it!

Georgia says: Let us find the cause of your pain so we can fix it.

What does treatment feel like?

Cranial osteopathy is very gentle.  Sometimes it feels like the osteopath is doing nothing at all.  Don’t be fooled, by this!

Sometimes you can feel your osteopath making little movements during the treatment, but on the whole it is very gentle and very relaxing.

Most of our patients say they really enjoy being treated.

“It’s so gentle, but it works wonders for me.” Mrs T Mills

What should I wear?

It’s really helpful to us if we can see the area of the body that we are treating.   Normally we ask patients to undress to their underwear, but if you want to wear a T-shirt and shorts, or if you just don’t want to get undressed, that’s fine with us.


And you can always bring pair of shorts and T-shirt with you to change into.

Ruth says:  Ladies, please don’t wear sports bras – they cover your spine and we can’t see what’s going on!

Can I claim on my insurance?

We are registered with almost all the private insurance companies.

If you’re not sure how to claim on your insurance please do call us in advance and we can talk you through the process.

The most important thing is that you need to check whether you need a GP referral before coming to us.  Most insurance companies don’t require a GP referral, but some do.

Once you’ve got the Ok from your insurance company we ask that you pay us after each appointment and then claim the money back from your insurance company yourself.

Important: due to AXA and Bupa being rather dictatorial about osteopathic treatment we are not registered with either of them.

If you would like us to recommend an alternative insurance company please do talk to us when you come in for treatment.

Can I bring somebody with me?

Of course you can!   We are very happy for you to have somebody in the treatment room with you.  We are quite used to families coming together or parents bringing kids with them.

Incidentally, if we are treating children under the age of 16 we insist that a parent or guardian accompany them.  We also ask that if you’re bringing any children under the age of 16 that they join you in the treatment room and are not left to sit in the waiting room unaccompanied by an adult.

What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is based on mechanics.  It’s all about how the body moves, and what injuries occur when parts of it don’t move.

Officially the definition is: Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of medical conditions. It works with the structure and function of the body, and is based on the principle that the well-being of an individual depends on the skeleton, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues functioning smoothly together.

The most important thing for you is that we look at the whole body and work to make it function well as one unit.  We don’t just look at the bit that hurts.

For example: a tight hamstring might lead to the muscle shortening.  The shortened muscle could then tug on part of the pelvis it attaches on to.  This could cause the pelvis to be unable to move correctly and lead to restricted mobility in the lower back.  When the lower back gets stuck, it can cause changes in the upper back, which could result in problems in the neck!  So, the pain is in the neck, but the underlying issue might be the tight hamstring.

Treatment, then, has to look at both, and the bits in between.

It isn’t enough just to treat the symptoms – you have to get to the root cause or the problem will keep coming back.

And that’s what we do.

Ruth says:  It’s the detective work that makes osteopathy so interesting.  I want you to get better and stay better!

Is there any research to prove osteopathy works?

Yes, there is.  Here are some of the results:

  • Most patients seek cranial osteopathy as they are seeking a more gentle form of treatment.
  • Osteopaths working in this field often use general osteopathic techniques alongside cranial osteopathic techniques.
  • The number of treatments needed to treat patients is broadly similar to general osteopathy.
  • Cranial osteopaths do treat the more common symptoms that people present with such as back or neck pain but they also treat more children and those presenting with headaches.

In the meantime we do our little bit.  Clinic owner, Claire Short has carried out some research into the use of a particular osteopathic technique on the neck vertebrae of 18 different species of animal (ranging in size from degus to alpacas).  She presented her findings at the first International Congress of Animal Osteopaths in Rome in 2012.

Her research showed that the osteopathic technique we use for loosening up the neck is safe, improves mobility and reduces pain in animals.

Did you know that Claire has had an article published in The British Veterinary Nursing Journal (Volume 26, Issue 7 Pages 218–254). It’s about treating a rabbit called Sylvester!

Can I have more information about research into cranial osteopathy?

Cranial Osteopathy Patient Survey

A recent survey of over 500 cranial osteopathy patients (Wilkinson et al, 2015) found that most of them were specifically seeking this kind of treatment. Patients of all ages were seen, with 13% babies under one year and 10% people over 70 years of age. Over half of patients had symptoms of less than six weeks duration while almost a third of patients had been suffering from their symptoms for more than three months. 45% of patients had already had some form of care from the NHS.

Two-thirds of patients in the survey presented with musculo-skeletal aches and pains but there were also a range of other problems and some patients wanting preventative care.

When compared to the general osteopathic population, numbers of treatments, symptom responses and adverse reaction rates were similar. Adverse treatment reactions reported after cranial osteopathy were reported as appearing to be temporary (less than 48 hours) and typically involved fatigue or a mild exacerbation of symptoms such as pain or stiffness.


The Sutherland Cranial College of Osteopathy Data Collection

Research Report

This SCCO research project was accepted by the International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine in 2014 and published in 2015


Abstract Background:

There is very little published information on the practice of osteopaths using osteopathy in the cranial field (OCF) in the UK today.



To describe the practice of UK osteopaths using OCF who are affiliated with the Sutherland Cranial College of Osteopathy (SCCO); create a profile of their patients; their reasons for seeking treatment; the treatment approaches used; and reported responses to treatment.



The majority of patients were seeking a particular approach to osteopathic treatment. Babies or infants and those aged over 70 comprise a substantial group of patients. The majority of patients presented with musculoskeletal complaints. Adverse treatment reactions appeared to be transitory in nature. Many patients reported a significant reduction in symptom severity scores following an average of three treatments. Without a control group, we cannot attribute direct causality to this finding. Further testing of the patient-reported symptom severity Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) as a promising outcome tool in this context is warranted.

The full article can be found here:


SCCO Research

Since the turn of the century the public, the osteopathic profession and other healthcare professionals have been asking for more research into the cranial concept in osteopathy. Although osteopaths and public alike were passionate about this therapeutic approach, there are relatively few scientific papers about it. Encouraging a culture of research became a priority for the SCCO Board of Trustees in order to further our understanding of our work, for the benefit of the profession and the public.

In 2007 the SCCO Board formed a new subcommittee, the Research Subcommittee (RSC), charged with undertaking research in this field. This committee was originally chaired by Colin Dove, (the SCCO President), and Clive Hayden became chairman in 2011. The research subcommittee have been active in a number of different ways as outlined below.


Data Collection Project

In 2010, the SCCO commissioned and funded its first research project. This data collection exercise used a questionnaire developed by the National Council for Osteopathic Research (NCOR) – a Standardised Data Collection form. The aim was to find out more about the day-to-day practice of osteopaths who use the cranial approach, as very little data exists about this. A comparison could then be made with the data available from a previous survey conducted on the general osteopathic profession.

Data gathered will help both the profession and the public to understand why patients seek cranial osteopathy.


Here are some of the results:

  • Most patients seek cranial osteopathy as they are seeking a more gentle form of treatment.
  • Osteopaths working in this field often use general osteopathic techniques alongside cranial osteopathic techniques.
  • The number of treatments needed to treat patients is broadly similar to general osteopathy.
  • Cranial osteopaths do treat the more common symptoms that people present with such as back or neck pain but they also treat more children and those presenting with headaches.


The results (in September 2013) have been accepted and published by the International Journal for Osteopathic Medicine. A summary of the project and its conclusions can be found here and the full report here


Infantile Colic Research Project

In 2012 Infantile colic was chosen as the next SCCO research project. There were several reasons for this:

  • It is one of the main reason parents seek to have their children treated by a cranial osteopath.
  • There was at the time a lot of public interest in the validity of the approach with regard to infantile colic.
  • There was already some evidence to support its use and it was felt that having a body of evidence that built of what currently existed would be the best use of resources and give the most benefit to the public.


A team from the European School of Osteopathy was appointed to undertake the research and it is currently underway.  This project has been partially funded by the SCCO, with a contribution from the Sutherland Society. Further fundraising is underway to complete the funding for this project.


Collecting and accessing existing research

The Research subcommittee has been working to identify and access existing research worldwide in the osteopathic profession.



Research Conference ‘Hidden Treasure’

For this Conference we scrutinised the dissertations written by osteopaths of British and European colleges for BSc, MSC and PhD qualifications, and asked the authors of some of the most interesting works to share their results at our conference. We are encouraging these speakers to share with us how they have developed and furthered their osteopathic skills through the work they have done, and to show us in practical sessions some of the techniques that they have used. This will enable the delegates to gain a much deeper understanding of the research work and how it can benefit their clinical practice.

Members of the college are eligible for preferential membership rates with the Royal Society of Medicine, which provided access to specific research training courses and access to medical research databases.

All the Videos can be seen here.


Do I need to do anything special before bringing my baby for treatment?

We’re very used to treating babies and we keep toys in all the treatment rooms to help keep them entertained during treatment.

We are also very happy if you want to bring your own toys or books that they like to read with you.

For more information about baby treatments click here (link to Mother and Baby page)

Brooke says:  Treating babies is amazing – they’ve spent years sitting at desks, driving cars or watching TV yet!

How long are the appointments?

Your first osteopathic appointment will be between 30 and 40 minutes. Follow-up appointments are about 20-30 minutes long.

Do I need a GP referral?

No, you don’t need a referral unless you have private healthcare and your provider requires you to have a referral.  Osteopaths are skilled in diagnostic techniques and trained to identify when a patient needs to be referred on to another healthcare professional. Similarly, GPs refer patients to osteopaths where they believe treatment would be beneficial. This integrated approach is increasingly common, and reinforces osteopathy’s position as a central part of a modern healthcare system.

So you can call us any time, or book online, without having to wait for a GP appointment.

Although referral by a GP is not necessary, you are encouraged to keep your GP fully informed so that medical records are up-to-date.

If you have private medical insurance you need to check your cover as some companies specify that you have to have a GP referral.  

What training do osteopaths have and are they regulated?

It takes 4 or 5 years to train to be an osteopath.  Once qualified osteopaths are regulated by the General Osteopathic Council, and are classed as Primary Healthcare Practitioners.  This means we are regulated by law.

The General Osteopathic Council was set up in 1999, after the Osteopaths Act of parliament was passed.  The council has the same status as the General Medical Council.

As Primary Healthcare Practitioners we:

  • Provide preventive care and teach healthy lifestyle choices
  • Identify and treat common medical conditions
  • Assess the urgency of your medical problems and direct you to the best place for that care
  • Make referrals to medical specialists when necessary

All osteopaths must be registered with the General Osteopathic Council – it is illegal to call yourself an osteopath if you are not registered.

After qualifying osteopaths have to do 30 hours a year continued professional development. The owners of the Ashgrove Clinic, Claire Short and Steven Bruce, also run the Academy of Physical Medicine, which provides postgraduate training for osteopaths and chiropractors around the world. This means that the osteopaths in the clinic attend courses with some of the most famous osteopaths and medical consultants in the world.  So you can be sure that our osteopaths are staying up-to-date and improving their technique beyond the requirements of the General Osteopathic Council.

Claire says:  Learning to be an osteopath is a long hard slog, but you end up with the best job in the world!

What’s the difference between osteopaths, chiropractors and physiotherapists?

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How many appointments will I need?

The number of appointments you need depends on what’s wrong with you, how you caused the injury and how long you’ve had it. It also depends on what you want to achieve.

Some people come to us because they just want to get out of pain. Other people want to prevent the pain occurring again and want to find ways to maintain the mobility they have achieved through treatment.

Our aim is always to make the pain go away and stay away.

In the clinic because our jobs are so physical we probably treat each other every 4-6 weeks.

Ruth says:  Some people like to come for maintenance appointments every few months because they feel so much better afterwards.

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