Cranial osteopathy versus cranial sacral osteopathy

Prior to the voice training workshop and his introduction to the Alexander Technique, Chris underwent a series of cranial sacral massages. Cranial sacral massage is related to cranial osteopathy. Cranial osteopathy was developed by osteopath William Sutherland in the early 1900s. He observed that the temporal bones of the head near the ears move very slightly, rather like the gills of a fish. Cranial osteopaths and cranial sacral osteopaths believe that there is something called a cranial rhythm, which is present in all body tissues and results from the pulsing of the cerebrospinal fluids surrounding the brain, spinal cord and sacrum. Disturbances to this rhythm put pressure on the cranial bones and other parts of the body, leading to bodily and nervous dysfunctions. The rhythm can be disturbed by birth trauma, forceps delivery, accidents, etc. Both cranial osteopathy and cranial sacral osteopathy detect and correct the cranial rhythm through gentle massage.

Stephanie Marohn devotes a chapter of her book, The Natural Medicine Guide to Schizophrenia, to cranial osteopathy as of potential benefit for schizophrenia. The finer distinctions between cranial sacral osteopathy and cranial osteopathy were unclear to me and I booked cranial sacral massages for Chris and me thinking they were one and the same. Chris reported suddenly hearing new age music while undergoing his first massage, and he knew there was no music playing in the room at the time. I, on the other hand, experienced nothing so dramatic. My massage was pleasant and relaxing. I had no reason to think that this particular massage could be anything but beneficial.

On returning from the vacation and college tour in late August (and missing his flight), Chris began to become unfocused. In addition to not hearing what Ian and I said to him, he soon failed to keep up with his course assignments at the local university. At choir practice, he was out of sync with the others. Chris and I talked about this at length. He confessed that he felt his perceptions were changing. “Take that police siren we are hearing right now off in the distance. Now it seems like it’s just a siren, but before I used to think about all the bad things that had happened to someone or the crime that had been committed. I am still stuck halfway between the old perception and the new one and it gets disorienting. I also feel that my physical reality is changing and I don’t know where to look or put my feet.” Chris was not so sure that the new reality was going to be better than the old one.

I began to worry that I had inadvertently “killed” Chris by mixing up cranial osteopathy and cranial sacral osteopathy.