What is the difference between cranial sacral therapy, cranial osteopathy and cranial Chiropractic?

This is a question that we get asked a lot in the clinic, and although for us there is a clear definition we understand that it can be confusing, as all three can help with similar problems.

So, before writing this article I did a quick online search of this topic and found that there was a lot of biased views, so I will try and write from a non-biased standpoint.

This question can be answered through the history and training of Craniopathy, or the study of dysfunction related to the skull.

  • In the early 20th century there was an osteopath, W. Sutherland DO, who was developing cranial osteopathy and, around the same era, Major Bertrand de Jarnette, who was an osteopath and then studied to be a chiropractor was also developing Sacro-Occipital Technique (SOT).
  • De Jarnette, whose life was saved by spinal manipulation, (and he was also a student of W. Sutherland) realised that the connection of the dural membranes (membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord) to the sacrum bone in the pelvis was of crucial importance. De Jarnette had also had personal experience with the importance of the vital force of the nervous system and thus developed SOT.

So this is why an Osteopath and a Chiropractor who use cranial therapy use around 30% of each other’s work.

Cranial Osteopaths

Cranial Osteopaths practice in line with W. Sutherland’s work, which philosophised that healing is dependent upon blood circulation and cranial sacral respiratory mechanism. These philosophies are generally attributed to W. Sutherland. The technique applies gentle pressure, and to the external skull.


Chiropractors who use cranial technique practice SOT, which is inline with De Jarnette. The technique uses corrective pressure on the internal or external skull and incorporates the spinal nervous system and dural connection.

Cranialscaral Therapy

Cranialscaral Therapy is based on Cranial Osteopathy and is practised by therapists who are not an Osteopath

  • A Cranialscaral Therapist may refer patients to either an Osteopath or a Chiropractor as both professions are able to diagnose conditions. An Osteopath has completed 4 years full-time study and a Chiropractor has completed 5 years full-time study, a Chiropractor is also able to take and read x-ray findings.

All three techniques mentioned above can safely be used on babies, adults and children.