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Do You Still Believe Cranial Bones Don't Move?

This dramatic before and after picture is a perfect demonstration of the available mobility between cranial bones and within the membranes that attach these bones. The top arrows show a considerable shift in the poll, from sunken and steep angle to almost level in the after photo. The bottom arrows show the change in orbit (eye) position heading closer to the midline of the face post treatment. This horse received only one session of osteopathic cranial therapy between these two photos.


Why Is This Important?


There are multiple nerves that travel through the bones that were shifted. Predominantly, the nerves that innervate the eyes, ears, mouth, and jaw. Compression or tension to neural tissue (i.e. nerves) is not only painful but can affect the function of the organs and muscles they innervate.


Furthermore, the brain sits upon some of the bones that demonstrate visible mobility in these pictures. Similar to the nerves, compression or tension on brain matter is much less that optimal. We can all agree, it is preferable for the brain to be unobstructed in it's function especially for an animal that is already hard wired for survival based physiology.


Lastly, the pituitary gland is nestled in one of the most important bones here, the sphenoid. The pituitary is the master gland of the body, so think about metabolism, energy (or lethargy), regulation of hormones that control alll the other critical functions such as breathing, heart rate, digestion, and even sleep.


A Little More On The Sphenoid Bone


The sphenoid bone is one of my favourite bones to work with in the cranium because it articulates with 12 other cranial bones. This means it can have a vast effect on the overall function of the cranium and body if it is out of position. The surface of the sphenoid bone is named the sella turcica which is latin for Turkish seat due to its saddle like shape (how suitable in the case of horses). This small saddle shaped depression is home to the pituitary gland – that very important little gland we just discussed.



The pituitary gland sits upon the sphenoid and receives messages from the brain. The gland then integrates these messages to produce hormones that affect the rest of the body. Specifically, the anterior portion produces adrenocorticotropic hormones (ACTH) and stimulates the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol which regulates growth, metabolism, and body composition.


If the sphenoid bone is torsioned, laterally strained, or compressed this may cause dysfunction in the pituitary gland and subsequently the hormones being produced which can present very similarly to various known metabolic syndromes. In my years working as a human therapist, and specifically with TBI (traumatic brain injury) patients, I have seen evidence of cranial dysfunction presenting as metabolic syndromes. This leads me to ponder the very obvious question, regarding diagnoses of metabolic syndrome in our horses. To learn more about a case study I did on this topic, check out my conversation on the Whole Horse Podcast.


In Summary


These types of before and after photos are the exact reason I am deeply passionate about cranial work. The changes able to be achieved, no matter what age, can be profound and far reaching in the body. For this horse, there were metabolic signs and symptoms alongside moderate physical limitation presenting prior to treatment. Following treatment, beyond the incredible visible changes achieved in the cranium, the out-picture of this shift in cranial tension resulted in dramatic relaxation and significant ease of movement in the spine and limbs. This change in spinal and peripheral limb movement is due to the far reaching attachment sites of the various membranes. Some of these tissue connect the head all the way to the sacrum (i.e. hindend). Creating space where space is lacking allows the vital fluids (blood and lymph) to circulate freely while changing tension in the membranes can liberate restriction very distant from the site.


If you are an equine therapist looking to add this potent modality to your practice, check out our Full Certification Programs and apply today to start your journey! Registration closes March 31, 2023 for this intake.

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