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The differences between Structural Osteopathy, Cranial Osteopathy and Biodynamic Osteopathy

If you are new to osteopathy, you might be curious about the different ways Osteopathic Medicine can help you recover from illness or injury.

Osteopathy was developed by Surgeon Dr Andrew Taylor Still in the late 1800’s in America and has grown globally to encompass Osteopathic Universities, Osteopathic Hospitals and has helped millions of people worldwide to recover from illness and injury. 

There are a range of different Osteopathic approaches, from the very gentle to the more vigorous. At City Osteopaths in Wellington we have osteopaths who are considered expert in specific approaches and all our osteopaths utilise a range of approaches to create the optimal treatment plan for you. Before any hands on work we always take a thorough medical history and perform the appropriate physical examinaton, orthopaedic, osteopathic and neurological testing to help us figure out what is going on with your system.

Let's explore three main osteopathic approaches—Structural, Cranial, and Biodynamic — and how each can support your journey to better health.

Structural Osteopathy:

Imagine your body as a complex machine with many moving parts. Structural osteopathy focuses on keeping these parts well aligned and working smoothly together. When something goes wrong—like a muscle gets tight or a joint gets stuck—structural osteopathy uses hands-on techniques to gently nudge things back into place. This is the kind of osteopathy where you may get some direct hands-on massage of specific muscles and a well positioned joint ‘click’ followed by rapid relief in symptoms. This type of approach can help calm a stressed nervous system and improve movement and circulation,  supporting your body's recovery from injury or pain. Often used for back or neck pain, tight upper back, headaches, other joint or muscle tightness.

In the photo above our Reg Osteopath Diego Polo is performing a 'lumbar roll' on a patient to release a restricted facet joint in her spine. 

Cranial Osteopathy:

Cranial osteopathy takes a gentle approach. It can be used to assist any tissues of your body and pays particular attention to the bones, membranes and fluids around your brain and spinal cord. Our cranial osteopaths in Wellington city, use skilled palpation to help your nervous system to a balance point where it can find stillness, fully relax and function better. By releasing tension and restoring balance in any part of the body, cranial osteopathy can help reduce pain, improve sleep, and support overall well-being.

Our Paediatric Cranial Osteopaths can be very helpful for babies who have had a difficult birth, are irritable or having difficulty feeding and/or gaining weight.  Cranial Osteopathy is also useful for children and adults, even the very elderly. Cranial Osteopathy can be very effective at quickly easing concussion, headaches, neck pain, back pain and major past injuries including birth trauma. At City Osteopaths our Reg Osteopaths who utilise a cranial approach are Melanie, Sebastian, Giulia and Emma. 

In the photo above, our Director, Dr Melanie Young, Reg Osteopath is explaining to a patient her findings and then they will be working out a plan together for her optimal recovery.

Biodynamic Osteopathy

Think of your body as a wise and intelligent system that knows how to heal itself. Your body has been growing and healing your body everyday since before you were born.  It takes at least ten years post graduate study to start to become competent as a Biodynamic trained osteopath and then of course the study never stops! At City Osteopaths in Wellington we have two Biodynamically trained Reg Osteopaths, Dr Melanie Young and Sebastian Tucker.

Instead of adding forces to fix things from the outside, which can be problematic especially when there is acute pain or trauma, Biodynamic Osteopaths use their hands to listen closely to where the restrictions, strains and issues are in your body. Your body's self healing mechanism then improves the alignment, blood supply, nerve supply and drainage, improving how your body can function from the inside out.

In this way the Biodynamic Osteopath aids your body's ability to resolve illness and pain. So you can recover your health and become often remarkably well, even in situations of long term/chronic illness. 

In the photo above, see Reg Osteopath Sebastian Tucker, assessing the delicate facial mechanics of a happy patient.

Bringing It All Together:

Each approach—structural, cranial, and biodynamic—brings something unique to your healing journey and we can work as a team for the tricky patients benefit.

At City Osteopaths Healthcare in Wellington, we have wonderful osteopaths with different specific skills to help you back to health. Please have a look at our TEAM page on our website to see which osteopath is most suitable for you. If you have any questions, please email health@cityosteopaths.co.nz or call 044991439 and let us help you find the right practitioner fit for you.