Treatment of Babies and Children

baby osteopathy

Osteopathic Treatment of Children, an article by Paul Thompson

What is Cranial Osteopathy?

Cranial osteopathy, as used by us in our clinic in Exeter, is a refined, subtle form of treatment using gentle movements to release stress and strains throughout the body, including the head. Its gentle nature makes it particularly appropriate for the treatment of babies and children, although all ages may benefit.

Why do babies need treatment?

The enormous twisting and compression forces which the baby is exposed to during the birth process can put a great deal of strain on its tissues. This is borne out by the odd shape of some babies’ heads following birth. The structure of the babies’ head allows it to absorb and accommodate these forces to some extent, and the head shape usually changes in the first week. However, if the birth is particularly fast or prolonged the forces may be too much for the tissues to accommodate and a ‘strain pattern’ or moulding may develop in the tissues. This, in turn, can affect the function of a number of important structures leading to both immediate and delayed problems.

What about Caesarean Deliveries?

Caesarean deliveries now account for around 25% of births. From the notes above, you would think all babies would benefit from a caesarean section! Whilst it is appropriate for potentially difficult births, most babies benefit from a natural delivery. The birth process stimulates the baby’s hormonal stress management system enabling it to cope better with life on the outside for the first few minutes. Some babies are born by caesarean section after struggling with a long labour so the effects of the  compressive forces are often apparent. We tend to find that babies who have a planned caesarean birth are often sleepy and unresponsive, almost as though they haven’t been ‘woken up’ by the forces of labour. Cranial osteopathy may help to stimulate the baby.

What sort of problems can develop?

Probably the most frequent condition we encounter in babies is ‘colic’. This is a broad term for babies that are irritable and may cry persistently, especially around feeding times. They sometimes appear to strain to pass wind/stools and may bring their knees up to their chests when the waves of pain occur. Related to this are babies who are frequently sick after feeding and constipated babies.
Other problems that may occur in babies with retained moulding are poor feeding and disturbed sleep.

What about assisted deliveries?

Forceps and Ventouse techniques are only used once the labour has become struggle for baby and mother. By definition at this stage, the baby’s head will have moulded to its maximum extent and the extra compression applied via the delivery
technique will invariably cause the baby discomfort and moulding patterns which are unable to resolve unaided.

What age can the baby be treated?

The gentle nature of cranial osteopathy makes it suitable from birth to old age!

Are there any side effects?

Usually the baby is relaxed and sleeps well after treatment. However occasionally baby may be unsettled as the tissues continue to release after the treatment. This is usually short lived, up to 48 hours after which the baby will settle again.

Can older children Benefit?

For those not fortunate enough to have cranial osteopathy as an infant, the effects of retained moulding may contribute to some of the more commonly seen childhood problems.

As the child grows, retained moulding may precipitate problems such as recurrent infections – especially colds, sinus and ear infections. There may also be dental problems if the jaw is unable to expand to accommodate the developing teeth. Behavioural problems and poor concentration may develop as the child is uncomfortable in one position and need to ‘fidget’ to stay comfortable.

There is also some evidence that whilst osteopathy cannot ‘cure’ conditions such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Cerebral Palsy, we are often able to help the child develop to the best of his/her potential within the limitations of the underlying condition.

How many Treatments will baby need?

This is difficult to say as each case will be different. Usually babies respond remarkably quickly and 2 to 6 treatments would cover most cases. We would be able to give a better idea after the first examination and treatment of the baby.

More Information
All of our osteopaths are experienced in the treatment of babies and children. If I haven’t answered your particular question, please don’t hesitate to contact any of us at St. David’s Osteopathic Clinic.