Many people may have been to see an Osteopath for a sore back or neck but never dreamt of taking their baby; why would you, they don’t get aches and pains and you certainly wouldn’t want them stretched and ‘clicked’ back into place if they did, right?! What a lot of people don’t know is that there are a number of Osteopaths who specialise in treating children using extremely gentle methods.
What for you may ask, if they don’t get aches and pains? Well, when you consider what a baby has to go though to enter the world, arguably the most physically stressful event of their entire life – I’m sure some mums may share these sentiments; after all it has been referred to as squeezing a melon out of a lemon! Not a walk in the park really, but imagine what it’s like being that melon, your precious little baby!
It’s easy to understand that a physical legacy may remain within the baby from the whole experience. Add to this the fact that the newly born baby now has to learn how to adjust and survive in the big wide world after being in a protected fluid environment – the womb; where everything you need is delivered directly to you.
Physical factors can remain from pregnancy and birth and these play a role in many common complaints that often effect babies such as colic, reflux, sleep problems and plagiocephaly (flattening on the back of the head), it is these physical factors that Paediatric Osteopaths work to resolve to allow your baby to grow, develop and flourish.
But how, you may ask?
Well, a newborn baby is soft and flexible and this includes the bones too – Many are in fact still cartilage like your nose or ear. This does help the baby absorb the forces placed upon it during pregnancy and birth, but distortions can remain afterwards and this is where an Osteopath can help.
Osteopaths spend years honing their palpation; that is being able to feel how the components of the body move and knowing how they should. It is this ability that allows us to use our hands and gently guide things back to where they should be in order for them to keep working most efficiently.
A babies head is made up of many bones all ‘floating’ on top of the brain rather than the tightly fitting ‘helmet’ of an adults skull, it’s also the largest part of a baby so undergoes the most force during birth. Further to this the control centre of the body (the brain) is housed within the skull and all it’s wires (nerves) must leave the skull to reach the rest of the body, which it controls to ensure it works optimally. Unsurprisingly Osteopaths are very interested in how the bones of the head move. It may sound awfully complicated, and it is, but there is a saving grace; the fact that each person has within them the ability to heal, grow and function healthily. All the Osteopath is doing is trying to remove any barriers to this occurring. Well this is what an Osteopath does we ensure that nothing impedes the body’s own ability to work harmoniously.
Examples of treatment
William had been getting very unsettled and crying incessantly into the evening and night, much to his parents exasperation they really struggled to find any way of relieving his apparent discomfort, passing wind did seem to bring some relief but not always.
The newly born baby has to learn how to process the milk it is ingesting, this can lead to excess gas being produced, trapped wind can be very uncomfortable, as you may well know. During the case history it was discovered that the labour was quite slow to progress with a long 2nd stage of pushing. This was found to have caused compression at the base of the skull, the vagus nerve, which helps the body co-ordinate digestion exits through a small hole in this region. By gently releasing the compression, allowing the nerve to have more space to function correctly and showing his parents a simple tummy massage to help move the gas through Williams gut he was much more content in the evenings, as were his parents!
Plagiocephaly – Flattening to one side of back of head
Emily was brought in by her mum who was concerned that there was some flattening to one side of the back of her head
Since the introduction of the back to sleep initiative in 1994 all parents are advised to place children on their backs to sleep, this has seen a great reduction in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and is undoubtedly excellent advice. However as babies have soft malleable skulls this can cause a flattening to one side of the back of their head if they consistently lie on the same side Whilst the flattening is usually mealy cosmetic it’s the underlying cause that is of greater interest. A baby may favour one side for a number of reasons including the side mum and dad are to them in the room and other stimuli, but it may be due to a sore neck or tight muscles in the neck. As the baby is born it has to rotate through the pelvis and this can cause an issue. Treatment involved aiding the child’s ability to comfortably move the neck fully in both directions uses gentle techniques to release a tight muscle and giving advice to the parents about turning the cot around so she is encouraged to turn her head towards them during the night (her reluctant side).
Isla was a very sicky baby and it upset her greatly when she was sick, she didn’t like to lie flat on her back, which her parents had initially mistaken for her getting upset when put down. She was fine in her car seat and was having to sleep in it sometimes, as it seemed the only place she was comfortable. On discussing the birth history it was discovered that Isla was quiet and limp when born and took a little while to ‘come around’. Whilst examining Isla a poor feeling of movement was present in the diaphragm – the muscle that is primarily responsible for breathing and through which the oesphageous passes. Reflux is when the partially digested contents of the stomach go back up the food pipe and the diaphragm is largely responsible for forming the sphincter that prevents this. The birth it was believed had caused a delay in Isla’s first breath something that can often be palpated by an Osteopath and may result in a poorly functioning diaphragm. Work directly over the diaphragm to stimulate its activity with advice about giving smaller, more frequent feeds saw a big improvement and soon the car seat was back in its rightful place, the car!
Stephanie O’Grady is one of our osteopaths, who has an extensive experience in treating babies and children. Stephanie uses cranial and structural techniques to address possible issues or concerns.
Babies under 12 months of age are entitled to a free initial consultation with Stephanie.
Links to resources:
http://goo.gl/ryklh Information from Great Osmond Street Hospital about plagiocephaly.
http://goo.gl/f05fL Baby calm book really useful with lots of good advice.