Osteopathy for babies

Osteopathy for Babies

Here at GAIA Osteopathy, we have a specialist interest in the treatment of babies and small children along with osteopathy during pregnancy. Many parents bring their babies and children for osteopathy for numerous reasons, sometimes because the baby is especially irritable and hard to settle, when winding is difficult or just for a check up after a long delivery with the use of forceps or vonteuse. Many parents hear about osteopathy from midwives or health visitors or by word of mouth.

During the pregnancy and delivery, the bones in the babies skull have the ability to bend and overlap, it is a natural process (moulding) occurring when stresses and forces are placed upon them in the birth canal. Many babies at birth have an altered head shapes from intra uterine moulding, forceps or vonteuse and their shoulders or other parts of the body can be tender. These usually resolve over a few days as the baby begins to feed, cry and yawn which helps dissipate these forces.

Some babies cope well with these stresses however if not can display a variety of problems including:

Difficulty winding
Digestive discomfort and discomfort during and after feeds
Irritability, poor sleeping and inability to relax
Many babies can’t settle themselves for long periods of time and remain ‘jumpy’ and disturbed at the slightest noises.

Restrictions in the neck and shoulders
This can be displayed as babies who prefer to feed off one side as they may have stiffness in the muscles or joint around the neck making it uncomfortable to rotate to one side. Also if the muscles around the jaw and neck are restricted related from the birth process babies may find it hard to open their mouths wide enough to obtain a good latch to feed well and obtain a strong suck.

Moulding of the skull and sometimes flattening retained from birth – plagiocephaly
Paediatric osteopaths have a highly developed sense of touch. We use this, combined with a detailed birth case history and structural examination to determine the extent and location of any areas of restriction (strain patterns) in the babies’ body. We then use very gentle manual techniques to resolve these strains in order to relieve discomfort and improve the body’s function. This then enables all the body systems to work effectively and with ease. The treatment uses no drugs and is non-invasive.

Osteopathy during pregnancy

Usually the reason first time mothers come in for treatment is pain. They may also have been recommended by their GP, midwife, health visitor or a friend. Many musculoskeletal pains are common in pregnancy but back pain or pelvic pain is usually the most common presenting complaint for osteopathic treatment. Not every women gets back pain during her pregnancy, it’s the body’s inability to adapt and cope with the changes that can cause a problem. Some women feel the best they have ever felt during pregnancy with no pain at all.

The pregnant mother requires a more specific questioning including dates of scans, weight gain, previous pregnancies and intervention, foetal movement blood tests and patient care such as GP appointments or midwife appointments to name a few.

Three of the commonest structural problems causing pain in pregnancy can be sacro iliac pain, facet joint pain and disc pain which can all present as low back pain. During the pregnancy and in each trimester new stresses are placed upon the body as the bump begins to grow. Hormonal changes such as increased relaxin allow ligaments to stretch and expand more for growth.

The thoracic spine (upper back and shoulders) can come under more load as breast tissue increases in size, ribs expand and stretch to make room for the uterus and baby growing up, which can place stress on the diaphragm and ribs causing aches and pains.

In the third trimester due to the weight of baby, amniotic fluid and tissue volume, more pressure is placed lower down into the low back and pubic symphysis region (pain in the front of the pelvis). Osteopathic techniques can help relieve pressures in these areas such as the load on the pubic symphysis joint, or low back and ribs.

When treating pregnant patient sitting techniques are more comfortable due the size of the abdomen and some techniques are performed with the patient on her side. Osteopathic techniques can help loosen tight muscles, increase joint mobility and improve comfort and mobility for the pregnant mum.

Some conditions we commonly see in clinic

During Pregnancy

Low back pain
Pubic symphysis pain (pain in the front of the pelvis)
Sciatic pain
Upper thoracic and rib pain
Neck and Shoulder pain
Headaches originating from muscular tension in the neck and shoulders
Babies and small children

Digestive discomfort and difficulties winding
Plagiocephaly (flattening of the head)
Irritability and fractiousness
Preference to rotate head to one side
Poor sleep patterns
Check ups following vonteuse or forceps delivery
Pain and discomfort feeding and post feeds
Older Children

Digestive discomfort and difficulties winding
Plagiocephaly (flattening of the head)
Irritability and fractiousness

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Using a finely developed sense of palpation we assess newborn babies for stresses and strains following the birth. Gentle cranial osteopathic techniques are then applied to help release the strains and resolve symptoms naturally.

In the practice we do a post-natal check up for mother and baby. (please book an hour for treatment). If there is a problem babies are typically seen between 4 and 6 times.

Passing through the birth canal is a stressful experience for the baby. Babies’ heads are made up of 22 bones which overlap and mould during this process. Immediate signs that may be seen from moulding that does not release are sticky eyes, poor latching to the breast, irritability or babies that want to be held all the time.

Babies born by caesarian section have different problems some are in shock and can be very irritable. Caesarian section babies tend to be more mucusy than babies who were born by vaginal delivery because they had no compression through the chest. This can result in ongoing multiple infections of the ear nose throat and chest.

If the moulding is not released problems can arise such as colic, sleeplessness, teething pain, flat heads or glue ear.

Feeding problems

If your baby is not latching onto the breast this may be caused by a lack of rotation in the neck. Compression at the back of the neck whilst the baby emerges from the birth canal may affect the nerves to the tongue and mouth. The osteopath will make an assessment and if required use gentle techniques to release the compression and strains that limit the rotation of the neck.

Postural problems and flat heads

All parents should observe their baby’s neck movements to ensure they are comfortably able to look both ways and sleep with their head both ways. If not, bring the baby in for an osteopathic examination and treatment. (The sooner the better, babies are much easier to treat when they are weeks rather than months old). If the baby sleeps on only one side a flattening of the head (plagiocephaly) may result.

Colic, wind, reflux and constipation

Although this is mainly experienced as abdominal pain, other signs may be difficulty winding, regurgitation and constipation but mainly there is inconsolable crying for many hours. During delivery the nerve to the stomach and diaphragm which lies at the base of the skull can be compressed, resulting in distortion of the diaphragm compromising the digestive system. Osteopathic treatment is focused on releasing the compression on the nerves and the diaphragm. Very young babies can be tense and unrelaxed and when they start crying are unable, due to their immature nervous and emotional states, to stop. Parents report that cranial osteopathy often helps the babies to relax.

Glue ear

Glue ear is caused by fluids collecting in the eustachian tube. As the fluid collects it is not only a potential site for infection but hearing can become affected.

The aim of osteopathic treatment is to drain the fluids throughout the face, throat, chest and neck.

Treatment depends very much on the individual patient but most children are given about 6-8 treatments and then monthly for 2-3 months and then once a year at the start of winter.

We treat older children with back pain, neck pain and other musculoskeletal symptoms. It is a good idea to bring your child to the osteopath around the age of 8 for a postural assessment. We can often sort out any aches and pains as well as teach them about good posture and exercise.

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