Babies, Children and Osteopathy

Osteopathy should always be considered as a complementary practice and should not replace family physicians, pediatricians or specialists. Ideally, collaborative work between osteopaths and the baby's other health practitioners should be envisaged.  

It is particularly good to have babies and children treated so as to free them of tensions that would otherwise affect the alignment of their growth and produce health problems down the road. Furthermore, it is much easier and more durable to release tensions in babies then in adults. The most common reasons parents bring their babies to an osteopath are: 

Commun Reasons to Treat Babies

  • Routine check-up

  • Cone shaped head or other cranial asymmetries

  • Congenital torticollis

  • Suction: difficulties breastfeeding 

  • Digestion: regurgitation, constipation, colic

  • Repeated otitis, sinus and lung infections

  • Motor development issues and postural tensions

  • Sleep

  • Eye alignment

  • Discomfort and crying in the car seat

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OMT Research Highlights

New Born and infants

Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment in Prenatal Care: A Retrospective Case Control Design Study

 

Effect of osteopathic manipulative treatment on length of stay in a population of preterm infants: a randomized controlled trial

Osteopathic manipulative treatment showed reduction of length of stay and costs in preterm infants: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Routine check-up

Many parents choose to have their babies treated after birth to help release birth or intro-uterine tensions, even though they may not be causing any immediate apparent symptoms such as those listed bellow. It is also helpful for infants to be treated when they have important falls, particularly with impact on the head.

Cone shaped head or other cranial asymmetries

The bones of a baby's cranium often shift and overlap to accommodate the birth canal. The shape of the head often returns to a fairly normal sphere, however even in these cases, and definitely when the cranium stays deformed, tensions can remain in the dura. The dura is a thick tarp-like conjunctive tissue (imagine a thick table cloth) that protects the brain. It is attached to the bones of the cranium so at birth, when these shift, the dura can accumulate a great deal of tension. To help the cranium return to its natural shape, osteopaths will decompress bones that are still slightly overlapping and will then release tensions in the dura that can maintain asymmetries in the cranium. The touch required for this type of work is precise yet extremely light. At most, the pressure used is equivalent to the weight of your hand resting on your arm. 

It is important to release these tensions as they can create compressions on the central nervous system and contribute to hyper or hypo tonicity, or to behavioural or learning difficulties. The cranial bone compressions can impinge on important cranial nerves as they travel out of the cranium and affect the function of all that these nerves control: eyes, sinuses, suckling, swallowing, digestion, etc. Finally, tensions in the dura and cranium also affect the entire body's alignment and can affect motor development (because the dura travels down the entire spine to the sacrum).

 

Congenital torticollis

In this condition, the SCOM muscle in the neck has a spasm on one side, causing the baby's head to tilt and turn. Most often this spasm occurs due to a compression of the Accessory cranial nerve (XI) at its passage through the jugular foramen (behind the ear, between the temporal and occipital bones of the cranium). This is caused by a compaction of the occipital and temporal bones due to birth compressions of the cranial bones as the baby's head manoeuvres the birth canal. Osteopaths can gently release this compression, the nerve and therefore the spasm. 

Suction: difficulties breastfeeding 

Most commonly, babies have difficulties suckling if the cranial nerves responsible for sucking and swallowing (IX and XII) are compressed and can no longer send the signal to these muscles to contract. In these cases, gentle release of cranial tensions releases these nerves. Babies often start suckling immediately. 

If the baby only feeds comfortably on one side, odds are that the occipital bone is slightly misaligned on the first cervical vertebrae, making it difficult for baby to turn its head the in one of the directions. Gently releasing tensions at this junction allows the baby to feed on both sides, and will prevent developmental delays linked to restriction of movement of the head. Motor development evolves from the head down, so restrictions at this junction can slow down the whole developmental process. 

Digestion: regurgitation, constipation, colic

It is important to release the Vagus nerve at its exit of the cranium as it controls digestive functions almost to the end of the digestive tract. We also seek to release postural tensions that could be compressing related organs. For example, if the diaphragm is tight, the oesophagus, cardia, stomach or liver could be sufficiently compressed to cause regurgitation. A simple postural tension bending the body to one side could do the same thing. Releasing these tensions can be a saving grace and eliminate regurgitation and reflux. 

When it comes to intestinal issues such as colic, constipation or diarrhea, we seek to release tensions in fascia wrapping the small and large intestines. We also aim to release any tightness in the pancreas and duodenum region as these tend to compress the mesenteric artery, which is the intestine's main source of blood. Without optimum irrigation of blood, the intestines often tend to not function properly.

Repeated otitis, sinus and lung infections

Osteopaths will look to release any blockages or tensions in the upper dorsal vertebrae because the sympathetic nerves emerging from the spine at this level are responsible for sinus, ear and lung secretions. If they are compressed or irritated, secretions can be over abundant. Osteopaths will also seek to release tensions limiting the movement and blood flow to the actual lungs, ears or sinuses. For chronic ear and sinus infections, it is also key to free the cranium of its tensions and allow it to produce its slight opening and closing motion. This motion is triggered about 10 to 12 times per minute by the influx of cerebra-spinal liquid injected in the cranium causing a slight increase of volume. The back and forth motion of the bones plays a crucial role in keeping the ears drained as it creates a back and forth pumping action of the temporal bones, the bones in which the inner ears sit.

Motor development issues and postural tensions

Motor development can be hindered by bad alignment and tensions in key areas of the body. For example, if the junction between the head and neck is suffering from excess tension or bad alignment, which is common after birth, it can greatly affect a baby's capacity to lift and/or turn its head. This movement is the basis for the rest of the baby's motor development, and therefore can compromise playtime on the stomach and eventually walking on all fours. Excess tension in the dura (wraps the brain and spinal cord) can make the baby tend to arch and be very uncomfortable on its back. Tensions of the cranium and sacroiliac (hip) area can lead to inward or outward rotating legs, which can hinder walking. These are some examples amongst many more. 

The other factor that can be considered by osteopaths when it comes to motor development and postural tone is the central nervous system. If the brain is highly compressed by cranial tensions, it can lead to hyper or hypo muscle tone and reflexes. In collaboration with developmental specialists, it can be useful to release cranial tensions in order to allow the central nervous system to be more responsive to other interventions such as specialized exercises.

Sleep

To help regulate and facilitate a baby's troubled sleep, osteopaths can look for and address various possible causes. First, if the baby has had a difficult birth, it is quite possible that the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight adrenaline system) is hyper activated, making sleep very difficult. Osteopaths can work to release key areas of the body to balance sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. We can also release generalized body tensions that may be making the baby so uncomfortable that it is affecting its sleep. Also, we seek to release the lower posterior part of the cranium because the sleep regulating area of the brain stem resides there and can be affected by important physical compressions.

Eye alignment

There are two main aspects that osteopaths look for when babies and children have difficulties relating to eye alignment and eyesight. One is the tensions affecting the position of the sphenoid bone. Because the muscles controlling eye movement are attached to this bone, an important torsion or side shift of the sphenoid can pull on these muscles and therefore on the eye itself, creating a misalignment. 

The other common cause we look for is a compression of one or more of the cranial nerves that control the actions of the muscles that move the eye. A compressed nerve could render it inoperable and thus make some of the muscles limp, leading to a « lazy » eye. With cranial work, osteopaths can release these structures and allow the eyes and their muscles to function more harmoniously. The younger the patient, the more chances we have of quickly fixing the dysfunctions because as children age, the tensions become more ingrained and the bones more dense.

35 Beechwood AVE., 3r Floor

New Edingburgh / Vanier

Ottawa, Ontario

K1M 1M1

Tel: (613) 204-1657

maryseosteopath@gmail.com

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© 2017 Maryse Parkinson Tassé

 

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