The aims for treatment of children are just the same as for grown ups, i.e. improving the body’s alignment and functioning by resolving muscle spasms, easing joint restrictions and quietening irritated nerves. Various gentle osteopathic techniques may be used, which are commonly called soft tissue, fascial, functional, or cranial osteopathy.
For the attentive parent it is often the poor sleep, appetite, mood or difficult bowel function which are signs that their child may have a restriction somewhere or be out of alignment. Children may develop structural restrictions from a variety of causes, including:
The calm and soothing approach of osteopathy, makes it especially suitable for working with children, including newborn infants. Poor alignment, mobility or functioning in children can lead to a wide range of problems which may gain relief with osteopathic treatment by the gentle re-aligning of the whole body.
The most common reasons parents bring babies to Osteopaths with are being very unsettled, distorted head shape, restricted neck, leg, or arm movement, feeding difficulties, birth trauma and digestive or sleeping problems. So, if a parent brings an infant to an osteopath wanting help with baby’s being unsettled, the osteopathic approach is to find the cause of the problem and then work to ease that causal restriction or nerve irritation, thereby improving the infant’s general alignment and body functioning. The parents come because of their concern for a flat head, but the first thing the osteopath will be searching for is the cause of the infant’s neck preference (is it from a strain or restriction in the neck? In the thoracic spine? The upper thorax? On the head?). The neck preference needs to be improved or resolved before any lasting improvement can be achieved in the head shape. In a nut shell, baby needs his/her body re-aligned so that he/she has balanced neck movement to right and left. Using gentle palpation the osteopath seeks out what, if any, muscular spasms, joint restrictions or nerve irritations there are in baby’s body, and, together with their knowledge of anatomy and physiology, are then able to determine which areas need gentle work to ease spasms and restrictions or, whether there is another aspect that needs to be investigated/ addressed and a referral given to the GP or hospital. The osteopath works holistically on the infant’s body, working to bring balanced alignment to the physical structures and enabling the whole body to be freely functioning.
On average 3-5 treatments are sufficient. This varies according to the severity of the problem.
When to treat? Many parents bring their newborn within the first few weeks, after mother has had time to recover. It is never too early to treat. For issues with head shape, treatment should be as early as possible.