Osteopathy for babies, infants and children is pretty much the same as for adults, except that more gentle techniques are used. The aims are just the same: i.e. improving the body’s alignment and functioning by, for example, 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:
• a difficult birth or in-utero position
• childhood accidents and falls
• infections or inflammations
• genetic disorders
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.
Babies & Infants
The most common reasons parents bring babies to Osteopaths with are colic, being very unsettled, distorted head shape, restricted neck, leg, or arm movement, feeding difficulties, birth trauma, reflux, digestive or sleeping problems.
So, if a parent brings an infant to an osteopath wanting help with baby’s being unsettled, reflux, colic, head shape, restricted neck movement, constipation etc 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 need his/her body re-aligned so that he/she has balanced neck movement to right and left.
With the unsettled / colicky baby the approach is the same. The osteopath asks themselves, ‘What is the cause of baby’s pain?’ Are they experiencing neck or back pain? Or a head ache after a traumatic birth? Do they have a sore tummy because of extreme distension of their gut due to excessive wind (colic)? Or are they getting burning pain due to spilling or silent reflux?
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, restrictions and irritated nerves, 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.
How many treatments will I need?
On average 3-5 treatments are sufficient. This varies according to the severity of the problem.
When to treat? The younger the better – on day 1 or 2 is great! But many parents bring their new born 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.