What is Cranial Osteopathy?
Babies can be subject to enormous forces when they are born. They have to twist and turn as they squeeze their way out to the outside world. This can mean a lot of stress and pressure, particularly on baby’s head. This pressure can be relieved with the healing effects of cranial osteopathy. This can be a great non-invasive treatment for little ones.
Many babies arrive having had slight compression from the pressure on their head during assisted or natural birth. Whatever the cause, your Osteopath aims to relieve these pressures and tensions that are found in the cranium. They do this in a very gentle, skilled way. There is no pushing or pulling but rather the osteopath feels for tension in the tissues and then holds the tissue in a way that the body wants it to go until it releases. This allows the body to calm itself and become more relaxed.
Cranial Osteopathy on newborns and young babies
By using gentle manipulation on a baby or toddler’s head and spine, osteopaths can make them more comfortable. Cranial treatment is particularly effective on newborns and young babies as their skull bones are not yet fused. Cranial treatment essentially seeks to correct any damage or slight alterations caused during childbirth. This is particularly important if it was an assisted delivery, or particularly fast.
Your osteopath will check baby’s neck, shoulder, jaw, diaphragm, rib cage and spine. Don’t be afraid to ask your osteopath what she is doing throughout each treatment.
What problems does cranial osteopathy help with?
Cranial osteopathy can relieve a number of problems for your baby, such as feeding troubles or unsettled and griping symptoms. Whilst no-one really knows what causes colicky symptoms, osteopaths recognise what may be contributing to the problem.
Many osteopaths believe that the vagus nerve which exits from the base of the skull and supplies the stomach and the upper part of the intestines, can be irritated or compressed. It is particularly vulnerable to distortion during the birth process. If irritated this can make the stomach more sensitive, contributing to the colicky symptoms. It is thought that the over-sensitivity of the gut is one way in which the brain responds to stress. This in turn affects the sympathetic nervous system which aids in the control of many of the body’s internal organs. After experiencing the shock of birth, it isn’t really very surprising that this can cause their nervous system to overreact!
Flat head syndrome
Cranial osteopathy can also be excellent in helping with flat head syndrome. This refers to a lack of symmetry in head shape, particularly common after assisted delivery. Only rarely are flat heads in infants due to fusing of the head “joins”. Usually the “joins” are not fused and early asymmetry can lead to flattening and a preference for lying with the head in one position. The back of the head can flatten on one side or both – a condition named “deformational plagiocephaly”. This can often cause feeding issues. It is important to ensure that there is adequate mobility in the neck to allow full rotation both ways.
To avoid or reduce head flattening:
- Encourage regular turning of the neck when baby is on their back by getting her to look both ways. You can use bright objects or things that “jangle” to get your babies attention. For example, a toy or even a bunch of keys!
- If you put your baby down on her side, remember to alternate sides. (If baby sleeps on her back, observe head movement and check that one side is not favoured over the other).
- Some supervised time on their tummies while they are awake also helps reduce a tendency to flattening of one side of the head.
An unsettled baby
Cranial osteopathy is not the only remedy for restless babies, but it can help ease the trauma of birth and sooth an unsettled baby. It is worth considering cranial osteopathy if your baby is suffering from colic, irritability, restlessness, feeding difficulties or a misshapen head.