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What is Cranial Osteopathy?

Osteopaths work under the principle that there may be a number of contributing factors to the symptoms and will therefore evaluate not only the area, which is producing the symptoms, but also associated areas, consideration is also given to things like past trauma, environmental factors and the family’s health history.

Cranial Osteopathy is a technique that is suitable for people of all ages, but it is particularly associated with the treatment of babies and children. It is beneficial for this age group because a baby’s skeleton has a higher content of cartilage so is more flexible, therefore it requires us to adapt our treatment approach.

When we treat babies and children, we take a full case history to establish what has happened to them up until that point. This gives us a good indication of what we should be looking for, but more importantly it allows us to establish if the baby is in good health and if any medical referral is required.

What can affect the health of a baby?

During the pregnancy babies can be affected by everything that happens to the mother, this can be illness, stress or even a fall, and they can also be affected by the position they might be sitting in, for example pressed up against the mothers ribs or pelvis.

The amniotic fluid should keep the baby free from many external pressures, but moulding can occur as the baby grows because space within the uterus becomes limited.

The baby’s skull is a very complex structure that is made up of 29 separate bones. These need to be able to adapt during the birthing process but also be strong enough to protect the brain. During a natural labour the soft bones of the skull subtly mould to reduce the size of the head to allow it to pass through the birth canal.

The stages of labour:

During the first stage of labour the baby’s head will press into the cervix to aid with dilation. If the waters are intact, this will cushion the head and distribute the forces through the body, but if they have already ruptured the force will focus on the head, and could increase the amount of moulding.

During the second stage of labour, the pushing efforts of the mother, combined with strong uterine contraction propel the baby downward in the pelvis, at the same time the baby’s head has to twist and turn as it passes through.

After the delivery, the head should re-expand and un-mould, and return to a regular shape. This is assisted by the baby crying, suckling and yawning. All being well, the moulding patterns usually change within the first 10 days.

How can Osteopathy help?

New parents often seek the help of an Osteopath for a number of different reasons, and as all Osteopaths are trained to screen for medical conditions we will tell you if you need to see another healthcare profession such as your doctor, midwife or health visitor.

Unfortunately there are still only limited research trials showing how effective Cranial Osteopathy can be, but by and large the feedback we get from parents is extremely positive.

One of the most common reasons parents seek treatment are for the symptoms of colic. The term is used globally when describing an unsettled baby, and can include a digestive element to the problem. There are often a number of different reasons why a baby’s digestive system is unsettled, these include reflux, which is where some acid escapes from the stomach and lactose intolerance, where the body is not producing the enzyme to break down lactose in the milk.

Signs and symptoms of colic include inconsolable crying, arching of the back and bringing the knees up to the stomach. They also look to be in discomfort, there may be flatulence, explosive stools and the stomach may produce loud gurgling sounds.

There are however, occasions when crying babies display no signs of digestive discomfort, but are complaining of being uncomfortable somewhere else. This can be in the head and neck as a result of being squeezed and twisted during the birth process.

Colic is the most common affliction of young infants affecting up to 40% of babies worldwide. Research has shown that symptoms often present in the second or third week of life and usually peak around week six. Symptoms resolve in 60% of babies by 12 weeks and 90% by 16 weeks, but some babies have persistent symptoms after this age.

When symptoms are very severe, GP’s may prescribe medications such as infacol, which can bring some relief to the child, but it also appears that additional osteopathic treatment to improve the mechanics of the body can be of great benefit in helping to calm the symptoms.

In the clinic we get parents bringing babies and children in at all stages or their development, if they are teething badly or not sleeping well, so it is always worth bearing in mind that there could be structural strains present which could be addressed through physical therapy.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Caroline Vass – Director & Osteopath

Read more about Caroline in 'Our Team' section


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