What to Expect From Osteopathic Treatment for Your Baby or Toddler
Any treatment for newborns, babies and toddlers needs to be gentle. Their largely cartilaginous bones and very flexible joints and muscles mean that any type of sharp manipulative treatment is inappropriate.
At Brisbane Osteopathic Centre all our practitioners have undergone extensive postgraduate training in Cranial Osteopathy, which is the subtlest form of osteopathic treatment. We use our hands and the parent will often not see us move their baby around much, and there is definitely no sudden or strong manipulative movements. Instead we are gently taking your baby’s body to a balance point and allowing them to unwind and relax their muscles.
Babies may be held or fed during treatment, and toddlers may sit on the table playing with toys or lay down having a book read to them.
Do Babies and Toddlers Really Need Treatment?
Many parents question why babies and toddler would need osteopathic treatment given this age group is so flexible, but there are some musculoskeletal problems that are seen in these age groups such as torticollis, shoulder muscle tensions from difficult births, bum shuffling or crab crawling (asymmetrical crawling) from tension in the hips or legs, and asymmetric walking from tension in the hip or knee turning one foot in.
Osteopathic Treatment For Newborns Helps Get Their Neck Moving Better
Some babies may have a preference to only look in one direction. This is called Congenital Muscular Torticollis. There are varying degrees of severity for this, with some newborns still able to turn their head fully to the other side but preferring not to, and others not able to look to the other side even with assistance. The condition is sometimes present at birth but may develop over the first three months. It can happen because the fetus has been engaged in an awkward position in the mother’s pelvis for a long time during the pregnancy, or because of a difficult birth such as a long labour, forceps or vacuum extraction.
The reason the neck is rotated is because of tension in the neck muscles, including the sterno-cleido-mastoid muscle (the SCM for short). It is the muscle that arises from just behind your ear and attaches to the middle upper part of your sternum. Some babies will have what’s called a “pseudo tumour” or little lump in this muscle. Most of these will spontaneously resolve but need to be monitored, if they persist they may need surgical intervention.
Osteopathic treatment for these newborns involves helping to loosen the SCM muscle and improve range of movement in the neck. The upper back and ribs are also very important. The osteopath may also provide the parents some gentle stretching exercises to further enhance treatment outcomes.
Babies Who Have Difficult Births Because of Shoulder Dystocia Can Benefit From Osteopathic Treatment
Shoulder dystocia is when the baby’s shoulders get stuck in the mother’s pelvis during the birth. It occurs in less than one percent of births. It is a very good reason to seek osteopathic treatment for your baby as their head and neck have usually been pulled into different positions to help free the shoulder during the birth. While some babies can end up with a fracture of their collar bone, the ones who do not have this can still have some irritation of the nerves which run into their arms and also the muscles through out their necks and shoulders.
Babies Who fall May Create Muscle Strain
Around 6 months old when they’re first learning to sit, babies will frequently have big tumbles backwards or over to the side. Parents sometimes notice their baby has developed a head turning preference after the fall or a limp.
Older babies who are starting to cruise furniture or take their first steps also have falls that can sometimes create strain in their bodies. Parents may notice that their legs and feet my not be symmetrical when moving around after the fall.
Some Babies Don’t Crawl In The Normal Way
There are various abnormal crawls such as bum shuffling, where the baby sits on their bottom and uses their feet to pull themselves around in a seated position. There is also crab crawling where the baby will not put weight on one of their knees but instead uses their foot on that side whilst crawling on the knee with the other side.
Both of these crawling patterns are suggestive of strain in the baby’s knees, legs, hips or pelvis.
When Babies First Learn to Walk Their Parents May Notice One foot is Turned In or Out
This is another really common musculoskeletal strain presentation for babies. An asymmetric gait is indicative of strain in your baby’s legs, hips or pelvis. Osteopathic treatment aims to normalise the muscle tension and get them moving freely.
Parent may also notice other problems with gait as their child grows. Bow legs, pigeon toes and to walking can all be due to strain patterns I the pelvis and legs.
We work closely with all health professionals and know what our scope of practice is. There are times when referral onto a specialist may be required.