Babies & Children
During birth the baby is subjected to enormous forces as she makes her way down the birth canal. The baby’s head is designed to adapt and reduce in size by bending and overlapping of the soft bones of the skull. This is called moulding, and is why many babies are born with elongated or oddly shaped heads.
In the first few days after birth, the head naturally recovers from the moulding that occurred, aided by sucking and crying. But this recovery process may sometimes be incomplete, especially if the birth has been difficult, and can leave the baby with uncomfortable stresses in the head and/or body. This may cause a variety of problems both in the young baby and later on as the child grows.
In 1998 Maxwell Fraval D.O., M.O.Sc. (Paed) published a pilot study of babies with sucking problems in breastfeeding. This showed an increased difference between pre- post feed fat estimations of breastmilk by the end of one month of osteopathic treatment which demonstrated that an improvement in feeding had occurred (Find out more: M. Fraval AAO Article p25-32).
A baby who is uncomfortable may draw attention to something being amiss by:
- Being irritable and crying for long periods
- Having difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Showing signs of digestive discomfort (knees are strongly tucked up)
- Preferring to feed on one side.
Once all the usual causes of discomfort such as hunger, tiredness, bringing up wind etc have been dealt with, some babies are still very uncomfortable. Osteopaths consider that this can often be because of physical discomfort.
In a research study conducted by Clive Hayden D.O., M. Sc. (Ost) into the effects of cranial osteopathic treatment on babies with colic, some parents perceived the following changes in their infant’s behaviour: Reduced signs of abdominal pain, less crying, improved sleep, less unsettled irritable behaviour and increased quiet happy spells. More… “A preliminary assessment of the impact of cranial osteopathy for the relief of infantile colic”
As the child grows, the effects of a difficult birth can make the child more vulnerable to other health problems. Asymmetry in the head, neck and body can lead to postural imbalances and discomfort or tension in the musculoskeletal system of the body. This makes the child fidgety and sitting still can be difficult. A child who cannot sit still due to discomfort or tension may find it more difficult to settle and concentrate on sedentary tasks such as drawing, writing and school work. In 1992, Viola Frymann M.D., D.O. published a study of the treatment of 186 children with learning difficulties showing that the osteopathic treatment of these children significantly improved their sensory and motor performance More… “Effect of Osteopathic Medical Management on Neurologic Development in Children Treatment of children with learning difficulties Viola Frymann JAOA June 1992”.
Recurrent otitis media or glue ear is one of the most frequently occurring childhood health issues. Whilst an infectious otitis media requires conventional medical attention, serous otitis media may become chronic and affect the child’s hearing and speech. In 2003, Jane Carreiro D.O. and her colleagues published a study which suggested a potential benefit of osteopathic treatment as adjuvant therapy in children with recurrent acute otitis media (more – “The use of osteopathic manipulative treatment as adjuvant therapy in children with recurrent acute otitis media Mills MV et al Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2003”). Osteopathic treatment may prevent or decrease surgical intervention or the need for recurrent antibiotic prescriptions.
Accidents and falls in childhood may not be severe enough to cause obvious injury, but the effects are often palpable by a skilled osteopath as areas of strain and tension in the child’s body. This can upset a child’s behaviour and sleep patterns and general health as well as causing aches and pains.
Osteopaths believe that regular monitoring of the developing spine can help to prevent back problems later in life.
Aches and Pains: Children may injure themselves and suffer from aches and pains or headaches if their musculoskeletal framework is unbalanced or tense. Osteopaths recommend that any child who complains of pain should be checked by an osteopath.
Osteopathic treatment using the cranial approach is gentle, safe and effective for babies and children. Very specific, skilled, light pressure is applied where necessary to assist the natural ability of the body to release stresses and tensions.
Reactions to treatment are variable; often the baby or child is very relaxed afterwards and sleeps well. Others have a burst of energy after treatment, usually followed by a good night’s sleep. Occasionally children are unsettled after treatment. This is a temporary situation, and usually clears within 24-48 hours.
The effectiveness of osteopathic manipulative support for patients who were not receiving effective medications was clinically tested during the flu epidemic of 1918. Antibiotics had not yet been discovered to help patients fight bacterial complications. Even today, antibiotics are ineffective against virus infections. In a study of 100,000 people with influenza Smith reported that patients who received osteopathic manipulative treatment had a 0.25% overall mortality and 10% mortality rate if they developed pneumonia. The mortality rates for patients who only received conventional medical care and no osteopathic manipulation were 5% overall in 30 to 60% if they developed pneumonia. (Death statistics reveal comparative values of osteopathic and drug treatments osteopathic physician December 1918; 34:1-2)
Such a study would never be executed in today’s scientific and effective medical society. But this one survey does indicate the power and effectiveness of manipulative support for the body’s own defences. Combining medication with a manipulative treatment to support body homoeostasis has been shown to be effective in reducing the length of hospital stay by 10% (Fitzgerald M, Styles E osteopathic hospitals’ solution to DRGs may be OMT osteopathic manipulative treatment. The DO 1984: 97-101). These findings are also consistent with the findings form this recent study, showing that Osteopathic Treatment was effective for reducing the length of hospital stay for pre-term infants. More research papers can be found on our “Articles” link.