People are often surprised to hear that osteopathy can treat babies and children, and of course infants are different from adults. They not just smaller, but have different anatomical proportions, nutritional requirements and functional and pathological problems. They are like new buds bursting into the world, but can experience significant problems in the process. Despite the differences between adults and children, musculoskeletal and mechanical issues are very important in determining health.
Osteopathy works by understanding the interdependence of structure and function in the body. This means that if the relationships between the parts are good, the structure will perform well, and if it performs well the structural parts will be in good order. It’s a very simple idea, and very important for our health. Manipulative treatment can resolve the stresses and strains of coming into the world to allow a normal growth process. As the twig is bent, so the branch will grow.
Osteopaths often use Cranial Osteopathy to treat infants, a gentler type of osteopathic treatment that encourages the release of tensions throughout the body, including the head and is particularly effective for children. Gentle pressure is used to align the bones and relax the muscles and ligaments. Osteopaths assess the involuntary motion of the body, and use it to create a therapeutic change. The involuntary motion is a subtle wave of movement, orientated through the midline of the body.
Birth can be a very stressful event. The baby is subjected to compressive forces as the uterus pushes the baby against the birth canal, twisting and turning as it squeezes through the bony pelvis. To an extent, the baby's head can absorb these stresses; the soft bones overlap and the chin is normally tucked down towards the chest to reduce the presenting diameter of the head. This process causes the molding of the head, which naturally reduces as the baby grows, cries and sucks. In situations of difficult births, or where ventouse or forceps are used, the unmolding process can be incomplete. The resulting tension in the head may be well tolerated by the baby, or it may cause significant discomfort.
Osteopathy can go a long way to help symptoms of a difficult birth such as a sensitive head, difficulty latching-on or digestive problems. A careful treatment of the musculoskeletal system and reduces irritation on the nerve pathways, thereby affecting the complete function of the baby’s body. Osteopathy treats patients, not conditions, and no two babies are exactly alike. The assessment and treatment are gentle and can make a huge difference for the health and happiness of your child.