Central to our beliefs here at the Centre, is the idea that many health problems which manifest in adulthood may originate back to the point of birth itself and/or result from various physical or emotional traumas endured in early life. Unfortunately, this connection is often overlooked.
It is a common belief that babies and children should have no structural stresses or strains in their bodies, because they are ‘so young’. The reality is very different. Whilst birth is a very beautiful and emotional experience in many ways, it is physically one of the most stressful events our bodies will ever experience. A baby is subjected to enormous forces, as the uterus contracts to expel the baby against the natural resistance of the birth canal.
Symptoms of Strain Patterns in Babies
The baby’s head moulds or distorts as it is squeezed through the birth canal; this is why many babies are born with an odd shaped head. In the first few days, the head can usually be seen to gradually lose the extreme moulded shape, as the baby suckles, cries and yawns. However, this un-moulding process is often incomplete, especially if the birth has been difficult, unusually long or assisted with forceps or ventuouse. Some babies cope extremely well with even quite severe retained moulding and compression, and are contented and happy. Others are visibly uncomfortable and distressed and may suffer from any of the following:
Crying, screaming, irritability – The baby may be uncomfortable, with a constant feeling of pressure in the head. This may be made worse by the extra pressure on the head when you lay your baby down.
Feeding difficulties – The baby takes a long time to feed and one feed merges into the next. They may be a ‘windy’ feeder. Feeding is difficult and tiring due to mechanical (pulls, pressures and torsions) stresses through the head, face and throat.
Sickness, colic, reflux and wind – Regurgitation of milk between feeds, bouts of prolonged crying due to colic and wind. Often worse in the evening. This is often managed as well as possible by infant Gaviscon – often in quite large quantities to keep the colic under control and the baby calm.
Sleep disturbances – The baby sleeps for only short periods, and may sleep little in the day (or night!) They wake to the slightest noise and are ‘jumpy’.
What does Osteopathic Cranial Treatment for Babies Involve?
Treatment of babies does not involve any form of manipulative technique (‘cracking’ of vertabrae). Osteopathic treatment of babies utilises cranial techniques which are gentle, safe and very effective for both babies and children. Very specific, skilled, light pressure is applied where necessary (usually to the cranium and the sacral region) to assist the natural ability of the body to release stresses and tensions and potentially help with the above signs and symptoms. This form of treatment is aimed at gently releasing and re-balancing areas of physical tension in order to return the body to a state of balance. This allows the body’s own self healing ability to restore a better function, state of well-being and overall health.
All of our practitioners are qualified and experienced in paediatric osteopathy: adopting cranial osteopathic techniques to normalise birth strain patterns.
Babies can be treated while lying on your lap, on the floor or wherever they are comfortable, often whilst feeding either from bottle or breast. Young children do not have to lie down for their treatment, and can often sit on a parents lap and play with toys or read. It is a good idea to prepare a child for treatment. How this is done will vary depending on their age but it may help to tell them in advance that treatment involves having their head and body touched.
Reactions to treatment are variable; your baby will probably become very calm, still and content during the treatment as the practitioner takes their body through a number of ‘still points’ to calm the Central Nervous System. Following treatment, the baby or child retains this relaxed state and may begin to sleep much better. Like all responses to osteopathic treatment, it is very variable and dependent on the individual. Some babies for instance have a burst of energy after treatment, also usually followed by a good nights sleep. Occasionally children are unsettled after treatment. This is a temporary reaction, and usually lasts only 24-48 hours.
Osteopathy is a holistic treatment that is not primarily symptom/condition focussed. Osteopaths believe that mechanical imbalances (various pressures. tensions and torsions) in different areas of the body may contribute to discomfort and aggravate some of the common conditions that babies present with. Osteopaths take into consideration all aspects of health and development in their assessment of a baby or child.
It is possible to treat strain patterns from birth with cranial osteopathic techniques at any age, but the earlier the better.
If strain patterns from birth are left untreated into adulthood, the process of relieving the effects is a much more difficult and lengthy process. Please see our Adult Clinic page for our Treatment Course for adults. This is why, at our Centre, we would advocate a check over for all new borns as a preventative measure.
Please note that we also advocate appointments for all Mothers to address any stresses and strains following the birth process. We also offer a Mother and Baby Package. Please visit our Book Treatment page for more details.
Symptoms of Untreated Strain Patterns in Older Children
If the strain pattern throughout the head and neck region is not addressed as a baby, then as the child grows, the effects of a difficult birth may lead to other problems including:
Retained moulding and birth stresses take their toll on the body’s reserves, and also deplete the immune system. This leaves children more vulnerable to all types of infection.
May lead to ‘glue ear’ and some temporary loss of hearing. Retained birth compression within and around the bones of the ear impedes fluid drainage from the ear with partial or complete blocking of the Eustachian tube. Infections may never fully clear, leaving a vulnerability to the next infection and a depleted immune system.
Persistent mouth breathers with a constantly blocked or runny nose. The pressure from retained moulding can restrict growth of the face, so that sinuses are underdeveloped and vulnerable to congestion, and the upper jaw remains narrow which increases dental overcrowding.
Physical tension in the lungs and rib cage can reduce lung capacity and aggravate a tendency to asthma. General lowered immunity leads to more chest infections. Osteopathic treatment to improve chest function can often be beneficial in helping reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.
Poor concentration, constant fidgeting, difficulty sitting still, hyperactivity; a continuation of the restlessness experienced as a young baby. Physical tension makes the child uncomfortable in one position for too long which becomes habit forming and makes concentrating difficult. Also, as the child develops, it may become apparent that they do not readily retain or recall information in a learning environment – even after the material has been covered many times. As a result, academic progress is often slow and not in line with their overall intelligence.
Headaches commonly begin around the age of 7-8. Growing pains. Vulnerability to sprains, or other aches and pains.
A Clinic Audit of an Osteopathic Clinic in 2015 showed the following:
During a 9 month period from January to September 2015, 361 new patients were seen by Osteopaths.
Babies under 1 year: Presenting Symptoms
Average number of treatments for babies under 1 year is 3.5
- Babies under 1 year: Presenting Symptoms
Statistics Courtesy of churchdownosteopaths.co.uk.
Children 1-14 years: Presenting Symptoms
Average number of treatments for children age 1 – 14 is 4.2
- Children aged 1-14: Presenting Symptoms
You may find the following reading material helpful in understanding the health or behaviour of your baby/child:
Understanding Infant Colic – An Osteopathic Perspective
by Clive Hayden MSc DO MSCC
This 28 page booklet explains the different causes of infant digestive disorders, and how to recognise the difference between the symptoms of reflux, infant gut irritability, lactose intolerance and allergy. It explains different management for each cause including for parents in handling the child, medical management and how osteopathic treatment can help.
The booklet is aimed at parents trying to help their child with colic, but would also be a useful reference book for osteopaths, midwives and health visitors who need to advise parents on the management of infantile colic.
Clive Hayden MSc DO MSCC has been in osteopathic practice in Gloucester, UK since 1977 and has over 30 years experience of treating babies. He graduated from the British School of Osteopathy, in London, in 1977, and completed a Masters degree with the European School of Osteopathy in 2001. Clive has been involved in teaching osteopathy in the cranial field since 1983; mostly, his teaching commitments are with the Sutherland Cranial College of Osteopathy in the UK. He has lectured abroad in France, Belgium, Germany, the USA, New Zealand and Australia. Clive is co-author of a research paper on Infantile Colic in 2006 ‘A preliminary assessment of the impact of cranial osteopathic treatment for the relief of infantile colic’ which was republished in 2009. He is also a co-author of The Textbook of Paediatric Osteopathy.
Osteopathy for Children
By Elizabeth Hayden
This book explains simply and clearly how osteopathy can be of benefit to babies and children, and mothers during and after pregnancy. The book is easy to read and well illustrated, and gives a useful understanding of osteopathy for parents and health professionals.
Osteopathy is becoming increasingly well known for the treatment of babies and children. This book explains clearly and simply how physical strains picked up during birth may affect children for many years. These strains may cause some very common physical symptoms such as excessive crying, feeding difficulties, and sleep problems in babies. They may also contribute to problems as the child grows such as behavioural problems, low immunity, aches and pains and much more. The book also explains how osteopathy can be of benefit to mothers during and after pregnancy. A useful book for those wanting to know more about how osteopathy can help babies and children.
Information courtesy of Churchdown Osteopaths http://www.churchdownosteopaths.co.uk