Osteopathic Manual Therapy for Paediatrics
The first six weeks of parenthood are extremely demanding and involve an incredible amount of learning. Nurturing and care shifts almost entirely from the birthing person to the baby. Sleep deprived parents attempt to dissect each little squeak, leg jolt, and cry in hopes of understanding what their newborn needs. As the week’s progress in the postnatal period, a remarkable instinctual communication develops between newborns and their parents. BUT what if, your newborn is inconsolable at times and is crying due to something beyond your control? The urgency to figure it out can generate pressure, self-criticism and eventually self-doubt amongst new parents.
There is an unrealistic amount of pressure on new parents and the birthing person specifically during the first year postpartum. Living in this digital age, it is very difficult to avoid self-doubt or comparison to others. The presence and accessibility of social media, and constant exposure to the “ideal” pregnancy, delivery and parenthood make it difficult for anyone not to question or doubt their parenting skills.
I have some good news to share – much of the discomforts and obstacles newborns and toddlers face can be relieved with the help of Osteopathic Manual Therapy (OMT) .
First, what is Osteopathy?
Osteopathy is a natural, alternative form of medicine which offers client-centred care that emphasizes the interconnectedness of the body. Osteopathic manual practitioners work to maintain, improve and restore normal physiological function to assist the whole person’s ability to heal. Using comprehensive manual assessment, various techniques and modalities, OMT identifies and eases restrictions, reduces pain; improves tissue mobility; and promotes proper function and healing.
How can Osteopathy help newborns?
It is often recommended that newborns make a visit to their friendly osteopathic manual practitioner shortly after birth to assess and resolve any strains or trauma the baby may have endured during birth. As babies make their exit, their heads must rotate, compress and narrow, this is referred to as “molding” of the soft baby cranium. In some cases, the re-inflation or un-molding process can be incomplete. A difficult birth, such as one which required forceps, vacuum delivery, an especially lengthy labor followed by emergency caesarean most commonly contribute to restrictions in the cervical spine and cranium (Waddington, Snider, Lockwood & Pazdernik, 2015). The gentle, perceptive palpation of OMT is suitable for newborns to detect somatic dysfunction or areas of tension and restriction in the musculoskeletal and craniosacral systems.
Many symptoms which are commonly observed in newborns, such as: inconsolable crying for hours at a time, clenched fists, belly gurgling, poor sleep patterns, knees tucked, latching or feeding difficulties, discomfort with “tummy-time” may all be associated unresolved cranial compression. More specifically, the compression of the back of the skull, at the occiput can put too much pressure on the hypoglossal, glossopharyngeal and vagus nerves. All these cranial nerves help stimulate the tongue for latching. The vagus nerve alone is responsible sending motor and sensory stimulation the almost every organ in the body, especially the digestive organs
Research has demonstrated that OMT is beneficial for, but not limited to helping with the following conditions in newborns:
· Reduced length of stay in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
· Increased weight gain for premature babies in NICU
· GERD (acid reflux)
· Positional Plagiocephaly (flattening of the head)
· Breast feeding & latching difficulties
How can Osteopathy help toddlers and young children?
The osteopathic approach to treatment begins with an evaluation based on standardized assessment of the whole musculoskeletal system, the craniosacral system and includes the examination of posture and motor patterns. The gentle perceptive palpation, appropriate to the delicate tissues of a newborn or child, can detect somatic dysfunction. Much like adults, toddlers and children can benefit from gentle osteopathic manual therapy to address common conditions like:
· Gastrointestinal pain
· Enuresis (bed wetting)
· Dysfunctional voiding (urinary retention)
OMT offers a subtle, gentle and alternative approach to the management of common conditions observed in newborns, toddlers and young children. OMT in conjunction with behavioural strategies often prescribed by paediatric physiotherapists or paediatric occupational therapists can help relieve or improve discomforts and obstacles your little one is facing. You can learn more about our OMT, Florence Bowen and/or book your child in for an appointment here.
Cicchitti, L., Di Lelio, A., Barlafante, G., Cozzolino, V., Di Valerio, S., Fusilli, P., … & Rossi, M. C. (2020). Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment in Neonatal Intensive Care Units. Medical Sciences, 8(2), 24.
Manzotti, A., Cerritelli, F., Lombardi, E., La Rocca, S., Chiera, M., Galli, M., & Lista, G. (2020). Effects of osteopathic treatment versus static touch on heart rate and oxygen saturation in premature babies: A randomized controlled trial. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 39, 101116.
Pizzolorusso, G., Cerritelli, F., D’Orazio, M., Cozzolino, V., Turi, P., Renzetti, C., … & D’Incecco, C. (2013). Osteopathic evaluation of somatic dysfunction and craniosacral strain pattern among preterm and term newborns. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 113(6), 462-467.
Waddington, E. L., Snider, K. T., Lockwood, M. D., & Pazdernik, V. K. (2015). Incidence of somatic dysfunction in healthy newborns. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 115(11), 654.