What Is Cranial Osteopathy?
This holistic treatment is used for relieving pain and healing injuries. The philosophy of osteopathic treatment is based on the belief that your newborn’s body works best when it can move easily.
Osteopathic doctors use a gentle hands-on approach to relieving strains in the body, allowing normal functioning. Those trained in this treatment focus on feeling the involuntary motion. This subtle body rhythm is a collection of all the cyclic movements of the body functions. Felt throughout the body, osteopaths often focus on feeling this rhythm on the head as the movement and position of the skull bones influence involuntary motion.
The feeling of this rhythm is used to detect if the body tissues are moving well. If areas feel “stuck or restricted,” osteopathic doctors can focus treatment on these areas with small gentle movements, which restore optimal function and balance to the tissues.
When Should Infants Be Seen?
The birthing process can result in structural changes that your pediatrician may or may not observe. Although there is no guideline as to how soon infants should see an osteopath, an early postnatal assessment soon after birth is highly recommended to determine the health of your baby and whether his/her body is functioning normally. Scheduling an appointment around feeding time is excellent as this is an opportune time for treatment as the newborn’s sucking action helps your osteopathic doctor work with your baby’s cranium.
Is Osteopathy Safe? Is It Painful?
Well-trained pediatric osteopaths are skillful in diagnosing any problems, making cranial osteopathy safe for infants. As with adults, babies will be aware of changes made to their body structures. It depends on the condition but treatment can be a bit uncomfortable for some babies. Some babies become relaxed and fall asleep, while others may cry a bit during treatment.
Benefits of This Holistic Treatment
This precise and gentle osteopathic treatment can balance the soft tissues and the skull bones of your baby’s body by using gentle, subtle movements to correct your baby’s alignment and release any restrictions. It is an especially beneficial treatment for newborns due to its light touch and gentle approach. You can expect your baby to grow and develop in the way his/her body is designed to when properly aligned. In addition to this benefit, cranial osteopathy is also beneficial for:
- Birth Strain – The birthing process subjects newborns to several pressures. The delicate nerves in the upper neck communicate with your baby’s stomach and intestines, in addition to the muscles, skin, and joints of the head and neck. During delivery, the skull bones overlap and a great deal of force can potentially compress and irritate these nerves, resulting in issues such as constipation, neck pain, headaches, sleep difficulties and colic.
- Breastfeeding Difficulties – Birth strain can affect your baby’s ability to latch and suck properly. This can be due to neck strain making the turning of the head uncomfortable for your baby or tensions around the root of the tongue, jaw, and throat make latching on difficult to achieve or maintain. When a good seal is not achieved between mom and baby, babies can become irritated due to the swallowing of air when feeding causing colic or spitting up.
- Head Flattening – Once only thought of as a cosmetic issue, recent research studies have indicated that head flattening may be associated with cognitive and motor function delays. This flattening of the skull can be due to the baby’s position in the womb, birth strains or tight neck muscles causing favoring of one side of the head, leading to continual compression.
Crying and sucking are ways for babies to relieve their own strains, however, when unable to do it alone, an osteopathic doctor can help babies with a gentle touch.
Links to helpful articles:
- “A preliminary assessment of the impact of cranial osteopathy for the relief of infantile colic” by Brenda Mullinger
- “The use of Cranial Osteopathy in the treatment of infants…” by Westcott, N in the Australian Journal of Holistic Nursing.
- “Exploring the impact of osteopathic treatment…” by Sylvie Lessard (first author)