What is cranial osteopathy?
Cranial osteopathy is a very gentle treatment approach that osteopaths use to assess and treat both babies and adults, that aims to support optimum health and wellbeing.
Cranial osteopathy uses the same principles that osteopathy is based upon, i.e. that there is an interconnection between our body’s physical structure and how our bodies function. Good balance and alignment of all parts of the body, in particular the many kinds of joint and soft structure, allows the body’s nerves and circulation to work at their best.
The term cranial is used because the method is particularly appropriate for treatment of the head, jaw and face which may be very sensitive to touch. However, a cranial osteopath examines and may treat your whole body, not just your head.
Why do babies need treatment?
When babies cry, it can be hard to decipher why – if they’ve been fed, winded, changed, cuddled and are nice and warm you may wonder what else could be causing the problem!
Andrea Rippe (BOst, MSc Paed Ost) and Laura Wheatley (MOst, PgDip Paed Ost) both conduct full examinations of babies musculoskeletal systems as well as looking for signs of other problems that may cause babies to cry excessively. They both explore numerous avenues in your baby’s feeding, sleeping and playing routines as well as taking account of family history, baby’s age, pregnancy history, birth history and baby’s medical history (if any) searching for clues that may highlight the cause of the problem.
Having conducted a standard infant examination they then use their hands to search for palpatory clues to the source of discomfort or dysfunction, just as with adults. And just as with adults, our hands and fingers do much of the searching and finding, so your baby doesn’t need to say ‘you’ve got the spot – how did you know?’ because, its our job to know how bodies should feel, and when they don’t feel quite right.
Just as we can highlight problems from our questioning and examination, and give advice on routines, orthodox treatment and referral pathways (back to your GP or paediatrician for medication or screening of your baby’s hips or nervous system) so our treatments may help to soothe and relax your baby.
Do you treat little children?
Osteopathic techniques are suitable for children at all stages of development; we will assess your child to see what might help. We are often asked to check over a child’s gait for instance. Infants who are just learning to walk adopt some odd habits that may need an experienced eye and older children may present with intoeing or knock knees that are normal at certain ages, but not at others.
Occasionally, musculoskeletal asymmetry develops and causes pain or stiffness that is amendable to manual treatment.
If you’re not sure whether we can help, please let our reception staff know your concerns and we will call you to discuss whether osteopathy is the right approach for your child.
If my baby seems fine, are there any things to look out for that might suggest a cranial checkover would be a good idea?
During my first consultation with a mother I always ask the following questions, to give me clues about a baby’s overall physical function and wellbeing. A mother could also use them to help decide whether a cranial osteopathic check over is a priority for their babies or not.
Here are the questions:
- Does your baby lie straight, or do they tend to lie “banana shaped”, always lying bent to one side?
- Does your baby have an uneven head shape?
- Forceps and Ventouse can leave a residual effect on a baby’s head shape, has your baby’s head “ recovered from being born”?
- Is your baby very snuffly?
- Does your baby tend to favour looking to one side?
- If breastfeeding, does your baby latch more easily on one side?
- Does your baby have difficulty opening their mouth wide enough to latch?
- Does your baby tend to arch their back a great deal?
- Did your baby have remarkably good head control for a newborn right from birth?
- Does your baby have sluggish bowel function?
- Is your baby more unsettled than you would expect a baby to be?
If your answer were yes to any of the above, it would be worthwhile sending your baby to a cranial osteopath for a check over.
At what age can a baby have cranial osteopathy?
Parents bring their babies to see us for two reasons, either their baby has a problem or the parents are bringing their baby in for a check over.
If a baby is under par, struggling, or you feel they are just not quite right, we recommend bringing a them in for a cranial osteopathic check over as soon as is reasonably possible; the youngest babies we tend to treat are 2 or 3 days old.
For a general check-over, then we recommend mothers bring their baby in when the mother feels well enough recovered from giving birth to be able to cope with an adventure outside of the home. This tends to be from about 2 weeks of age onwards. There is no reason why a baby cannot seen be seen sooner, or later, than this. In fact, it is never too late to bring a baby in for a check over.
If you are breastfeeding and your baby is difficult to latch on, an osteopathic checkover sooner rather than later is recommended, as resolving any neck and jaw tension and any unresolved strains and moulding in a baby’s head can really help a baby to latch on with more ease. Early resolution of any breastfeeding problems is key to successfully establish breastfeeding.
How quickly do you see results?
This depends upon the problem. Some problems are very simple and straight- forwards; others are more difficult and may involve many factors, some of which are not related to the field of cranial osteopathy. For this reason, when you see a cranial osteopath they will ask about your baby’s well-being and general health, and they will ask you about your pregnancy and birth experience. Your baby will then be gently examined. Before treating your baby, your osteopath will have a chat with you about what they have found to give you a tentative idea of what to expect.
Some babies that have a checkover may need just one appointment, but others may benefit from a course of treatment.
Babies that have difficulty latching on often show an improvement immediately after a treatment. Babies with sluggish bowel movements often empty their bowels shortly after a treatment. Change tends to be a steady and progressive, but depends on the individual baby.
Sometimes, when a cranial osteopath sees a baby they may be unsure whether they can help. Depending on what they find when they examine a baby, they may propose a trial of treatment, or they may refer you to another healthcare professional.