Despite the common belief that children are young and flexible enough to have no musculoskeletal imbalances in their body, this is not necessarily true. The reality of this can only be ascertained on professional analysis of the birth history and on clinical observation and examination. In virtually every condition there is a mechanical component which contributes, either as a cause or a consequence, to physical and physiological dysfunction. Osteopathy is the science of discovering these factors and the art of manually assisting the body in adjusting to them. At Osteopathy Cape Town we are able to offer experience and understanding of treating babies and children.

 

Cranial Osteopathy is a very subtle and gentle approach to the treatment of the whole body (not just the head as the name implies). Cranial Osteopathy examines the complex structure of the head in detail and its considerable influence on the health of the whole body via its connection to the spine.

The skull is formed of 23 separate bones and in an adult these bones are intricately joined to allow very slight movement to accommodate fluid motion within and around the brain.

A baby’s skull is quite different and is more like a membranous bag with bony stiffening within it. The cranial vault bones (top of the head) allow enormous shape change while still protecting the delicate brain on route through the birth canal. At the same time the bones of the cranial base (bottom of the head) are stronger as they take maximum compression during birth and need to protect the most vulnerable parts of the brain.

The anatomy of the skull is complex and therefore a cranial Osteopath requires considerable post graduate training. Guy has benefited from years of experience and study at the Osteopathic Centre for Children, London, UK, following graduation of an osteopathic medical degree.

Paediatric Osteopathy: How It Works

Paediatric Osteopathy is based on the principle that all ailments – whether minor or serious – are as a result of an imbalance somewhere in the network of the body’s systems.

After making a diagnosis, following a full medical history and examination a paediatric osteopath will use refined and subtle manual techniques to bring about profound changes within the child’s body through gentle manipulation.

This will allow the musculoskeletal system, the gastrointestinal tract, the nervous system, the immune system and the circulatory system – to work effectively and optimally. The treatment uses no drugs, and is non-invasive.

For instance, take the example of a child diagnosed with a chest infection. The surrounding anatomy plays a role in respiratory function. Altered respiratory mechanics can contribute to tissue congestion and decreased clearance. Also altered ventilation, increased energy expenditure and altered lymphatic circulatory function.

Osteopathic reduction of facial connective tissue tensions and correction of alignment and motion of joints will allow normal physiological function of the underlying anatomy.

The Difference Between ‘Cranial/Paediatric Osteopathy’ And ‘Cranio-Sacral Therapy’

All Osteopaths complete up to 5 years medical degree training and in South Africa are registered with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa .This qualifies them to practice osteopathy and in South Africa under the title of Doctor.

The basic training of cranial osteopathic technique is given during the medical degree, but some Osteopaths specialise at post graduate level. Guy has attained a Diploma in Paediatric Osteopathy at the Osteopathic Centre for Children, UK which included experience at Barnet General Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit and children’s wards.

In the 1970’s Cranio-Sacral therapy embraced these osteopathic techniques. However, most Cranio-Sacral Therapists are not Osteopaths, and not all therapists have a background in anatomy, physiology, pathology, diagnosis and biomechanics. Therefore they are unable to offer a valid working diagnosis which is essential prior to application of treatment.

The Effect Of Birth On Babies

Despite the common belief that children are young and flexible enough to have no musculoskeletal imbalances in their body, this is not necessarily true. The reality of this can only be ascertained on professional analysis of the birth history and on clinical observation and examination.

Childbirth is one of the most stressful events of our lives. The baby is subjected to enormous forces, as the womb (uterus) pushes to expel the baby against the natural resistance of the birth canal. The baby has to turn and twist as it squeezes through the bony pelvis, on its short but highly stimulating and potentially stressful journey.

The soft bones at the top of the skull (cranial vault) overlap each other like the petals of a rose bud to reduce the size of the head as the baby descends. The baby’s chin is normally well tucked down towards its chest to reduce the presenting diameter of the head. The back of the head (occiput) will take up most of the strain if there is a delay in delivery.

The baby’s head and in particular the strong membranes (dura) surrounding the brain and spinal cord have the ability to absorb these stresses in a delivery. Many babies are born with odd shaped heads as a result. 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 unmoulding process is often incomplete, especially if the birth has been difficult. There are many reasons why labour may be difficult for mother and baby. Abnormal presentations and assisted deliveries involving forceps, manual traction or ventouse can create strains, which are not easy for the body to resolve.

As a result the baby may have to live with some very uncomfortable stresses within its head and body. This physical discomfort will cause a baby to be unhappy and unsettled sooner or later. Some babies manage well following a difficult birth and are contented and happy.

Why It Is Important To Identify And Treat The Effects Of A Difficult Birth

In the event that a baby’s body has become strained at birth and this strain is not resolved, it will cause the baby’s whole body to grow in an unbalanced way.

As a consequence, structures within the whole body will be required to compensate for this distortion, but signs and symptoms may present themselves soon after birth or much later.

Paediatric osteopathic treatment soon after birth is recommended as birth misalignment becomes progressively more difficult to correct with time. The reason for this is that there are many changes that will occur in the infant head during the first 6 years of life and anatomy gradually changes to accommodate growth and development into the early adult years.

How Paediatric Osteopathy Can Help Babies