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Why Treat Children?

Updated: Jan 20

Children are at a unique time in their lives. We all have injuries and traumas now and then, and over the course of years, they add up. We adapt or compensate, meaning we change, in order to continue functioning. Infants and children, for the most part, have fewer injuries than those of us who have been around longer.

It’s hard work getting born into this world. Babies may have had compressions in utero due to variations in the mother’s anatomy and physiology, being one of twins, etc. And think of the birthing process itself! The cranium (skull bones) are designed to be flexible and overlap to make it possible to navigate the birth canal. Then they are supposed to expand back out to create a nice round head shape. It is rare that this goes according to perfect plan, and the rest of us have asymmetries and dysfunctions of varying degrees.

The most common problems related to birth trauma and head compression, believe it or not, are pinched nerves. Just like a nerve getting pinched as it leaves the spine causes problems downstream (numbness, tingling, pain, weakness), pinching nerves as they leave the cranium causes problems down their own stream. In infants, the results are trouble nursing, such as inability to latch, suck, and swallow. They may be too sleepy to nurse. They may have excessive spitting up, called reflux. Another condition distressing to the baby and the caregivers alike is colic. The troubled baby cries for at least a few hours most days of the week for a couple weeks or more. Parents and healthcare providers try various things, but nothing seems to help much.

All of these can be related to compression of cranial nerves IX, X, and XII as they exit the base of the skull between the occiput and the temporal bone. This area is especially vulnerable during birth. Often, a simple decompression technique is sufficient to provide relief.

And some babies’ heads just don’t seem to regain a normal shape. A “cone head” is expected after delivery: it’s the shape the head must take to get through the birth canal. But if this shape continues beyond 72 hours, the baby needs help to resolve it.

Perhaps the baby’s head appears normal initially, but gradually the head becomes more and more abnormally shaped. This is because a restriction in one or more sutures (joint lines) of the cranial bones stays stuck and small while the rest of the head gets bigger. This is made worse by the head naturally coming to rest on the flatter spot, so gravity continues to compress the head more and more as the baby sleeps. Osteopathic treatment (as well as things that can be done at home) can help by releasing the stuck spots, so as the baby continues to grow, the restricted areas can catch up with the rest of the skull.

Why is an unusual head shape concerning? When the cranium is off-kilter, the cranial nerves are at a disadvantage. Babies can have trouble with vision, such as a lazy eye or dyslexia. Scoliosis may also develop, or the child may just be “on the clumsy side.” While the human body is capable of adapting, treating a baby early is a great way to help them get on a healthy trajectory for growth and development.

Dr. Thom has experience treating babies in the hospital soon after birth as well as in the clinic. Babies are often referred to Dr. Thom by lactation consultants, obstetricians caring for the mother post-partum, and the baby’s primary care provider (pediatrician or family practitioner). Dr. Thom has training through the Pediatrics programs of the Biodynamic View of Osteopathy in the Cranial Field with James Jealous and other members of the Biodynamics faculty, as well as through the Cranial Academy, American Academy of Osteopathy, and other state and regional courses. Click here to see one example of treating a baby:

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