Newborn babies are assessed for stresses or strains that they may have received during the birth, especially if they have suffered from the effects of a difficult or prolonged delivery. When osteopaths examine babies, areas of tension are often found in the spine or head, which are indications that the baby is uncomfortable. A baby cannot complain of backache or headache specifically, and will typically express this by crying and being unsettled or generally irritable. Gentle cranial osteopathic techniques may help release tension and allow symptoms to resolve naturally. Most babies are absolutely fine after an initial check-up but if there is a problem, they might need to be seen typically between 4 and 6 times.
Birth and delivery is a very stressful experience for the baby as well as the parents. Babies heads are made up of 22 bones, which are compressed and overlap before re-expanding during passage through the birth canal. Problems seen early after birth may include sticky eyes, poor latching to the breast, irritability or babies that are just very clingy and want to be held all the time. Cranial osteopathy may be able to exert a positive influence at this level. It is best to bring a baby for treatment sooner rather than later as they are much easier to treat when they are weeks rather than months old.
Caesarean Section presents the baby with a different situation. Caesarian deliveries can either be planned or emergency. In the latter event, they might have been selected as the birth was not progressing as hoped. In this instance, it is possible for the baby to be left slightly in shock and they can be very irritable. Caesarian babies can be more congested early on than babies who were born by vaginal delivery because they missed out on being compressed through the chest during birth. This can potentially lead to ongoing multiple infections of the ear, nose, throat or chest.
Colic, reflux, glue ear, wind and constipation are frequently encountered neonatal problems. These are areas that still require much more clinical research and reliable studies into non-orthodox treatment showing cause and effect are scant; due to ethical considerations as much as anything else.
Many health professionals, as well as other "therapists", make various claims regarding the treatment of children which are difficult to substantiate. They will often talk about non-musculoskeletal conditions for which there is no firm evidence for the efficacy of their treatment. As well as those conditions above, references have been made to colic, Down's syndrome, autism, learning difficulties, cerebral palsy and the list goes on. Generally, as mentioned above, exhausted young mothers can be a very impressionable target audience. I believe that it would be very wrong, a huge lapse of integrity, and probably a breach of the law to offer something to them that could not be justified.
Having said that, in preliminary research studies of cranial osteopathic treatment on babies, some parents did perceive positive changes in their children. These include reduced colicky crying, better feeding, improved sleep, less unsettled irritable behaviour and increased quiet happy spells. This is certainly something that I find to be true on the whole, anecdotally. It must be stressed that the reasons for and certainty of any improvement are still a matter of debate, despite the vast amount of support and interest that has been attracted over the last hundred years, or so.
Very young babies can be quite tense and when they start crying find it difficult to stop, due to their immature nervous and emotional systems. Perhaps gentle treatment such as cranial osteopathy may help them to relax just enough to overcome this. Whatever the link between cause and effect, progress and treatment depends very much on the baby and the parents. The earlier a child can be seen, the less treatment they are likely to require, so there is no need to wait before being seen.
Older children with back pain, neck pain, growing pains and other musculoskeletal symptoms are often seen too. In particular, it is important to ensure that there is not likely to be any long-term difficulty if they have an accident or break a bone. Adolescence is another time when children are commonly seen. Growth spurts and hormonal changes may well lead to aches and pains that are amenable to treatment. Childhood is also a good time to establish appropriate posture and exercise habits.