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A Parents Guide to Osteopathy for babies and children

Understanding When and Why Children Might Benefit from Osteopathic Treatment

It is often hard to determine what is best for your little one. You want to do everything possible to give them the best outcomes in life. In recent years, parents have become increasingly aware of alternative healthcare options for their children and seek approaches that prioritise holistic well-being and natural healing.

In this blog we are going to discuss Osteopathy for children, and break down when and why to bring them in. Giving you tips of what to look for in your children, especially when at a young age they use different ways to communicate what they are feeling.

We have broken up this blog into two different age groups. From 0 to 2 years old when their condition is generally linked to pre and post-birthing trauma and developmental skills. And from 2-10 years old, when they get more ability to move and explore the world around them, their issues will change as they acquire further abilities.

0-2 years old children

Why bring your baby in for Osteopathy?

Nine months of intra-uterine life followed by the delivery can be quite traumatic for newborns. Although they are very resilient going through these natural processes, imbalances and real trauma can be found. The earlier we get onto any disharmonies the easier it is to heal. For that reason, it is important for us to consider how the pregnancy and the delivery went to understand the story of your child as a whole.

They also undergo rapid physiological changes and many necessary developmental milestones. During this rapid growth it may happen that imbalances or issues can impact your child’s daily life and ongoing development. Osteopaths can guide your child going through these development steps comfortably and well.

Main concerns and what to look for

The concerns may vary and are specific to each child, however, the following symptoms/troubles are the most common :

  • head shape, muscle sprain in the neck

It can be the case that your baby turns their head only in one direction or grabs an object using the same arm most of the time. You can also notice a hair loss at the back of your baby’s head and an uneven head shape or face and eye shape.

infant head shape

  • digestive troubles

Bottle fed child

This includes acid reflux, colic, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, gas. Many babies experience these symptoms as their digestive tract is not fully formed compared to adults. However, if these symptoms are getting too uncomfortable for your baby, it is advised to see a healthcare provider. Osteopathy can help alleviate some of these symptoms using manual therapy and providing advice that you can apply at home to support your baby. 

Breast feeding mother

Also, your baby may experience breastfeeding, sucking or chewing issues. If you struggle to feed your baby well, multiple reasons can be at play. It could be a bad position of the tongue, or lips. Osteopathy can play a role in this development, most of the time assisted by other health professionals depending on each case.

  • recurrent ENT (ear, nose, throat) disorders

Babies are getting sick quite often as their immune system is maturing. However, recurrent infections or disorder of the ears, nose and throat can also be associated with digestive issues, a head shape problem or a malformation. Even if these disorders are generally multifactorial, osteopaths can assess and treat your child to contribute to bringing more comfort to your baby and therefore the tired parents.

  • trouble sleeping

Babies tend to wake up at night to be fed or for other natural reasons. On the other hand, it is frequent that their sleeping disorder comes from something else which makes them have issues falling asleep or waking up several times at night. For example, if they are experiencing digestive issues they can be agitated at night showing discomfort.

  • postural misalignment (hips, knees, feet, arms…)

child bow legs

Which may include mobility issues like turning head, moving arms, leg shape therefore development and movement, or help with trauma induced damage done by birthing medical intervention, for instance.

Club feet in baby

  • difficulty to learn to crawl or walk

Children go through several learning stages to walk. Osteopaths can identify if your child is going through a healthy growth or if some extra support is needed during their development.

Psychomotor development issues in children

The timeframe above is a global scheme, however, it is important to remember that every child is unique and has their own development progress.

Baby development infopic

2-10 years old children

Why bring your child to see an osteopath?

Osteopathy can provide a broad range of benefits, especially during a child’s growth. Like adults, children may be concerned by various issues during this rough and tumble period of their lives. They are constantly changing in height and body shape and learning to adapt and push their bodies to learn in their environment.

Main concerns

The concerns may vary and are specific to each child, however, the following symptoms/troubles are the most common :

  • growth disorders

If your child has been diagnosed with Sever’s disease, Osgood Schlatter's disease, they usually complain of having knee or heel pain.

  • any pain (joints, muscles, headaches...), after an injury, or a fall (concussion, broken bones, rolled ankles, torn ligaments...)

It is good to check that everything is alright after a fall or an injury that might happen at home, during sports or even at school, especially if your child complains about it. Your child will receive ACC coverage for any accidents they have. You might notice when you give your child a back rub or massage, or how they are holding their body or head they sometimes change their posture as they are in pain or try to adapt due to discomfort.

Scholiosis in children
  • scoliosis or Schewermann’s disease

Your child may have been diagnosed with these diseases or if you notice your child having back pain or spine deformation, it is advised seeing a healthcare professional. They usually start during the teenage years but in some cases can appear earlier during growth.

  • trouble walking, executing movements

If you feel your child has trouble walking or moving properly, osteopaths can identify any restrictions, imbalances, or dysfunctions that may be contributing to the child's difficulties with walking or movement. We often use hands-on techniques such as soft tissue manipulation, stretching, and joint mobilisation to address any issues.

  • trouble sleeping

While it may not directly treat the sleeping disorder itself, osteopathic treatment can help alleviate any underlying physical issues that may be contributing to the problem. Additionally, osteopathy can help reduce stress and improve circulation, which may indirectly benefit sleep patterns.

  • breathing issues

This can consist of asthma, or shortness of breath. Osteopaths do not heal those conditions but mainly bring more comfort using manual therapy. This can include gentle manipulation of the ribs, spine, and soft tissues to improve mobility and release tension, allowing for better respiratory function.

  • digestive issues

These include abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, heartburn/regurgitations, constipation, bloating, trouble swallowing and even grinding/clinching teeth. Osteopaths are trained to assess and manipulate the organs of the body which is called visceral manipulations. By gently mobilising the organs of the digestive system, osteopaths aim to improve their mobility and therefore their function.

  • psychomotor disorders

These usually refer to dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, and attention-deficit with or without hyperactivity. These troubles may be found out at school and involve: 

- difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words 

- difficulty in understanding number-based information and math 

- difficulty to plan and process motor tasks, even the difficulty turning their thoughts into written language for their age and ability to think, despite exposure to adequate instruction and education 

- trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviours or being overly active

Psychomotor disorders encompass a range of conditions that affect a child's ability to control voluntary movements and coordination, often involving both motor and cognitive functions. While osteopathy may not directly treat the underlying neurological or developmental causes of psychomotor disorders, it can play a supportive role in managing symptoms and promoting overall well-being, through gentle manipulations, advice and guidance to assist your child during their development.

Good to know

When and how babies and children can express their pain?

Why choose Osteopathic treatment for children?

  1. Gentle approach Osteopathic techniques are gentle and non-invasive, making them well-suited for children of all ages, including infants. Children typically respond well to osteopathic treatment, finding it relaxing and soothing.

  2. Holistic care Based on a scientific approach, osteopaths start by an assessment to find out what could have caused the issue. The result of this investigation will determine what would be the appropriate therapeutic approach. Osteopathy focuses on treating the body as a whole, rather than just addressing isolated symptoms. By considering the interconnectedness of the body’s systems it can restore balance and promote overall health and well-being in children. Holistic care also means collaborating with other healthcare professionals as part of a multidisciplinary team when it is required.

  3. Personalised treatment plans Osteopathic practitioners assess each child individually, taking into account there unique health history, symptoms and needs. The treatment plans are tailored to your child’s and  family's specific requirements so you receive personalised care suited to their age and condition.

  4. Preventative care Osteopathic treatment not only addresses existing issues but also aims to prevent future problems from arising. By optimising and promoting health with manual therapy, personalised advice and treatment plan that suits your child. Osteopathy can help children maintain optimal function and guide them through their development.

In conclusion

Osteopathic sessions can offer numerous benefits for children, addressing a wide range of issues from birth traumatisms to injuries and beyond. With its gentle approach, holistic philosophy, and focus on personalised care, osteopathy provides parents with a natural and effective option for promoting their children's health and well-being. Children's complaints must be heard and detected from an early age in order to offer them the best possible care and avoid future inconveniences growing up. It's important to note that osteopathic treatments can be a valuable complement to conventional medical care.

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