We spoke with registered osteopath Liv Lowrie to find out what exactly paediatric osteopathy is, whether newborns need it, and if it really has any benefits.
Q: What is cranial osteopathy?
A: Cranial osteopathy is an osteopathic technique using very gentle and subtle movements to release restrictions and correct the body’s alignment. The osteopath works with the body’s own fluid movement by mainly palpating the cranial bones, spine and sacrum and thereby attempting to restore health to the body.
Q: We’re told it’s a good treatment for newborns, what are the specific benefits?
A: It is a very beneficial treatment for all ages, but especially for newborns due to its very gentle approach and light touch. The benefits are many, but mainly as the baby’s alignment is checked and corrected it will allow the baby to grow and develop in a way that the body is designed to do.
To mention a few examples – a lot of babies need help to straighten out after birth due to compression in the womb or due to a long and difficult labour. Sometimes the head and the neck position will have been compromised and the baby will have a preference to lie on one side of its head more than the other which can lead to a flat head or to use the medical term ‘plagiocephaly’. It is very important to diagnose and treat this condition as early as possible. This might also lead to poor drainage from the ears and eyes causing infections later during periods of growth. This will again be exacerbated by teething, which tends to put extra pressure through the cranial bones.
Compression in the baby’s body can also lead to colic and other digestive problems, which if left untreated causes sleepless nights and a very unhappy baby.
Q: How soon should my baby see an osteopath and is early treatment important?
A: There is no general rule how soon the baby should see an osteopath – but an early postnatal check-up soon after birth is always recommended to determine that the baby is healthy and following a normal development pattern.
Q: When is the best time for me to bring my baby in for a treatment?
A: If you mean what time of the day? Anytime – as the osteopath will work around the baby’s routine. If the baby needs feeding it is an excellent time to treat the baby as the sucking action helps the osteopath to work with the baby’s cranium – but any time is good.
Q: Is it always safe and is it painful for my baby?
A: It is always safe as a well-trained paediatric osteopath is skilled in diagnosing any problems – and would refer you back to your GP or to a consultant if this is necessary. Treatment can sometimes be a bit uncomfortable for some babies – it all depends on the condition. They will be aware of changes in their body structures like any adult. The babies are all different and some will fall asleep during a treatment whereas others might cry a bit.
Q: Are there any side effects?
A: There might be what we call a treatment reaction. Some babies can sleep for several hours after a treatment – but some might also be a bit unsettled. As a general rule a treatment reaction will not last for more than approx 24 hours. Sometimes the baby’s immune system seems to be more efficient after a treatment – so if the baby is brewing on something – it might show itself quite quickly after the treatment – but then the baby appears to deal with it more efficiently.
Q: How long and how often are the treatments.
A: All osteopaths work differently – but I always give one hour for the first appointment. This is necessary in order to take a good case history, physically examine the baby and make the correct diagnosis and treatment plan. Follow-up appointments are half an hour.
There is no specific rule for how often a baby should be treated. This depends on the diagnosis and condition. As a general rule I suggest to see a baby for three treatments initially – and I will then discuss it further with the parents. Sometimes a baby will only need one treatment if I find that the baby is in good health and developing normally.
Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a treatment?
A: The advantages are many as discussed earlier – but the main thing is to check and diagnose that your baby’s alignment is good and that he or she is developing in a good and healthy manner according to their age.
I cannot think of any disadvantages!
Q: What are the common problems you notice in babies that come for treatment?
A: The common problems that I see in babies are digestive disorders of many sorts like colic and reflux with milk allergies. A lot of babies have restrictions in their head rotation and have started to develop flat heads. Poor drainage from ears, nose and eyes, which can lead to ear infections, glue ear and constant colds and coughs. Many babies have sleep problems and this can be due to a myriad of reasons – but together with the parents and osteopathic treatment the problems are usually solved.
Q: If I can’t afford to take my baby to an osteopath, is there anything I can do myself at home?
A: It is always best to see somebody if you suspect that something is wrong. You could also talk with your osteopath and see if you could get reduced fees. Always remember that if your baby is crying a lot for no apparent reason – there could be an underlying problem that needs treatment. Inconsolable crying in young babies usually indicates discomfort or hunger. One piece of advice which I always give parents when the young baby is suffering from reflux or a cold – is to raise the cot or basket slightly at the head end – as this will assist in drainage from the face and upper chest area. Lastly – but not least – I cannot stress often enough how important it is for the baby to have tummy-time little and often during the day. This will help the baby to develop its neck rotation and hold its head better and also strengthen his or her back muscles.
Q: Is treatment recommended for me too?
A: Treatment is always recommended for the mother – especially if she has suffered back or pelvis disorders during the pregnancy. It is very important to check and establish good alignment after a pregnancy in order to prevent any compensatory problems later on.
To book an appointment with Liv Lowrie, please contact the Chelsea Consulting Rooms on 0207 763 9100, or online.