Plagiocephaly - Flat Headed Babies

Flat spots or plagiocephaly is increasingly common since the introduction of back sleeping to reduce the incidence of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Some babies only present with mild flattening, while others can be quite misshapened. Some studies suggest that flat headed babies can be more at risk of developing postural compensations, musculoskeletal dysfunctions, problems with vision, jaw and developmental delays. Research findings suggest that without intervention, most cases do not resolve in time. 

Typical interventions include counter-positioning, helmet therapy and physical therapy such as osteopathic treatment. The earlier the treatment, the more potential for correction.

Osteopathic treatment recognises the importance of treating the whole body as a unit. Treatment will aim at decreasing any tension in the baby’s head, neck and face and allow the body to function optimally. Sometimes, there is the presence of torticollis (where the baby's head is turned to only one side) which predisposes to the development of a flat spot.   Treatment can usually improve the newborn’s ability to turn their head to both sides equally so the child is able to sleep with their head facing in either direction. We may also give some exercises and tips to stimulate the head turning to the opposite side to the flattening.

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Research:

 

Lessard S, Gagnon I, Trottier N.

Published in the Complement Ther Clin Pract Nov;17(4):193-8 2011

These clinical findings support the hypothesis that osteopathic treatments contribute to the improvement of cranial asymmetries in infants younger than 6.5 months old presenting with nonsynostotic occipital plagiocephaly characteristics.

 

Philippi H, Faldum A, Schleupen A, Pabst B, Jung T, Bergmann H, Bieber I, Kaemmerer C, Dijs P, Reitter B

Published in the Dev Med Child Neurol Jan;48(1):5-9; discussion 4 2006

We conclude that osteopathic treatment in the first months of life improves the degree of asymmetry in infants with postural asymmetry.