Non-invasive, gentle and calming, it is easy to see why osteopathic treatment for children and babies is a very popular form of natural health care. Used in conjunction with your Midwife, General Practitioner or Paediatrician, Osteopathy can assist in improving alignment and function within the body with the view to overall improvement in health.
For children’s growing bodies it is important to recognise poor alignment, mobility or function can lead to a wide range of problems both in the present and later on in life. Osteopathic treatment is perfect for children as it is designed to aid in the body’s natural response to heal itself and restore a natural state of balance with only minimal intervention.
Your Baby And Osteopathy
Parents may seek out the assistance of an Osteopath for their baby for various reasons, but most commonly when facing challenges such as:
Complications with feeding including latching and sucking
Noticeable head shape issues
Restricted movement in the limbs, joints, neck or head areas
Favouring one side when sleeping or feeding
Continuous crying or unsettled sleeping patterns
Osteopaths For Children
Osteopathic care for older children is also beneficial even if your child has not previously seen an Osteopath. Childrens growing bodies can develop structural restrictions and functional imbalance which can possibly lead to future complications, children normally see an Osteopath when the child has any of the following:
Suffered falls, accidents or trauma
Repetitive strains, sprains or sports injuries
What Age Should A Child See An Osteopath?
There is no right or wrong when it comes to the best time to see an Osteopath, treatment can benefit a child or baby of any age.
Treatment for new born babies is often advisable early on, particularly when there have been complications with the birth. The first 12 weeks of life are a time when rapid changes occur and babies are very responsive to treatment.
Children can suffer from pain just like any adult. Pain can come from muscle or joint strain, headaches, sports injuries and growing pains. Some children can understand and explain pain to their parents, whilst others have great difficulty communicating this. Often it takes issues around lack of concentration and focus in school and mood changes to prompt parents to seek help. Others notice difficulties in sporting activities, such as poor technique in running or swimming before they seek osteopathic treatment.
Treatment is still as effective once the child reaches teenage years, just as it is for adults. Generally, aches and pains in teenagers are a result of sporting injuries, playing on trampolines, and from growth spurts. Joint restrictions in the neck can also cause headaches in teenagers. Sometimes teenagers present with symptoms that may be related to birth strains or falls which occurred in their younger years.
What To Expect
As with any Osteopath appointment, treatment of children and babies will be tailored to the individual patient. A comprehensive case history will be taken including medical history, details about the pregnancy, birth and current complaints or behavioural issues.
Osteopaths can work with you and your baby/child to achieve the best treatment results, which may include the parent holding the child while lying down or sitting up, the child being held by the Osteopath or positioning the child/baby in a comfortable position on the treatment table.
A preliminary examination will be carried out using palpation (touch) with the aim to feel for any unusual restrictions, tightness or stresses within the joints, muscles and ligaments of the spine. Any findings will be discussed with the parent and consent for treatment will always be sought from the parent in advance.
Some of the techniques Osteopaths uses are gentle soft tissue massage, myofascial technique, muscle energy technique and cranio-sacral therapy. These treatments are designed to be gentle and calming, sometimes babies will even fall asleep during the course of the treatment. A typical treatment times will take 30 minutes.
Before And After An Osteopathic Treatment
Need to know how best to prepare for seeing an Osteopath with your child? Take a look below for some handy tips.
Before Your Osteopathic Appointment
Try to pick a time that will suit your child’s routine.
Make sure children are fed and have had a good amount of water.
Feel free to bring along favourite toys or books.
Have them wear comfortable clothing.
For infants and babies it may be a good idea to bring their Plunket book along.
Also try to bring other helpful information like x-rays, medical notes or supplements and medication.
Occasionally there is a period of restlessness that may last from 24-48 hours.
There is the possibility areas needing to be worked on may be tender as the body re-adjusts.
If you have any concerns after treatment your Osteopath will be happy to discuss those with you.
Things To Consider When Choosing An Osteopath For Children
When taking your child or baby to any health professional it is important to find someone you feel comfortable with and can trust. Here are a few things to keep in mind when searching for the right Osteopath.
Are They Registered. Always make sure your Osteopath is registered with the Osteopathic Council of New Zealand, this is a requirement in New Zealand in order to be able to practice here.
Are They Experienced. Don’t hesitate to question your Osteopath on their experience with children and babies in particular.
How Much Will It Cost. The first appointment will usually take longer than subsequent ones and will cost slightly more than a regular visit.
Are There Any Subsequent Treatments. Follow up treatment is likely, the frequency can vary from weekly to monthly depending on the problem.
Are They ACC Registered. Most Osteopaths in New Zealand are registered ACC treatment providers, no referral is needed.
Lorraine Herity is the Clinic Director of Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch, New Zealand. She previously worked in Osteopathic clinics in London and Ireland, before moving to New Zealand. Lorraine trained at the British School of Osteopathy in London, where she gained her Master of Osteopathy (M.Ost). Lorraine is a dedicated and passionate Osteopath. Her main aim is to help her patients regain their health, and to return her patients back to their everyday activities, in as quick a time as possible.