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Giving Your Child a Head Start in Life

The Benefits of Cranial Osteopathy

Minor injuries to the cranium may occur in babies during birth and cause symptoms and behavioural problems which may go undetected throughout life. Cranial osteopathy offers a gentle and effective treatment to help restore normal cranial function.

All mothers are familiar with the well known ‘soft spot’ which adorns their tiny infants head. Nature has made provision to protect the babies delicate and vulnerable cranium during birthing by an ingenious design which leaves the child’s head relatively soft and elastic. This feature allows the infant’s head to mould and compress to enable safe passage through the mother’s birth canal, formed by the pelvic bones.

The new born baby’s brain is not encased in bone as found in adults. Instead there are plates of cartilage and membrane, about the thickness of an egg shell and having similar consistency o the waxed paper of the carton. these are contained between a tough inner membrane, called the dura mater, and a similar outer covering called the periosteum. These plates have spaces between them where the membranous envelope covers the brain, including the well known ‘soft spot’ which closes at about the eighteenth month. As previously stated the infant’s head is a delicate and vulnerable mechanism.

Cranial Injuries and Birthing

Birth injuries are described under three headings – prenatal, those incident to labour and those due to trauma after birth. From the neurologic standpoint the infant at birth is very incomplete. The brain of the newborn has only the main fissures marked and the convolutions are few, so that damage in some sections may not manifest for weeks, months or even years and then often times the symptoms are attributed to some trivial accident or minor illness. Though the parents may even question the possibility or birth injury they may be assured that the baby was perfectly all right at birth.

Obviously a baby can be severely damaged without showing immediate symptoms. The hemispheres at birth are, presumably, almost without function. Only if the injury is sufficiently severe to cause an interference with respiration or with suckling, or to produce lethargy or convulsions is it likely to be recognised at once. The mechanism of the production of intracranial injury or the newborn is not a simple one.

So often the application of forceps is blamed for the cerebral injury, but forceps judiciously applied usually lessen considerably the possible damage by shortening the time and consequently the degree of the elongation of the head. But forceps blades applied asymmetrically to the babies head may cause or further increase already existing cranial lesions.

Breech delivery is a common cause of birth injury as the head must be molded to a smaller capacity much rapidly than is normal.

The under developed cerebro-spinal system of the new born is housed by an immature cranium and vertebral canal. To the skull, with all its intricate construction so often taken for granted, its physiological movement little considered and less understood, is attributed to function of protecting the brain. The infant skull is very immature having little ossification and many of the bones are in separate parts, cartilaginous and membranous. The vault consists of very thin bones with but one layer and no body sutures. The overriding thus possible during delivery is one of Nature’s provisions for the reduction of cranial size to better enable the passage of the head through the birth canal.

At birth the cranium being so immature the developing brain is protected by the cranial dural membranes. These are intensely strong in the newborn and well reinforced, in a very definite and complicated manner, by fibrous stress bands. It is by means of these stress bands that we are able to ensure that the growth areas of these fragile partially developed cranial bones may be unrestricted so that their development may continue as it is necessary for the accommodation of the developing brain, the motor of life.

Only a few reports have appeared concerning the influence of osteopathic lesions directly on human growth. In a report on a study of neonatal problems it was suggested that evaluation of the musculoskeletal system was of special importance in the care of infants and children. Experienced clinical judgement suggests that children subject to musculoskeletal disorders of varying degree and that they exhibit osteopathic lesions and respond rather quickly to manipulative therapy.

Manipulative therapy is often a routine part of the overall care of obstetrical patients, and a few reports have appeared concerning the benefits obtained from the removal of osteopathic lesions in such cases. The consensus seems to be that routine manipulative therapy applied during pregnancy significantly reduces both fetal and maternal fatalities as well as difficulty in parturition. A recent study attempted to ascertain the effects, if any, of manipulative therapy on fatal electrocardiograms. A great many more such studies must be carried out, however, to provide data suitable for statistical analysis.

Osteopathic experience has shown that forces, expertly and specifically applied, to restore relationships and overcome restrictions of mobility, will release tensions in muscles, ligaments and articular capsules which are an important part of the pathology of the lesion. The release of these maintaining questions can at times be accomplished quickly and with few corrective treatments. At other times, again depending on the duration of the pathology, muscular tone of the individual, previous illness and it may be necessary to restore the lesioned area to normal function and tone.

Cranial osteopathic therapy can be of particular benefit to new born babies and young children as well as adults; as well as being a gentle and non-invasive form of therapy. For those children who may have had a difficult birth it may be the only effective treatment that can ensure that they obtain a proper ‘head start in life’.

Health Dimensions ©2004