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How chiropractic helps plagiocephaly

You, your doctor or public health nurse have noticed that your baby has a flattened area of their skull, and now you're wondering how concerned you should be and what to do about it.

Plagiocephaly (or flat head syndrome) affects approximately twenty percent of 2-month-olds. It's become more common since the campaign to reduce SIDS by putting babies to sleep on their backs instead of their tummies.

A newborn's skull is soft and flexible and babies that spend too much time lying in one position are at risk. Challenging births, trauma during delivery or even how we hold baby can cause plagiocephaly.

Another risk factor is the presence of torticollis (guarding or spasm of the SCM muscle). Thought to develop from non-ideal positioning in the womb, this condition causes a child’s head to tilt to one side while the chin rotates in the opposite direction.

Torticollis often occurs because of the birth process and may lead to other developmental issues. These babies are fussier, show signs of discomfort and prefer breastfeeding on one side. Because their neck movement is restricted, baby will favor one side over the other since they can’t equally turn their head to the right and left. Their limited range of motion makes these babies susceptible to plagiocephaly.

It’s important to treat any signs of torticollis or plagiocephaly as soon as possible.

As a chiropractor, I've worked with this issue for years. It is quite prevalent, yet easily managed with chiropractic care, stretching and positioning. The first step is to assess your child to determine the causes, then a treatment plan is developed. Gentle adjustments, stretching and education on what to do at home are all part of the process.

In the vast majority of cases, correction occurs without the use of a helmet. This is due to the chiropractic approach of ensuring proper function to the joints and muscles of the cervical spine versus only treating head shape.

At home, a baby’s head position needs to vary during sleep and awake periods, but often parents find their baby has difficulty turning his or her head in the opposite direction. Chiropractic care allows movement without pain or discomfort, so stretching and repositioning are easier for both baby and mom. Not to mention, much more effective.

In most cases, plagiocephaly and torticollis can be successfully treated without surgery or other invasive procedures. Whether your baby has mild or severe headshape issues, we can show you how.


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