Photo of Tina Wissmann treating a child

Osteopathy is a safe and natural healthcare profession for patients of all ages including babies and children. As osteopaths we aim to balance out the structural integrity of your babies body. This way we improve their general well-being and optimise the function of underlying visceral organs (bowel, stomach, lungs and airways)

We use our highly developed sense of touch (palpation) to detect and release areas of tension or structural imbalance in your baby’s body. The treatment of babies requires specialised post-graduate training, which both Tina Wissmann and Ellen Watson have completed.

Osteopathic consultation with your baby

When we see you for the first consultation we will start by taking a detailed case history. As osteopaths we are interested in every aspect of the health of your baby. This includes asking questions about your pregnancy, labour and general development of your baby and his or her complaints.

This is followed by a gentle and attentive physical assessment which includes testing out all joints in the body for their ranges of movement (the hips, pelvis, spine, neck, cranium and extremities). It may also include testing neurological reflexes as well as often quietly feeling the body tissues for distortion or altered tensions.

Osteopathic treatment of babies is extremely gentle and respectful. We don’t use any forceful manipulations. The treatment lasts around 40 minutes. With our highly sensitive hands we use gentle releasing techniques to correct mechanical disturbances and limitations throughout your babies body. By balancing out the structural integrity of the body we aim to improve the function of the underlying organs (respiratory system and digestive system).

We will endeavour to communicate clearly what we feel during the treatment of your baby. We will explain what we think the problem is and what you can do at home to help the recovery.

If we feel that your babies complaint requires other medical investigation, we will refer you to your general practitioner or pediatrician.

One of the primary reasons for structural imbalance in babies

We as osteopaths believe that unresolved birth stresses contribute to the tension and structural imbalance we feel in babies bodies.

During birth, the baby is subjected to enormous forces as he or she twists and turns to squeeze through the mother’s relatively narrow bony pelvis. To make this easier, the baby’s head is designed to adapt and reduce in size. This is called holding and is why many babies are born with oddly shaped heads. In the first few days after birth, the head naturally loses much of the extreme folded shape, aided by suckling, crying and yawning. But this un molding process may sometimes be incomplete, especially if the birth has been difficult and can leave the baby with uncomfortable stresses in the head and or body.

This may cause a variety of problems both in the young baby and later on in childhood and even into adulthood.

Symptoms of discomfort

A baby who is physically uncomfortable will draw attention and show signs of uncomforted by:

  • being unhappy or irritable for long periods.
  • having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • having difficulty feeding, preferring to feed on one side.
  • showing signs of digestive discomfort (reflux, colic, constipation…).
  • having difficulty turning their head one way, preferring to turn the head to one side.
  • developing flat head syndrome or plagiocephaly.
  • having difficulty crawling or walking.
  • recurrent ear infections.
  • behavioural issues related to physical imbalances and tensions.

The 3 most important questions that parents want answered

Is What you do Safe?

As Osteopaths we focus on gentle techniques, this is especially the case for children. We have given thousands of treatments so know exactly what level of treatment different age groups need and just as importantly what different personalities need. Most children will be a little anxious going somewhere new, and this is especially true for younger children or children with anxiety or other health challenges.

So the first focus of treatment isn’t just to ensure your child is safe but also to ensure they feel happy, at ease and enjoy their treatment.

Our clinic is not a Doctor’s surgery, in fact for younger children parents often have problems getting their kids to leave. All those new toys, books etc but also I think its because the clinic is a calm place as well as a fun place so often children feel very safe when they are under our roof. It would be pointless setting up an environment like that if we then going to match it with treatment that would distress your child. So the focus is on gentleness and to get back to the original question this will maximise safety.

Two further points on safety, the first is we never ‘click’ crack’ or ‘pop’the spine. The second is that we can refer your child to a GP, a medical specialist or for scans if we think its needed. We love what osteopathy can do for children, but we also know that for the best results sometimes team efforts are needed and although we would love it if your child never ever needed to take a prescription drug, we are also supportive of what they and other fields of medicine can do.

Does it Work?

Gentle treatment plus toddlers roaming around the place not sitting still – how can it be doing anything? Well thousands of treatments and many many returning parents are the answer to does it work.

We work on the toddler’s agenda – we entertain them, which is possible even for the hardest audience if its for a limited period of time (a warm fun environment with new toys does help!) Also treatments are 40 min – and this allows plenty of time for your toddler to get used to the clinic and to warm up to treatment.

The actual specifics of how we treat are also vital, some children will lie down on a treatment couch and some even stay relatively still – but I would never expect this of a toddler especially not on their first visit. So we sit them on mum or dad’s lap next to the bench with toys to focus on. This then allow us to gentle examine upper and lower limbs, spine, abdomen and the head bones. Although we would warm up to the head, toddler’s will let you touch their heads, we just need to keep them focused on the toys when we do this this!

Often later in treatment they will lie down on the couch, but for children with separation anxiety we just leave them on mum’s lap, this works fine.

With regard to the treatment we do, that’s a big topic as we spend 4 or 5 years in university learning different techniques for treatment of muscle, bones, ligaments etc. – then for pediatrics (the treatment of children) we have specific post graduate training on top with regard to applying these techniques to children. Both Tina Wissmann and Ellen Watson have followed a 2year postgraduate osteopathic paediatric course in Holland (Panta Rhea.)

But to be brief –  it is possible to gently treat children’s bodies and still be effective in releasing muscles and treating ligaments and bones. Babies and children are much more flexible than adults and their bones are also not as fixed/formed as adults. Additionally their nervous system isn’t fully developed so movements of joints and muscles can influence the nervous system and help re-pattern unbalanced or poor quality body movements.

So in summary when we use our hands correctly and in the right places on the body we only need gentle movements and pressures to effectively treat a range of problems.

What problems have you helped?

The most common things that parents bring their babies and toddlers in with fall into 4 categories

General checkup

An osteopathic check-up following the birth can help pin-point potential problems and helps to ease the dramatic transition from life inside the womb to the outside world.  This initial adjustment involves many bodily systems such as breathing and digestion.

Stresses and strains from the labour or pregnancy can lead to unsettled behaviour and difficulties with feeding, winding, bowel movements and sleeping. Relieving any physical strains with gentle osteopathic treatment can be very helpful and relaxing.

For toddlers this is a time when children learn to crawl, walk, run and communicate and are keen to explore their environment and to interact socially. It is desirable to monitor the progress of these early developmental milestones and to address the effects of any major physical mishaps or developmental lag to prevent problems developing in future.

Physical problems

  • Signs of digestive discomfort (reflux, colic, constipation).
  • Difficulty turning their head one way, preferring to turn the head only to one side.
  • Flat head syndrome or plagiocephaly.

Developmental  Problems

  • Difficulty crawling or walking.
  • Difficulty feeding, preferring to feed on one side.

Behaviour & Learning problems

  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Restlessness, being unhappy or irritable for long periods.
  • Behavioral issues in children related to physical imbalances and tensions.

Also we see a lot of non specific things with this age group, recurrent infections, ear stuff, problems coping with transition, or integrating into school, ‘lack of resilience’. As with this age group its hard to put them in ‘boxes’ or give them ‘labels’ which on the whole is a good thing!

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    Here at Osteopathiepraktijk Tervuren we are a team of 7 osteopaths with a wealth of different specialisations and interests. Click below to find out more.
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