How Does Osteopathy Work on Crying Babies?

Torticollis, stress, crying, where are some doctors who decree the ineffectiveness or the dangerousness of certain osteopathic practices on infants and an osteopat[cf. : France info le 09/03/19 ]hic discourse that is sometimes vague, which advances surprising results on baby crying without showing the mechanism of it. action.

The best thing you can do to understand yourself better is often to ask questions. So if you were to ask us, "So how does this work?" ".

Well even if part of the aura of osteopathy is certainly due to its mysticism and to the often convincing results, the processes of which remain a mystery to patients, I think that one day or another we will suffer the same loss of confidence that traditional medicine is undergoing today, if like it, we do not make the effort to make our processes of action transparent. It is therefore necessary to do this popularization work even if it means burning our magician's costume, if that can at the same time get rid of that of charlatan, I sign.

Here are some explanations of our method and rest assured, no need for abstract allegories to explain the levers specific to osteopathy that reduce baby's suffering, let's keep it tangible. Let's go.

As you know, baby crying is symptomatic of discomfort, but that's not all. As specified by the Polyclinique Bordeaux Rive [1]Droite, crying is mainly generated by the following factors:

  • Hunger
  • Sleep
  • Pain
  • Stress / Need for support

Regarding hunger, our role will be mainly to help parents detect the signs that indicate this state. Regarding the quality of sleep, we can consider that it is linked to our three other levers.

So let's take a look at what we have left, the pain, the stress and the need for support.

First of all, the consultation with a practitioner generally has the effect of reassuring parents and this is far from anecdotal. Often, the anxious state of the latter in the face of crying causes signs of impatience and sometimes inappropriate behavior to the situation which only aggravates the stress of the baby. This quickly forms a vicious circle from which we cannot see the exit. The idea is to explain to parents how this crying is normal and to remind them of the importance of contact, of mother-baby closeness, of patience.

A little aside on this subject to remind you that it is unique to the West for a baby to be so distant from its mother. A 1994 study shows us that in Korea for example, it spends only 8% of the time[5][1] alone, this figure was 67% the same year in North America and it is shown that Korean babies cried less. Put another way, the time in contact with the baby is inversely proportional to the time spent crying.  

Let's come back to our sheep, then, the demonstration of positions promoting the feeling of accompaniment of the baby in order to calm him down is also an important point of the consultation, 30-45min of session is often not too much.

Finally, with regard to the somatic approach to baby crying, that is to say our therapeutic methods to fight against the child's physical pain, it is not conceivable to make an exhaustive list of our interventions. However, the great principle of osteopathy that is the conservation of mobility and which encompasses these procedures is so simple to understand that it should be sufficient on its own. However, not everyone is a specialist in physiology or anatomy, so it is not always understood how or why the recovery of acceptable mobility affects the sensation of pain. So here are some crystal clear illustrations that help to understand how following this principle is effective treatment.

  • Torticollis: The rotators of the head are particularly strained on one side, this can come from a multitude of causes. For example, during a long delivery, if the baby's head is blocked in a large rotary amplitude during labor, muscle spasms appear. At birth, the child turns his head well on one side, less well on the other. With massage and induced mobilization on the restricted side, the osteopath causes muscle relaxation. This is one way of proceeding among an infinity, but the principle always remains the same, to make mobility.

Result: the muscles (antagonists to the movement) being relaxed, the rotation becomes less painful, the baby recovers mobility, freedom of movement and the pain caused by the difficult rotation disappears.

It certainly sounds simplistic and is to be expected. Indeed another principle of osteopathy is the body's ability to heal itself. Our intervention must therefore be sufficient without taking over what the body is already capable of doing on its own.

  • Plagiocephaly: here too the results are sometimes impressive and yet the solution we provide is always the conservation of mobility. 

We know that the tensions exerted by the muscles of the skull on the bone at the level of their insertions have an important role in the evolution of the shape of the sku[2]ll, which is particularly flexible during the first 4 months. As with congenital torticollis, we are able to restore good mobility to the child's head when necessary. This allows him to have full use of all the degrees of mobility that the neck allows, and this without pain. Thus all the muscles of the neck and of the skull are used in a harmonious way since the child can again turn his head with sufficient amplitude, the same goes for flexions and extensions. The traction of the muscles on the bone during these rediscovered movements then act on the shape of the skull on a daily basis. It’s not us who do the work, it’s the child itself, it’s the body. This is of course accompanied by advice given to parents to maximize the daily use of the flexors, extensors and rotators of the neck in children.

Remember that other health professionals use this therapeutic path. Even if the conservation of mobility is a principle particularly present in osteopathy, it is not its prerogative. You will notice that I haven't touched on the subject of colic in children here. This is not an oversight. Indeed, the majority of colic disappear naturally and t[3]he intervention of the osteopath does, once again, only respect the principle of mobility. For a whole bunch of reasons, colic can cause tension in the organs of the digestive system, we will try to restore mobility to these organs and thus reduce the pain due to colic. This can be of great help to parents already, but there is no evidence yet that osteopathy can work towards resolving colic on its own[4].



[3] “Excessive” crying or colic in the infant. J. Valleteau de Moulliac [student account required)

[4] Which treatments for infantile colic?

[5] Lee, K. (1994). The crying pattern of Korean infants and related factors. Dev Med Child Neurol, 36, 601-7.

France info:

Stress: onepage & q = William% 20Frey% 20lacrymal% 20adrenaline & f = false

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