When we talk about bones and muscles, we are actually discussing the musculoskeletal system of the body. In certain occasions, we divide it into 2 separate systems, namely the muscular system and the skeletal system. The former pertains to the body’s muscles including the heart, and the latter refers to the bones, joints, and connective tissues such as the ligaments and tendons; it also includes the tiny and soft bones of the ears inside and out.
These 2 body systems are intrinsically connected that their growth and development in the human body, from childhood to adulthood, are synchronized and tied with each other. That is why it is a good practice for parents to bring their children for assessment and treatment with an osteopathic specialist. Osteopathy is the medical practice that deals with the assessment and treatment of conditions related to the musculoskeletal system of the body; treatment includes massaging and manipulation of the body’s muscles, joints, bones, tendons, and ligaments. The person who specialises in osteopathy is called an Osteopath.
From birth to its growth, the infant will encounter stresses and trauma that can cause problems and interfere with its normal musculoskeletal development. The trauma of being drawn out of the mother during birth, falls and accidents, and even the rapid growth of the child’s body can all contribute to problems that may hamper the normal development of its bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, and the muscles covering them. In some random situations, the child may incur inflammations and injuries resulting from sports and playing games. Sometimes, musculoskeletal conditions manifest themselves through the child’s bad postural habits.
How the Osteopath Can Help
Children normally have “flexible” bodies. Unlike adults, their bones and joints do not easily break or get misaligned with slight twists and turns. The thing is, and as mentioned above, they are not exempt from encountering traumas and stresses that can cause problematic conditions to their musculoskeletal system. This is where a paediatric osteopath (or an osteopath that has a specialisation with children) can provide assistance and care. The osteopath will work along with the child’s paediatrician and other medical specialists that provides health care to the child.
It is advisable to bring in the child for a general checkup right after a long birthing process, which will include an assessment on the baby’s spine, shoulders and head (the use of forceps and ventouse when the infant is being extracted from the mother can affect the figure and form of the head *). The osteopath can also check if there are restrictions that can prevent the symmetrical development of the bones, joints, and muscles allowing (or disallowing) the baby to perform their initial “milestones” such as crawling, rolling, standing, and eventually walking.
In coordination with the parent[s] and the child’s paediatrician, the osteopath will plan what is best to move forward after the assessment, which includes asking the parent[s] questions, checking of medical history, and physical examinations. The osteopath will know what appropriate treatment the child needs, which may involve cooperation and referral to other health care specialists.
Conditions that have been present right after birth and developmental abnormalities can often still be worked on, and the osteopath can assist on the improvements as the child grows older. As the rest of the body compensates and cooperates with the treatment, the effect on specific areas and body mechanics can be long lasting.
Other Benefits of Osteopathy for Children
Osteopathic treatment can help with the management of the baby’s feeding and digestion; it can assist in the relief of constipation, reflux, indigestion, and perturbed sleeping patterns. Other conditions wherein the osteopath can help with are the following:
- Spine curvature and postural conditions
- Growing pains on the muscles, joints, bones, and feet
- Headache and back pain
- Developmental dysplasia on the hips, or what some call “clicky hips”
- Effects of cerebral palsy
Osteopathic treatments often includes prescription for parents to apply gentle massage to the areas of the child’s body where they can safely work on. The osteopath will also advise parents about nutrition, good postural positioning and exercises that will aid the effects of the treatment.
Osteopathic care is gentle and safe for the baby and the growing child. It uses natural techniques without the involvement of drugs and/or surgery. Its treatments can provide assistance to a child’s development, enabling him/her to easily adjust to the rapid changes occurring with the body during growth.
Osteopathy works well in coordination and cooperation with the other medical specialisations in order to help your child grow and develop healthily. It is recommended to begin the treatment early in order to prevent other problems from occurring.
* The abnormal flattening of the head or on any of its areas is a condition called Plagiocephaly.