Cranial Osteopathy is very much concerned about the balance of the body and this means attention to the spine, certainly, but also extends from the head to the pelvis, limbs and includes the internal organs.
During pregnancy, the early surges of hormones can be very demanding on the new mum-to-be and may result in first trimester fatigue and possible nausea. Subsequent softening of ligaments, through hormonal (relaxin) influence and increasing size of the growing foetus, will alter the mechanics of the body. Pregnancy is, of course, a natural and dynamic process and the female body is designed to adapt accordingly.
The approach taken by the cranial osteopath is to assess and support the body, as it changes, to ensure continuity of health for both mum-to-be and growing baby. For some women, the change of posture from the increasing weight of the baby can create so much tension or increased curvature in the mum’s lower spine, that it causes backpain. Also, the abdominal organs are progressively pushed toward the diaphragm and ribs to provide space for the baby and may result in breathlessness or heartburn. Increasing pressure on the bladder often leads to increased urgency (especially at night) and ligament strain in the pelvis can manifest in SPD or symphysis pubic dysfunction. Osteopathic treatment is geared toward encouraging overall health and specifically to good pelvic balance, release of pressure on the spine and internal organs and ease of movement of the diaphragm and pelvic floor, to allow full engagement for the baby in later stages and optimise a normal labour and delivery.
Ideally, we like to see new babies and mums soon after the birth, as it gives us an invaluable opportunity to provide a check up. We are trained to examine neonates in both a medical context to check muscle tone, primitive reflexes, assess hips for dysplasia and feet for possible talipes (rotated feet), and also consider the conception, pregnancy and birth history to be part of the babies health story. Seeing a new baby, taking it’s history and carrying out an assessment allows the cranial osteopath to ascertain whether, for example, a baby who is very unsettled was affected by a very quick or prolonged delivery, or whether a baby who is struggling to latch on, may have had the cord around it’s neck and affected it’s ability to coordinate sucking and breathing efficiently.
The balance of the head on the neck is of crucial significance to the development of the overall posture of the body and in many cases the position of the baby in the uterus and the stresses placed upon it during the birth can imprint a pattern into which it will grow. One such pattern, that we are seeing more of, is that of the ‘flat head syndrome’ where babies have an asymmetry or ‘plagiocephaly’, which, if left untreated, can go on to manifest into a scoliosis and pelvic torsion.
For osteopaths, if a pattern of compression, asymmetry or postural imbalance is left unchecked, even at a subtle level, the baby’s capacity to meet the normal developmental milestones, such as teething, rolling, sitting, crawling and walking can be compromised.
As primary care practitioners, cranial osteopaths feel that being able to ‘check in’ intermittently throughout a patient’s life will ensure a preventative and proactive approach to health. In addition, if a person can be treated to correct imbalances arising from birth issues, childhood falls, illness, orthodontics, pubertal growth spurts, work strains and accidents, thus promoting health, it can only give the body a better chance of coping with the stresses that are an inevitable part of life.
Rehana Kapadia, Osteopath at Shine Holistic
BSc Hons Ost Med, MSc Paed Ost, ND, BA Hons, MA