Infant torticollis | stiff neck in babies
We have seen many babies with torticolli/stiff neck. It is a very easy condition to treat with Osteopathy (the earlier the easier). But if not treated it can lead to dramatic situations.
Techniques used during baby’s treatment
This photo is not a baby with torticolli. However, it illustrates one very important technique we use during baby’s treatments. You might ask yourself why we need to put our finger in the baby’s mouth.
First of all, it allows us to control the quality of suction. Then with a finger in the mouth, we can access directly to the bones of the palate to reshape it (if needed). These bones (palatin, vomer, superior maxillar, lower maxillar) are directly linked with the rest of the skull. They are a perfect referral point to work from, with the other hand on the occipital bone or the skull in general or the membrane that protects the brain ! Dura mater : meninges which is attached from the skull to the sacrum/coccyx ! How important is this structure ! You easily understand the impact that can have a vacuum or forceps or a c-section while the baby is already engaged on the whole body through this unique elastic that represents the meninges.
Also we can control and work on the development of the future teeth, gum and tongue. The tongue is a very important muscle that will influence the balance of the neck. It is also influenced by the balance of the neck due to its complex attaches and links with the cervical bones and all the soft structures around. Indeed, oesophagus, stomach and trachea-lungs are being part of it which can explain reflux.
By logic, a torticolli will lead to a flat head/plagiocephalia and finally scoliosis.
How osteopathy can help with infant torticollis?
Most of the muscles of the neck are attached on the first ribs as well as the occipital bone. So working on the neck is a complete non-sense. With Osteopathy, since we work on the cause (the balance of the bones), usually a baby that doesn’t turn his head will do it right after the 1st session. After 2-3 sessions, most cases will be fine. When there is a flat head, it means the processes of deformation have been going on for a certain time. Even though we give back the head movement quickly (1-2 sessions usually), reversing the processes of the head shape will take more time. Remember that older is the baby, more difficult it is, even impossible after the ossification process is already well engaged.
We have seen kids that have been through surgery to cut the muscles of the neck (SCOM) lo release the tension ! Surgery is totally unnecessary when it can be fixed within few sessions with gentle manipulations !
It doesn’t make sense to ride your bike while the wheel is twisted. You make sure the wheel is perfectly straight first (Osteopathy). Then you make a control/test drive (Physio), and then you go out on the road. Would you do the test drive prior to repairing the wheel ?
The muscle is rarely the primers cause, it is usually the last structure that will react. Muscles are mostly (to make it simple) an elastic tensed between two structures. The position of the structures will determine the tension of the elastic, rarely the opposite (I say rarely because it can happen).
Imagine the constraint that will be imposed to the baby skull and body by forceps-vacuum-long birth-short birth, etc. If the structures that compose the frame are printed with a tension or deformation, the body had no other choice that adapt around it.
Here is the secret of the efficiency of Osteopathy: understanding the physiology of a problem linked to a mechanical trouble and treating the cause of it.
When the body is free, it doesn’t take much time for the motion to recover. It is usually quick. This is why you see fast results with Osteopathy, even more with young babies that are so easy to work on. It is really important to understand that with osteopathic techniques we can change the shape as long as we have gap for it.
We recommend, in prevention and to ensure we don’t miss any imbalance, to systematically bring your baby to your favourite Osteopath immediately after birth (the earlier, the better). If some imbalances exist, they won’t have time to get printed deeper in the body of we treat them early.
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About the author
Nicolas Romulus Grimaldi is the founder of ONE OSTEO. He graduated in 2007 after 6 years of full-time studies at ATMAN, one of the oldest French osteopathic colleges. Nicolas Grimaldi was born in Africa, raised in the Caribbean island of St. Martin. Through his life and travels, he has developed a thirst for adventure.Learn more about Nicolas