Paediatric osteopathy is based on the principle that all ailments – whether minor or serious – are a result of an imbalance somewhere in the network of the body’s systems.
After making a diagnosis, following a full medical history and examination, a paediatric osteopath will use refined and subtle manual techniques to bring about profound changes within a child’s body through gentle manipulation.
This will allow the musculoskeletal system, the gastrointestinal tract, the nervous system, the immune system and the circulatory system to work effectively and optimally. The treatment uses no drugs, and is non-invasive.
Let’s take a look at an example. Imagine your child is diagnosed with a chest infection. The surrounding anatomy plays a role in respiratory function and altered respiratory mechanics can contribute to tissue congestion and decreased clearance. It can also lead to altered ventilation, increased energy expenditure and altered lymphatic circulatory function.
Osteopathic reduction of facial connective tissue tensions and correction of alignment and motion of the joints will allow normal physiological function of the underlying anatomy.
The small amounts of movement that exist in the infant skull permit a baby’s head to adapt to the forces of labour.
However, when birth is complicated by being unduly slow or fast, or when other complications occur (such as the need for forceps delivery), the infant head may not fully recover from the distortion. This may result in subtle changes in function, leading to problems such as feeding difficulties, colic and disturbed sleeping patterns.
The gentle, skilful application of osteopathic treatment by an osteopath experienced in treating babies can often bring about a significant improvement in these distressing cases and is increasingly being considered as a treatment of choice for some conditions caused by difficult or traumatic birth.
As children grow older problems may become apparent which may have arisen because of earlier strains or as a result of trauma such as knocks on the head or falls.
Recurrent infection in the nose and ears (glue ear) may be due in part to restrictions in the small yet important movements between the various bones of the growing skull.
Many osteopaths experienced in this field also consider that mechanical stresses on the body can be an important factor in cases of development delay such as delayed speech, educational difficulties and problems with co-ordination and physical development that have no particular medical diagnosis.
Such children often make better progress once osteopathic treatment has been started.
As young people grow, the body frame undergoes a number of changes. Osteopaths can help the body framework to adjust to the postural demands made on it.
This may simply be due to lack of adaptation to a slightly exaggerated spinal curve or to mechanical changes that occur in conditions such as osteochondritis. If these minor problems are left undiagnosed and untreated, they may lead to problems later in life.
By analysing, treating and managing problems associated with growth, osteopaths can make an important contribution to ensuring that young people become, and stay, fit and healthy.
To add to this, teenagers often take part in many sporting and recreational activities, which carry the risk of sprains and strains. Skilful diagnosis and treatment by the osteopath can prevent problems from developing and allow the body’s framework to heal naturally and adjust to the stresses and strains.
- (Dr Guy Ashburner, July 2007)
About the author: Dr Guy Ashburner is a graduate of the British School of Osteopathy in the United Kingdom. He completed a post-graduate diploma in paediatric osteopathy at The Osteopathic Centre for Children, London – a registered charity originally funded by Princess Diana – where he also worked as clinic tutor and osteopath. He recently emigrated from the United Kingdom to Cape Town, South Africa.
Dr Guy Ashburner BSc(Hons) Ost(U.K), D.P.O.
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