Osteopathy for Children
Because of the wide variety of techniques available to Osteopaths, and the gentle and non-invasive nature of many Osteopathic methods, Osteopathy has shown itself over the years to be very suited to the treatment of children. Many Osteopathic schools all over the world run children's clinics, and in Australia there are a number of Osteopaths who have completed Masters degree courses in paediatric Osteopathy. Many people might not immediately think of children as needing Osteopathic treatment, but Osteopathy can benefit children at all three major stages of their development.
Even in the very earliest days of life, Osteopathy can have benefits. "Cranial" Osteopathic techniques, involving very light and gentle mobilisation of the individual skull bones, are used in cases such as those involving compression moulding of the skull due to birth trauma or forceps compression. "Cranial" techniques can be applied not just to the skull, but also throughout the body, and gentle work to release tensions in the gut can be of great value in the treatment of disorders such as infant colic and frequent or projectile vomiting. Disturbed sleep patterns may also respond well to treatment - indeed babies are often known to fall asleep during cranial treatments! Further research is required to establish the efficacy of Osteopathy in other infant conditions, but a number of interesting results have been reported.
From Toddler to Puberty
Generally, kids are very supple and resilient, but playground falls, bangs on the head, and rollerblade and bicycle accidents all take their toll. If children complain of persistent pains in joints and muscles with no obvious cause, a visit to the Osteopath may be indicated. Treatment for children of this age again uses the most gentle and non-invasive techniques such as cranial work, functional, counterstrain and light soft tissue techniques.
Manipulation is generally not used with younger children. Osteopathy may also be of value, when used in conjunction with appropriate medical management, in helping to improve respiratory function in asthmatic children. In this age range, Osteopaths can also provide valuable advice on the choice of pushers, car safety seats, foot wear etc., in order to reduce the risk of future problems.
During the rapid growth phase around puberty and in the early teens, many developmental problems can begin to manifest themselves in the musculo-skeletal structure, such as the onset of juvenile scoliosis (lateral curvature of the spine.) The changes in ligaments that accompany rapid growth can also contribute to a degree of joint instability. Add into this the typical effects of strain injuries from high impact or high risk sports, and the development, in the teens, of postural bad habits, and you can easily see why many adult musculo-skeletal problems have their origin in the teenage years.
Osteopathic treatment during this time therefore has two functions - helping to give immediate relief for injuries, aches and pains, but also helping to ensure, by careful monitoring, that juvenile development is not impaired, and that problems are not "stored up" for the future. In addition to the techniques used with younger children, low force manipulations may be used with the older age groups if they are appropriate and can be safely used.
Osteopathy - Treatment for the Whole Family
Just as people have a family Doctor, who may care for children throughout their growth and development, so too do many people have a family Osteopath. Osteopathic checking and monitoring of childhood development is one of the best ways of reducing the risk of musculo-skeletal and other problems going undetected and causing difficulties later in life. Prevention is always better than cure, and Osteopathic treatment for children can play just as big a part as dental and eye checks in maintaining the exuberant good health that should be an integral part of growing up.