An historical osteopathic saying, concerning children’s development, from its founder Dr Andrew Taylor Still is: “As the twig is bent so shall the tree incline.” …suggesting early problems of growth and development may lead to longer-term postural problems or broader health issues. These may affect movement, breathing, digestion, recurrent infections and overall development.
I have been treating children throughout my practice life over the past 38 years. I also study and teach extensively in the area of osteopathic paediatric care.
Why Osteopathy For Your Child?
Children are often brought in, to be assessed for difficulties in transitioning through their phases of motor development; such as checking on the progress of a baby’s early movements; rolling, crawling, cruising and walking; or a toddler’s & pre schooler’s foot positions when walking.
Osteopathic assessment will evaluate a child’s physical and neurological ability to perform these movements. Sometimes simple advice on positioning and exercise can assist or specific hands on osteopathic care will help to enhance mobility.
Frequent presentations into the clinic include:
- Delayed crawling or walking
- Hip pain
- “Growing pains”
- Concerns about spinal curves, asymmetry of shoulder blades or hips
- Concerns about Foot Position: toe walking and in-toeing
- Asymmetries of limb movement, bow legs or knock knees
- Abdominal or Thoracic Pain
- Developmental Delay both specific and global
- Speech & Hearing problems
- Learning difficulties & Behavioural issues
I take a thorough history, including details of the child’s pregnancy, birth and early development, plus details of any illnesses, accidents and surgeries; relevant family history; allergies and endocrine or autoimmune problems; and any other significant details; these all help to evaluate the child’s presentation and health.
This is followed by a physical examination to assess the overall posture and mobility plus more specific muscle or joint issues. The evaluation will engage the parent and child to keep everyone informed and feeling comfortable about the assessments. I will perform age appropriate orthopaedic and neurological assessments and examine other systems such as breathing, ears and throat as required.
I will discuss my findings with you in depth. I may refer for imaging if indicated or evaluation from other health care providers. I will make an initial diagnosis, and offer suggestions about the suitability for osteopathic care and discuss a treatment plan with the parents and child.
Exercise & Play
I will also suggest positioning, handling and play ideas to help on a daily basis within the family setting. Making recommendations about exercise and sport to either prevent further injury or to enhance development or recovery.
Many families consult me through word of mouth recommendations of friends, family or other parents.
I receive many referrals from other practitioners within my own profession and others to assess a child.
You do not need to be referred by a GP but we will involve other health care providers where appropriate. I will always refer to a paediatrician when indicated.
I frequently work alongside other health practitioners to enhance a child’s health & development.
Common Childhood Events
Falls and other traumas can cause difficulties with pain, movement and behaviour.
If your child has had a fall and you observe changes in their movement or they become more irritable or subdued an osteopathic evaluation can help to assess the injury.
Children are very good at bouncing back from minor injuries but longer-term restrictions can affect their growth and ability to perform various physical activities. Osteopathic assessment can check for changes in joint mobility and gentle treatment can help to prevent difficulties with growth.
NB if you child has altered consciousness, difficulty breathing, is bleeding badly, has altered eye movement, vomiting, head pain or becomes excessively sleepy after a fall GO TO A&E immediately.
Hearing, Vision & Teeth
Early problems with hearing and vision are often associated with postural changes. Your child may adjust their head and neck position to help them see or hear more clearly, which can have an overall effect on the spine’s growth and movement. Osteopathic evaluation can help to assess the need for intervention of other specialties such as functional optometry or speech pathology and auditory testing.
Similarly jaw and palate development can influence tongue and jaw position, which in turn relates to overall posture. I work alongside speech therapists, orthodontists and oromyologists to affect facial growth, breathing and head / neck positioning.
Osteopathic care may help to alleviate the structural adaptations and restore better body position.
The repetitive poor posture of electronic games, the structural demands of carrying heavy school bags, injuries in sport, positions adopted for playing musical instruments, stresses from repetitive movements of dance and gymnastics are just some of the issues which contribute to the physical demands on growing bodies.
Encouraging good postural habits early can be invaluable in preventing long-term problems as well as helping more immediate pain.
Signs To Look Out For:
- Asymmetries of the spine
- Differences in shoulder height
- Uneven position of the shoulder blades or rib cage
- Fixed tilting of the head and neck to one side
- Tripping over their own feet
- Uneven wear of shoes
- Pain in joints after activity
- Recurrent clicking of joints and repetitive stretching to alleviate discomfort
Each age group has its own particular problems.
I will be able to advise you about what is age appropriate and what might need some attention at each age.
Toddlers & Pre-Schoolers
- For example feet turned out and knees apart is normal at 18 -24 months; by four we would expect to be seeing a more balanced foot position, a less wide leg stance and a soft curve in the lower back.
- Children in years 1 – 6 may have growing pains in their shins at night, which can be helped with some very simple interventions.
- Night-time hip pain, however, needs to be evaluated for a range of possible conditions at this age.
- This age group frequently has falls, sprains and fractures as they increasingly explore the world and their physical abilities. Osteopathy can help them recover from injury and is particularly helpful when the child has discomfort, altered mobility or changed energy levels.
NB Acute injuries should often be assessed at the emergency department where testing can rule out more serious injury.
- Teenagers undergo rapid growth phases, which can cause important changes of their spinal structure.
- The demands on them from prolonged study, carrying heavy bags and the emotional stresses of adolescence can all contribute to postural changes.
- The rapid growth of their vertebrae under the influence of hormones can have life long impacts on their bodies perhaps causing more severe spinal curvature or scoliosis.
- Teenagers also experience local issues of knees, hips and ankles from growth and sports injuries. Checking joint alignment and mobility can help to prevent discomfort and deterioration of these.
- There are a number of autoimmune conditions, which affect adolescents. Osteopathy, alongside their care from rheumatologists and orthopaedic consultants, can be of great help to enhance their mobility & strength to help them manage through periods of acute inflammation.
If you would like to know more about the care of children or have specific questions about your child’s posture, movement or symptoms of discomfort, I would be happy to discuss this with you.
SMS: 0417 682 912
We can then arrange a time to speak