Flat Head Syndrome / Plagiocephaly

Over the last 10 years we have seen the number or babies with flat heads increasing. Many paediatricians, lactation consultants, and GP’s are referring babies with flat head syndrome, or restricted neck movement for our team of specialised osteopaths to assess and treat.

Assessment of flat head syndrome is important: the earlier the better. Early diagnosis reduces the osteopathic treatment that will be needed and the amount of exercises required. A baby can be assessed from birth. If there is restricted neck movement it can be treated immediately. Babies’ heads are soft. If a baby lies in the same position it will develop flat head syndrome. If there is a muscular restriction in the neck, the baby will always lie to the same side and may not feed the same on both breasts.


flat head syndrome/Plagiocephaly

Signs that your baby may have Plagiocephaly:

  • Baby only lies to one side when asleep and awake
  • Your baby’s head is tilted upwards when lying to the side
  • On turning the baby’s head side to side, the shoulder lifts
  • When your baby is on its stomach the body goes into a banana shape
  • Your baby may also have feeding issues as latching or sucking can be a problem
  • Your baby may have a preference to use one hand

If you notice one or more of these signs, we advise an initial one hour consultation, which would include an assessment of:

  • limitations in neck movement
  • the flatness of your baby’s head
  • other issues such as colic, tongue-tie and any spinal issues which can develop from inter-uterine compression.

The initial hour also involves treatment positioning advice and provides individualised specialised exercises for you to do at home with your baby.

In cases where further treatment for Plagiocephaly is required, we would provide a letter of diagnosis and treatment plan to your GP and/or paediatrician.

Initial treatment (2-3 weeks) aims to increase cervical spine rotation movement as quickly as possible, this prevents further flatness developing as the baby starts to move its neck and so does not always lie on the same side. Treatment includes gentle structural techniques, stretching and articulation of the neck as well as cranial techniques.

Further postural advice at this stage would be given to carers.

Over the first 2-3 weeks, two appointments per week are typical. Attendance at clinic will reduce progressively after that.

Intermediate treatment for flat head syndrome follows until the baby is sitting and occipital ridge is protruding. This would involve side bending exercises and strengthening exercises as well as more advanced hands-on techniques, through the head, face, spine and pelvis if required.

Finally longer term treatment for Plagiocephaly would ensure neck musculature does not tighten up and prevent a scoliosis developing.

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