Beyond the Helmet
Many parents of children with asymmetrical skulls (plagiocephaly) or torticollis become understandably concerned about their child’s well-being. Currently, most parents understand their options to be home care, surgery, physical therapy, or helmet therapy - or some combination thereof. As with any problem, the first step in determining a solution is to understand what is causing the problem. There are a variety of things that can affect skull symmetry. If skull symmetry is being disrupted by a developmental defect such as craniosynostosis, a condition where the sutures of the skull prematurely fuse together, often surgery is the only option to prevent long-term discomfort and loss of function. Often times though, skull asymmetry is influenced by your baby’s positioning - even during pregnancy. When this is the case, structural chiropractic care may be indicated. How does it work? As you’ll recall, structural chiropractic care does not "turn babies" in utero. However, when we restore your pelvic alignment to a normal state during pregnancy and eliminate structural dysfunction, this reduces torsion on the uterus and may allow your baby to maneuver into the proper position more easily. After delivery, sometimes you may notice that your baby prefers to lie with their head turned or tilted to one side. This can often be due to minor structural dysfunctions in the upper neck that make it difficult or even painful for your baby to turn or tilt their head to the opposite side. Left uncorrected, this may cause your baby to have difficulty nursing from one side - which can result in your milk supply being lower on that side. This dysfunction may even contribute to delayed or asymmetrical milestone acquisition. For example, you may notice that your baby only rolls to one side or only reaches to grasp with one hand. These structural dysfunctions that may contribute to positional plagiocephaly might not be isolated to the upper neck. There is connective tissue called meninges that wrap around the brain and spinal cord and extend from the skull all the way down to the tailbone, attaching to some of the bones of the spinal column on the way down. This tissue is very thin but very strong - picture industrial cling wrap. Any structural shift or dysfunction along this pathway may affect this connective tissue lining and affect the alignment of the bones of the skull.
Understanding the anatomy of these dysfunctions helps us to understand why, in some cases, helmet therapy only temporarily corrects the shape of the child’s skull. Even in cases where the child’s skull retains the corrected shape after graduating from helmet therapy, many of these children still suffer from secondary conditions related to structural shift such as difficulty sleeping, asymmetrical crawling patterns, and toe walking.
If you’re concerned by the shape of your child’s head, experiencing nursing difficulties, or notice that their head is consistently tilted or turned to one side in their crib or carseat, make an appointment with us to examine your child. During the examination we will evaluate not only for structural shift but also for conditions that may require referral to your pediatrician for surgical intervention. Once we determine exactly what is contributing to your child’s condition, we can go about creating a plan to resolve it, whether that’s a referral to another provider or an initial phase of care in our structural correction program at our clinic. To obtain more information about what we do and how we may be able to help you, book a complimentary consultation for your child today.