You or your healthcare provider may have noticed that there is a flat part on your baby’s head. Or you may have noticed that your baby only turns their head to one side. The incidence of plagiocephaly has increased in recent years, and parents are increasingly seeking physiotherapy to facilitate in correcting this. So, how does physiotherapy help and how does it fit in with helmet therapy?
Is it Positional Plagiocephaly?
It is relatively common for newborns to have a slightly misshapen head. This can be due to several reasons including the position in the womb or the head position during birth. Positioning after birth also has a significant impact on head shape. In some instances the flat spot can be quite severe. This can, in turn, have an effect on their ear and face symmetry.
A child may also be diagnosed with Torticollis, which also increases the risk of positional plagiocephaly.
A physiotherapist can assess your child and determine whether they require treatment.
Some common craniofacial problems are:
- Plagiocephaly is a term used to describe an asymmetrical head shape, characterised by an asymmetrical flattening caused by repeated external pressure.
- Brachycephaly refers to a condition where the head is disproportionally wide compared to its depth.
- Scaphocephaly describes a disproportionately long and narrow shaped head.
- Craniosynostosis may present with an asymmetrical head shape, however this is caused by premature fusion of one or more of the skull sutures.
What do I do if I’m concerned?
You do not need a referral if you are concerned and would like an assessment. Early detection and treatment is important, and bringing in your child before 4 months is ideal.
Our physiotherapists will do a thorough assessment of your baby to provide an accurate diagnosis.
This will include questions about your pregnancy, the birth and post-natal positions, for example day and overnight sleeping habits.
This is followed by a physical examination where the physiotherapist will carefully assess your baby’s head shape, fontanelles, neck muscles and development. They will discuss with you your baby’s diagnosis, prognosis, goals and treatment plan with you.
At our Stepping Forward Clinic, we use a craniometer to measure the severity of your baby’s head asymmetry. Re-measurements are performed to track improvements in head shape.
What is the Treatment?
Babies’ heads are relatively malleable. With early detection and the right treatment, prognosis is good. There are many factors which may affect the outcome of treatment, as each baby is different, so it’s best to discuss this with your physiotherapist.
Physiotherapists’ treatment for misshapen heads involves deliberate positioning of the baby’s head. It may include a program of stretching and strengthening of the neck and postural muscles. Your physiotherapist will teach you how to do this at home. This includes (but is not restricted to) adapting your feeding, changing and carrying positions, giving your baby ‘tummy time’, setting up your baby’s environment appropriately and varying their sleeping positions.
Treatment is best done under the guidance of a trained physiotherapist. If you are concerned you can book in or speak with us directly.
In severe cases, our physiotherapists can refer you onto a specialist orthotist for helmet therapy, to be used in conjunction with physiotherapy.