Plagiocephaly

Updated: Feb 20


baby misshapen head plagiocephaly flat head infant


Plagiocephaly is a flattening or asymmetry of the infant’s head.


Plagiocephaly can be caused by the fetal position in utero or even during the birthing process, especially where birthing interventions are used (e.g. vacuum or forceps). However, there has been a staggering increase in number of reported children affected by plagiocephaly since the “Back to Sleep” campaign, brought in the year 1992, to reduce the incidence of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).


In one study, the incidence of reported plagiocephaly increased sixfold, coincidentally after the “Back to Sleep” campaign (1.). Hence, children were given less tummy time and were placed on their backs to sleep throughout the night, some resulting in a plagiocephalic head shape.


More than often, plagiocephaly is also the cause of reduced neck movement and range of motion. Reduced neck motion can cause baby to develop a preference for one side.


Plagiocephaly can appear as:

  • Misshapen/flat head

  • Facial asymmetries

  • One side of face may be more prominent

  • Ear on one side may be pushed forward

  • Preference for turning to one side - Reduced neck movement

Many studies have shown that plagiocephaly can have dramatic consequences later on in a child’s development:

  • Delays in early milestones (2.) e.g. delayed crawling, delayed walking etc.

  • Delayed auditory response (3.)

  • Increased incidence of ear infections (4.)

  • Neurodevelopment delays (5.)(6.) e.g. language disorders, learning disabilities etc.

  • Visual field problems (7.)

  • Torticollis (2.)(8.)

When plagiocephaly affects the way baby turns their neck and develops a side preference, it may also affect a baby's ability to latch and breastfeed. This may appear as fussiness on one side but not the other during breastfeeding, or may even cause a weak or improper latch, making breastfeeding difficult.


A baby may prefer rolling to only one side and have difficulty rolling to the other.



plagiocephaly misshapen head flat head baby
Image courtesy of http://www.therapiesforkids.com.au/conditions/plagiocephaly-and-torticollis/

CHIROPRACTIC

Chiropractic care can help infants with plagiocephaly through cranial work, sutural work, low-force adjustments, in addition to home care and exercises prescribed by Dr Melissa.


As a chiropractor we regularly assess and check for neck movement and range of motion and the effects it has on the rest of the body. Chiropractors can restore full range of movement in the neck and spine and reduce stress and interference in baby's nervous system. Chiropractic care for babies includes:

  • Dural release

  • Stretches

  • Cranial therapy

  • Take home exercises and activities


As a chiropractor with a special interest in children's development, I love seeing children thrive and reach their full potential. If you are looking for a chiropractic assessment, TLC or answers to YOUR questions, book yourself and your baby for an appointment. Contact us.


References:

1. Kane AA, Mitchell LE, Craven KP, et al. Observations on a recent increase in plagiocephaly without synostosis. Pediatrics 1996; 97:877–885.

2. Öhman A, Nilsson S. Are infants with torticollis at risk of a delay in early motor milestones compared with a control group of healthy infants?  Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 2009; pp.545-551.

3. Balan P, Kushnerenko E. Auditory ERPs reveal brain dysfunction in infants with plagiocephaly. Journal of Craniofacial Surgery, 2002 Jul; 13(4), pp.520-525

4. Purzycki A, Thompson E. Incidence of otitis media in children with deformational plagiocephaly. Journal of Craniofacial Surgery, 2009 Sep; 20(5), pp.1407-1411.

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