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New Research on Sheds Light on Skull Deformity in Infants

Plagiocephaly – FACTS

Deformational plagiocephaly is when a baby develops a lasting flat spot on one side the head or the back of the head. There can be many causes including birth trauma. It can also happen when a baby sleeps in the same position most of the time or because of problems with the neck muscles. This condition is also called flat head syndrome.

When a baby’s head stays in one position for long periods of time, the skull flattens. Sometimes a baby is born with this flattening because of a tight space in the uterus. This might happen if there is more than one baby. Muscular torticollis, can also cause deformational plagiocephaly. Muscular torticollis is a problem where one or more of the neck muscles is very tight. This tightness keeps the baby’s head in the same position.

Chiropractors work with the alignment and movement of the bones that make up the spine and because of the relationship between the spine, nerves and muscles they can effect the head.

A number of sources suggest there is a link between plagiocephaly and the birth process. Possible proposed reasons for such a link include: small maternal pelvis, multiple births, breech position, oligohydramnios, male sex of the fetus, gestational diabetes, nulliparity in the mother, high birth weight, large neonatal head size, vaginal delivery, prolonged length of post delivery hospital stay and prolonged duration of stage 2 labor.

The scientific literature shows numerous studies reporting positive changes or resolution of plagiocephaly in infants while they were under regular chiropractic care using a variety of chiropractic techniques. Most reported assessment and correction specifically of vertebral subluxation.

Spinal distortions, termed subluxations by chiropractors, result in structural and neurological interference to the spine and nerve system and chiropractors correct or reduce this interference through gentle and specific adjustments.

Chiropractic Helps Three Infants with Flat Heads

The three 2.5 month-old infants in this study had all been experiencing plagiocephaly. Each of their heads were flat which concerned their parents to seek treatment. One infant had noticeably uneven head growth. The second infant had a flat head in addition to obvious muscle imbalance, restricting motion. The last infant had failure to thrive, muscle imbalance, vomiting, and inability to latch to breast feed.

The chiropractor evaluated each of them to determine the degree of plagiocephaly. During each examination, areas of tight muscles, altered posture, and structural shifts were noted. These structural shifts can lead to obstruction of the nerves and it is this obstruction, called vertebral subluxations, that chiropractors correct.

Following chiropractic adjustments, each infant improved and symptoms subsided.

The study’s author called for additional research to investigate the clinical implications of chiropractic in this population.

Reference: Improvement of Plagiocephaly in Three Infants Following Subluxation Based Chiropractic Care: A Case Series. Nikki Hirshowitz, DC & Shayla Swenson, ATC. Journal of Pediatric, Maternal & Family Health, Chiropractic ~ Volume, 2019.

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