Cranial Osteopathy For Baby: Does It Really Work?

Cranial osteopathy is a treatment that involves diagnosing strain patterns in the musculoskeletal system of the spine and skull. Gentle manual manipulation techniques are then used to release the strain (1). It is based on the principle that babies are subjected to stress during birth. It could be the root cause of restlessness and excessive crying.

A professional osteopath usually performs this technique. Cranial osteopathy may be used as an adjuvant treatment to manage sucking dysfunctions, clubfoot complications, colic, and regurgitation in babies (2).

However, there is little scientific research on the effectiveness of this alternative treatment option. Also, this treatment can be risky for babies with unfused skulls. Here is a post on the research conducted on cranial osteopathy’s efficiency in babies and its possible benefits.

Is Cranial Osteopathy Safe For Babies?

Cranial osteopathy involves the use of pressure on the skull. Therefore, applying it on babies who are preterm or with unfused skull bones should be done carefully.

Research suggests that the NE-O (the osteopathic model in neonatology) procedure of osteopathy is said to be developed to adopt safe techniques for neonates. Indirect pressures are applied since they are considered to increase the safety and effectiveness of the treatment. However, due to the lack of standardized osteopathic procedures in neonatology, the NE-O model cannot be compared with any pre-existing model.

The safety of cranial osteopathy ultimately depends on the baby’s health and the skill of the osteopath. Since there is little information on its safety and efficacy, it is best to talk to your pediatrician and employ a professionally trained osteopath to treat your baby (2).

When Can Babies Get Cranial Osteopathy?

Cranial osteopathy could be tried once the baby is a few days old. It is based on the belief that babies are subjected to a lot of stress and compressions during the birthing process. Some babies will be able to cope with this stress, which eventually fades out. However, in some babies, this accumulated stress may cause issues such as excessive crying, colic, restlessness, and inability to fall asleep. Thus, the use of osteopathic techniques could relieve the stress in newborns.

Benefits Of Cranial Osteopathy For Babies

Although there is inadequate scientific evidence to prove its effectiveness, anecdotal evidence suggests that cranial osteopathy could help babies in many ways. The goal of cranial osteopathy is to remove the residual tension left in the body during pregnancy or birth, letting the baby relax and sleep or feed well.

Some benefits of cranial osteopathy for babies may include the following.

  • Improving latching or suckling problems
  • Treating torticollis and plagiocephaly
  • Reducing symptoms of gastrointestinal reflux and colic
  • Improving ear infections
  • Removing the stress of difficult and traumatic births
  • Improving breathing skills, especially in case of asthma
  • Reducing excessive crying
  • Improving sleep

There are a few studies to prove the effectiveness of cranial osteopathy. A study found that infants receiving osteopathic manipulative treatment showed significant improvement in their LATCH score compared to infants in the control group (3). Another study noted that cranial osteopathic treatment reduced the crying time when compared to the control group (1).

However, studies on cranial osteopathy usually have limitations, such as low sample size and researcher bias. Therefore, more extensive research is needed to estimate the benefits of this technique for babies.

Side Effects Of Cranial Osteopathy

Cranial osteopathy is relatively safe if performed by a trained professional. However, the treatment technique may be a bit uncomfortable for some babies, and they may cry during the treatment.

It is best to avoid this treatment technique for babies with cerebral hemorrhages, recent skull fractures, bleeding in the brain, tumors, or open wounds. It is important to talk to both a pediatrician and osteopath about your baby’s medical history before initiating the osteopathic procedure.

Osteopath Vs. Chiropractor

A chiropractor is a medical professional who treats the spine, muscles, and joint pains. In the United States, they need to obtain a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. A chiropractor usually performs high-speed manipulations.

Osteopaths, on the other hand, are licensed doctors who specialize in osteopathic manipulative medicine. They need to attend four years of medical school and pass a licensing exam. An osteopath usually works on fixing bone and muscular pain. Sometimes, they may also work on the digestive and circulatory systems.

The two are different fields requiring different qualifications. It is essential to check the degree and other certifications of the professional to determine if they are an osteopath or a chiropractor.

When To See The Doctor?

Cranial osteopathy is an adjunctive treatment and must never replace a pediatrician’s treatment. If your baby is born preterm or has any ailments, it is best to talk to your pediatrician. Also, if your baby’s symptoms seem to worsen, then it is imperative to book an appointment with your pediatrician.

Cranial osteopathy could be a good additional treatment for your baby if they experience colic, restlessness, or poor sleep. However, it is important to discuss it with your pediatrician and find a trained professional. It is best to pick an osteopath experienced with treating babies for the best results.


MomJunction’s health articles are written after analyzing various scientific reports and assertions from expert authors and institutions. Our references (citations) consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.

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