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Plagiocephaly (Flat Head Syndrome)

Positional Plagiocephaly refers to the condition characterised by abnormal flattening on the back or on one side of the head. It results from prolonged external pressure to the infant's skull e.g from head turn preference during sleeping.

Since the 1992 Back to Sleep Campaign (where parents were advised to sleep their infants on their back instead of their tummy), the incidence of plagiocephaly has increased from 1 in 300 to 1 in 50 infants. Other causes of plagiocephaly include torticollis (neck tightness), prematurity, difficult birth (forceps, suction) and in-utero flattening often as a result of multiple births. Plagiocephaly is also common in children with colic, reflux and chronic congestion. 

There are three recognised head shapes under the umbrella term Plagiocephaly (Flat Head Syndrome). These are illustrated below and the most common positional head shape is the asymmetrical head shape called Plagiocephaly.

The above images and information have been reproduced with the kind permission

of The London Orthotic Consultancy who own the copywright.

Assessment and Treatment

Catherine will take a detailed history of the infant's birth and development. The infants neck will also be assessed to determine whether there is any restriction or tightness in the neck muscles (torticollis). Head shape is assessed and specific cranial measurements taken to determine severity of plagiocephaly and treatment options will then be discussed.

Treatment options depend on the age of the child at time of assessment and severity of plagiocephaly. It is important to recognise that age wise there is a limited window of opportunity to treat plagiocephaly and therefore early assessment is important; the younger the child the better. 

With the younger child, re-positioning techniques and advice on tummy time and carrying techniques will be discussed. In cases where re-positioning is recommended, a 4 week review is advised to determine whether re-positioning has been effective. If a child presents with moderate to severe plagiocephaly, helmet treatment (orthoses) may be recommended. Catherine is fully trained in treatment of Plagiocephaly using LOCband helmet orthoses. She runs a Plagiocephaly Clinic at the Osborne Clinic, Jesmond specialising in the assessment and treatment of Positional Plagiocephaly using the LOCband (see Plagiocephaly LOCband Clinic).

If a child has been diagnosed with torticollis (neck tightness), a home exercise programme including stretching and developmental exercises will be given to parents. 

Cranio Sacral Therapy

Cranio Sacral Therapy can also help plagiocephaly by addressing head and neck tightness and restrictions within the skull. This therapy can be beneficial to a child being re-positioned and can also compliment helmet treatment.

Please note, Cranio Sacral Therapy is a complementary therapy and not a replacement of medical advice and help. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, please see your doctor.

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