Dr. Stephanie Willis B.App.Sc.(Clin.Sc)/B.Chiro.Sc., DICCP, CCWP
You may have noticed that some young babies have heads that aren’t exactly round; you may even have noticed it in your own baby. This common condition called plagiocephaly (plagio=oblique, cephal=head) and it occurs when the cranial system in a baby isn’t working properly. It can appear as a flat spot in some babies, or sometimes as a distortion through a baby’s whole head. A baby’s body is made mostly of membranes and cartilage, and is very pliable. The skull of a baby is basically a membrane, covered with bones that are not yet thick enough to protect the brain the way that an adult skull does. This makes it very easy for a baby’s head to become mis-shapen, especially if there has been trauma, or if there is a torticollis present (twisted neck).
While the cause of plagiocephaly remains largely unknown, there are a few things that may contribute such as birth trauma or not enough tummy time. All parents should be aware that a plagiocephaly isn’t just about having a baby with a funny shaped head. Plagiocephaly has been found to cause developmental delay in children according to several sources. (1, 2, 3)
There are many different kinds of plagiocephaly, and they are classified by the shape of the head with the deformity. Plagiocephaly needs to be assessed by someone who knows exactly what to do. Chiropractors with special pediatric training are a good place to start. Chiropractic has been shown to help babies with plagiocephaly (4), and if there is a problem that needs to be dealt with by a medical doctor (for example, if the sutures actually fuse, rather that get jammed, even though it’s very rare, it is a medical emergency that needs to be dealt with immediately), a chiropractor with postgraduate training in pediatrics will know what to do.
To find a chiropractor who is trained to deal with plagiocephaly please go to http://www.icapediatrics.com/members-referral.phpand type in your location. There are chiropractors trained in pediatrics near you.
Hutchison BL, Stewart AW, Mitchell EA. Deformationalplagiocephaly: a follow-up of head shape, parental concern and neurodevelopment at ages 3 and 4 years. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2011;96:1 85-90Published Online First: 29/09/2010
Van Neil, C. Infants with Plagiocephaly Are at Risk for Developmental Delays as Toddlers. Journal watch Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. 2011 [1538-3571] Van Niel, Cornelius
Hutchison BL, Stewart AW, de Chalain T, Mitchell EA. Serial developmental assessments in infants with deformational plagiocephaly. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 2012; 2012: 48(3);274–278
Leighton JM. Non-synostotic deformational plagiocephaly: An evidence-based case report. Clinical Chiropractic, Dec 2008; 11(4):211–218
Labour is an incredible time; babies are born, mothers are born, and families are created. But let’s not forget the hard work that takes place! Most parents wish for a complication-free natural birth, and there are a few things you can do to make the experience better for everyone!
1. Have chiropractic care during your pregnancy.
In a study by Vallone and Fallon in 1991, chiropractic care was found to decrease labour times by up to 33%, as well as the need for pain relief. The reason why this happens is thought to be because of the increased flexibility in the tissues and joints of the pelvis and low back from chiropractic care. It is also thought that the improved function in the nervous system from chiropractic care allows the body to better coordinate all of the special events that take place during the birth of a baby. Keep in mind that this is a theory, and there is no conclusive evidence to support this last point.
2. Get the bed out of the labour room!
Several studies in recent years have shown that women who have active labours in both the first and second stages of labour have favourable birth outcomes. One study (Gardosi et al, 1989) showed that women who squatted during the second stage of labour had shorter second stage labour, had decreased forceps usage, and had decreased perineal tearing. Another study (Diaz et al, 1980) showed that remaining in an upright position during the first stage of labour resulted in 25% shorter duration of stage one labour when compared with the control group. All the more reason to keep active during labour!
3. Have your partner perform sacral traction during stage 1 of labour.
This is a really easy technique that gets dad/your partner (or your birth assistant/doula) involved, and has been reported by friends of mine (not very scientific, I know, but suspend your disbelief) to reduce the pain of labour by up to 30%. It is easy to perform and can be done in any position – sitting, standing, squatting or laying on the side. Have your partner or birth assistant place the heel of their hand on the top of the sacrum (in the centre along an imaginary line between the dimples in the low back, just above the bottom – where the picture is labelled “S2”) and push downwards towards the floor/feet, rather than forwards into the body. You will know when your partner/assistant is doing this correctly because it will feel fantastic!
1. A.G. Díaz, R. Schwarcz R. Fescina R. Caldeyro-Barcia Vertical position during the first stage of the course of labor, and neonatal outcomes European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology 11(1):1-7, Sept 1980
2. J. Gardosi, S. Sylvester, C. B-Lynch Alternative positions in the second stage of labour: a randomized controlled trial BJOG 96(11):1290-96 Nov 1989
As a chiropractor who has extensive postgraduate training in pediatrics and pregnancy, I have seen and heard every possible response to the question “will you be taking your baby to a chiropractor once it’s born?”. Some parents respond by instinctively covering their bellies, crossing their legs and looking at me in horror, saying “why on earth would I do that?” Others smile and say “oh yes, I was going to talk to you about that”. Some parents bring in their children just for a checkup, and others come in seeking a solution to a specific problem. But one thing is clear: most parents don’t understand the benefits of taking a newborn to a chiropractor. I’m going to explain some of the reasons why chiropractors want to get their hands on babies as soon as possible!
The birthing process, although necessary, can be really hard on a baby’s spine and nervous system. Please remember that birth is an absolutely normal and natural process, and there are reasons why vaginal birth is beneficial for both mother and child. For example, when baby’s head passes through the vaginal canal, the cranial bones actually telescope over one another, decreasing the size of the baby’s head, but also pushing all of the fluid out of the cranial cavity, stimulating the actual brain tissue with pressure, and then when the head is born allows instantaneous flooding of the brain with cerebrospinal fluid and commencement of extrauterine brain function. This coincides with high levels of catecholamines (stress hormones) during birth, which further stimulate brain function. Birth is a truly amazing process!
However, there can be injuries that result from birth, especially if intervention is required (e.g. forceps, ventouse-also known as vacuum extraction, or C-section). Some of the results of these can be injuries to the upper cervical spine, injuries to the cranial system, or injuries that extend as far out as the shoulders or hips. With babies, the most important thing to remember is that it’s not the injury itself, but the resulting injury to the central nervous system that is of concern to the chiropractor. When we look at a baby, we don’t just look at them and think about their spinal alignment; we look at a baby and we automatically start assessing the balance of the central nervous system. We look at their primitive reflexes, the tone of their body, their response to their environment, the way they feed, and more. Our goal is to enhance the ability of every child to adapt to life outside the womb, and beyond that to develop at their optimum so that they have the best opportunity possible to be the best that they can be.
The most important thing that a new parent can know is that chiropractic is safe, not only for adults but for babies, too. A study conducted by Vohra in 2007 revealed that in over 100 years, 14 adverse reactions to manipulation have been recorded. That is an exceptional safety record. Even more pertinent was the fact that most of the adverse reactions found in this review were not administered by chiropractors, but other manual practitioners attempting to perform a “chiropractic adjustment”, demonstrating even further how safe chiropractors really are!
There are risks to any procedure. However, by choosing a chiropractor who has postgraduate training in pediatrics, you are placing your child in the hands of someone who is not only knowledgeable, but above all, safe.
Before you go to a specific chiropractor, make sure you check out whether they have any postgraduate pediatric training, or at least get a recommendation from a friend or family member. If you’re not sure where to start, he following link will show you all of the members of the International Chiropractors Association Pediatrics Council. If you can’t find a DICCP near you, you will be able to find a member of the ICA Pediatrics Council. These chiropractors have experience with children and care a great deal for the welfare of families.
If you have any further questions about how chiropractic can help babies and children, please feel free to email me at
and I will be happy to answer your questions.
One of the hottest topics out there at the moment is breastfeeding, thanks to the Attachment Parenting cover of Time magazine. We all know it is important for babies to get good nutrition so that they can be healthy and strong. Some mothers find it really difficult to breastfeed for various reasons. It is so important that mothers understand that there are ways to improve the breastfeeding experience, and that chiropractic can offer a helping hand with many of these issues.
“It’s painful to breastfeed”: Adjustment for baby
The first reason why it may be painful to breastfeed is that baby has a problem with his/her TMJ function and/or the muscles around the jaw, including the tongue, which is causing baby to suck in a strange way that may cause pain for mum. An injury to the jaw can take place during the birthing process, especially with presentations such as breech presentation, mentum (jaw) presentation, or a shoulder dystocia. Sometimes a normal, incident-free vaginal birth can cause problems with the way the jaw moves and can create a lot of tension in the muscles in the area. Taking your baby to a chiropractor to assess the function of their TMJs, cranial bones, neck and muscles is something that may help improve your breastfeeding experience.
The second reason why breastfeeding may be painful is that the baby has a tongue tie. This is more common than you would think, and is easily dealt with by cutting the tie (of course this must be done by a doctor, and there are many around who will do this in rooms). Seeing a chiropractor can also help to release any muscles that may have become tight from the altered feeding action that a tongue tie causes.
“I don’t have enough milk”- Adjustment for mum
Breastfeeding may be painful because something is limiting milk production for mum, and often it’s a lot of things all at once. Stress, nutritional deficiency, and medications are just a few examples. Chiropractic may be of help to mum by relieving postural strain and problems that may affect milk production. It’s also important to remember that breastfeeding is about supply and demand – the more baby feeds, the more milk you will produce!
“My baby will only feed on one side”- Adjustment for baby
This seemingly insignificant problem is actually a big one! Think of the implications – baby won’t feed on one side, which means that mum has to express from that side and the decreased flow of milk means higher incidence of mastitis or other infections, etc. Feeding effectively from both sides is important if breastfeeding is going to continue. Wanting to feed only from one side often happens because baby has a problem in the upper neck, affecting his or her ability to rotate the head, a necessary motion if baby is going to effectively breastfeed. Chiropractic can help by restoring correct motion to the upper neck, allowing breastfeeding to continue on both sides.
This is a very brief summary of some ways that chiropractic care can help with breastfeeding, and of course is not the answer to all the problems that you might be having. If you need more help or advice please ask your lactation consultant, midwife, doctor or chiropractor.
- Miller, J.E., Miller, L., Sulesund, A.K., Yevtushenko, A. (2009). Contribution of Chiropractic Therapy to Resolving Suboptimal Breastfeeding: A Case Series of 114 Infants. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 32(8): 670-674. Abstract.
- Sheader, W.E. (1999). Chiropractic management of an infant experiencing breastfeeding difficulties and colic: a case study. Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics, 4(1). Abstract.
- Vallone, S. (2004) Chiropractic evaluation and treatment of musculoskeletal dysfunction in infants demonstrating difficulty breastfeeding. J Clin Chiro Pediatrics, 6(1):349-368. Abstract.
- Arcadi, V. (1993) Birth-induced TMJ syndrome is most common cause of breastfeeding difficulties. Dynamic Chiropractic. August 13, 1993: 11(17).
- Willis, S. (2011) The Restoration of Optimal Breastfeeding after Chiropractic Care in a Neonate with Breastfeeding Difficulties: A Case Report. J Clin Chiro Ped, 12(1);873-5.
- Vallone SA, Tow J. Collaborative Assessment and Management of Breastfeeding Difficulties by Lactation. Consultant and Chiropractor: A Case Series. WFC’S 10th Biennial Congress. International Conference of Chiropractic Research. Montreal, Canada. Apr 30 – May 2, 2009: 230-1. sotousa.com
When people think of chiropractors and pregnancy, many are afraid and wonder “will this injure me or my baby?” Even though I’m a chiropractor, I can see why people might be fearful. Traditionally, chiropractors are understood to be “bone crunchers”, twisting and contorting their patients into untold positions of torture while they elicit all kinds of noises from the spine. But I’m here to tell you that this is not always what happens in the office of a chiropractor, and that mothers have everything to gain by seeking prenatal chiropractic care. Chiropractic is actually all about restoring function to the nervous system (the brain, spinal cord and network of nerves that go to every part of the body), by removing interference (subluxations). This allows uninterrupted communication between brain and body, allowing the body to cope more easily with the myriad of changes that are taking place to accommodate the growth of a new baby.
Most chiropractors regularly see patients who are pregnant and care for them until (and after) the baby is born. There are obvious alterations that chiropractors must make to their technique in order to give an adjustment (treatment) to a pregnant woman, but it is actually very easy to adjust women during pregnancy. And the big question I know you want answered…yes, chiropractic is safe during pregnancy. The hormones that are coursing through a pregnant woman’s body mean that she is much more pliable and much less force is required in order to make a big change, so often adjustments are much easier. Many women choose to have chiropractic care during their pregnancy to deal with or avoid back pain, but studies have shown that chiropractic can also help to improve labour by decreasing the amount of drugs used, and also by decreasing labour times by up to 39% (Fallon, 1991).
The anatomy of the uterus helps to explain why women can benefit from chiropractic during pregnancy. The uterus is suspended in the abdomen by several ligaments, one of which is called the uterosacral ligament. As the name suggests, this ligament connects the uterus to the sacrum. The sacrum is the bone at the base of the spine that makes up part of the pelvis. So any distortion through the sacrum/pelvis can cause tension through the uterosacral ligament, and may result in interauterine constraint (a uterus that is not big enough for baby and a pelvis that won’t expand to let a baby out). Remember all those hormones pumping around a pregnant body? They mean that the expectant mother is more susceptible to subluxation (joint problems that chiropractors deal with when they adjust people) through her entire body. This can lead to things like instability and pain in the pelvis and/or low back, not to mention the changes that come with a pregnant belly, decreased lung capacity, decreased bowel motility, increased kidney output…I could go on all day, but I think you get the idea.
The great thing about chiropractic is that there is no specific technique that is better than another for correcting subluxations in the pregnant patient. Webster’s technique is a chiropractic technique that you may have heard of, and it was invented by Dr Larry Webster in the late 1970s. It was found in one study to turn breech, transverse and oblique presentations to a normal head presentation with a success rate of up to 92% (Pistolese, 2002). Many people say that this is the best technique to use, but many chiropractors will tell you that many other techniques are just as effective in balancing the nervous system (and pelvis). Some of these techniques include Myofascial release (a gentle soft tissue technique that releases fixations in the fascia of the body, not a chiropractic technique), Sacro Occipital Technic (a chiropractic technique that focuses on restoring cerebrospinal fluid flow through chiropractic adjustments), Activator (a chiropractic technique that uses a small instrument to deliver an adjustment, instead of the hands) and Applied Kinesiology (a chiropractic technique that uses muscle testing to diagnose and is based on Eastern medicine and the 5 elements chart). And that is just the beginning – there are many more techniques out there. Below are links to explain these techniques further.
I hope that I have opened your mind to the ways in which chiropractic can help women during pregnancy, and if you would like to contact me to ask any questions you can email me
Borggren, C. Pregnancy and chiropractic: a narrative review of the literature. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine Volume 6, Issue 2, June 2007, Pages 70–74
Fallon, J. (1991) The effects of chiropractic treatment on pregnancy and labor: a comprehensive study. From Proceedings of the world chiropractic conference. Pp 24–31.
Pistolese R. The WebsterTechnique: A chiropractic technique with obstetric implications. JMPT Volume 25, Issue 6, July 2002, Pages E1–E9
Websites/online references for chiropractic techniques
Sacro Occipital Technic www.soto.net.au
Applied Kinesiology http://www.appliedkinesiology.com/