reluctance to fall asleep, spitting up or vomiting can have their origins in structural disturbances. A parent or a health care professional may notice visual signs of a structural problems, such as overlapping of joint lines on the infant’s skull which do not level out during the first week of infant’s life. Visual asymmetries, such as one side of the forehead further forward than the other, the two ears positioned differently or the neck held to one side, can and should be corrected.

     As the baby gets a little older, a parent may notice developmental delays. Although there are many reasons that children fall behind a normal developmental time table, some can be successfully addressed through Osteopathic treatment. The brain does rapid and critical development in the first year of life. The nerve pathways are designed to lay themselves down in precise geometric relationships. Even slight distortions in the structure of the skull can impair the development of the nervous system. These can manifest in developmental delays early in childhood and potentially more serious learning difficulties later.

     Some children suffer from medical conditions for which conventional medicine has very little to offer, conditions such as Down’s syndrome or cerebral palsy. Osteopathic treatment does not alter the underlying genetic defect or birth injury factors, but it can be very effective in improving general health and quality of life for the child and family by optimizing the child’s ability to functions.

     Cranial Osteopathy for the newborn is a safe, gentle, non-invasive form of manipulative treatment. Babies often fall asleep during treatment or fall into deep restful sleep thereafter. Sometimes babies fuss or squirm during treatment, actions that can help release the troubled areas. It is safe and ideal to see babies shortly after birth, but it is still quite feasible to resolve the effects of a difficult birth anytime in the first months or even years of life. Depending on the severity of the birth experience and the structural findings, anywhere from a single treatment to a series of four to eight may be indicated. In complicated cases further follow-up care may be needed.

The presence of fluid in the middle ear offers a hospitable environment for the growth of the organism which causes ear infections. If the middle ear is free of fluid, ear infections are rare. Medical opinion differs on the solutions to fluid retention. The standard medical approach is to treat ear infections with antibiotics. If fluid remains after the infection has cleared, a low level of antibiotic is often prescribed preventatively over a long period of time. If infections or hearing loss persist, ventilating tubes are surgically placed. This constant over utilization of antibiotics is contributing to an alarmingly growing incidence of bacterial resistance to many antibiotics. Also, mostly due to wiping out the normal and necessary intestinal bacterial flora, antibiotics have side effects like bloating, abdominal cramping and diarrhea. The Osteopathic approach is to correct the cranial restrictions which are causing fluid retention and impeding fluid drainage.


The small amount of constant rhythmic motion present in the joint lines and membrane structures of the cranium (skull) has been well documented in osteopathic and other scientific sources. As the temporal bones (the bones that house the middle and inner ears) of the cranium move in a normal manner, they assist the drainage of fluid from the middle ear through the Eustachian tubes to the back of the throat. This normal mobility, however, can be disturbed as a result of birth trauma or early childhood injuries. Osteopathic manipulative techniques can restore normal motion of the temporal bones as well as the whole cranial mechanism, and thus improve fluid drainage from the middle ear. If fluid is not present, ear infections are rare. Osteopathic treatment also facilitates lymphatic drainage in the neck and chest and can improve arterial blood supply and venous drainage. Through assisting the immune system this way, the improved overall health of the body also prevents future infections.

     Children who suffer from recurrent ear infections often require weekly osteopathic treatment for a period of four to eight weeks. The duration and specific types of treatment offered vary with the individual child. Follow-up treatment on a periodic basis may be needed to maintain appropriate motion of the cranial mechanism. Osteopathic manipulative treatment addresses what is for many children the underlying cause of chronic ear infections. In a review of all of the child ear infection cases in our office it was found that 94% of patients had complete resolution of the ear infection within four visits. These were babies treated only with Osteopathic manipulation and without any antibiotics. The treatments themselves are very gentle. If children cry or complain while getting treated, it is rarely because of pain. More often it is because they don’t want to be lying down. Most can be entertained successfully with songs, stories or toys.

     Just as ear infections are sometimes a complication of the common cold, so are the inflammation and infection of the sinus cavities. The same mucous membrane which lines the nose and the back of the throat extends into the sinus cavities, out to the middle ear as the Eustachian tube and down into the lungs (where inflammation results in bronchitis). The sinus cavities, though fewer and smaller in children, serve to warm, filter and moisten the air we breathe. They too can fill with fluid and be unable to perform their function. Their ability to function normally is dependent on unrestricted mobility of the bones and membranes of the cranium, especially the bones of the face. By the same principles that underlie the osteopathic treatment of ear infections, osteopathic manipulation can help restore normal sinus function.

complication. Some previously healthy children begin to have ear infections when undergoing orthodontic correction. Some children have dairy or other nutritional sensitivities which contribute to the frequency or severity of infections. The most common predisposing factor, however, is early childhood trauma to the head, occurring either in the birth process or in early childhood injuries. Even C-section babies can be affected. When the structural restrictions caused by these traumas are resolved, the vast majority of children have a significantly reduced incidence of infection and noticeable improvement in hearing.

Osteopathic approach to Neurobehavioral Disorders 

Ear infections are the cause of more pediatric doctor visits in the first three years of life than any other medical problem. One child in three develops chronic fluid accumulation in the middle ear making the child prone to recurrent ear infections, and potentially causing minor hearing loss as well as speech development problems. There are many reasons for the prevalence of this medical problem. Due to the immaturity of the immune systems, young children have frequent colds, and ear infections can follow as a 

*Articles written by Magaret Sorrel, DO, FCA for the Cranial Academy.

Using Osteopathy, Dr. Kirsten Mackey helps treat acute and chronic ear infections
Osteopathy can help prevent need for tympanostomy tubes

Osteopathic treatment of ear infections and sinusitis 

For centuries, in many parts of the world, highly trained birth attendants have seen it as part of their job to correct the stresses that birth has placed in the body of the newborn. This constitutes an acknowledgement that birth is a difficult process and that measures can be taken after birth to assist the baby in its recovery. In the industrialized nations of Northern Europe and North America, birth has been seen as an event that either leaves no negative impact upon the baby or one whose complications, whatever they might be, must be accepted and endured by both child and family.

     Many older children experiencing learning or behavioral difficulties have a history of traumatic birth or early childhood blows to the head which went uncorrected. Children who suffer from recurrent ear or sinus infections frequently have similar medical history. Although it is most useful to address the structural problems originating in the birth process shortly after birth, much improvement in the child’s condition can be seen if treatment is initiated much later.

     Birth often results in harmful structural changes. The likelihood of trouble increases when the labor and delivery is prolonged or augmented by pitocin or when forceps or vacuum extractions are necessary. In vaginal delivery, the infant’s skull is asked to make its passage through too small a space. In response, the bones of the skull overlap to decrease the size of the head, and sometimes do not return to their natural positions after delivery. In order to travel through the birth canal, the infant’s head must bend markedly backwards. This puts pressure on three nerves (vagal, hypoglossal and glosspharyngeal) which can result in the colic and sucking disturbances often seen in the newborns.

     Although C-section babies are spared some of the complications of vaginal deliveries, they are also robbed of some of the benefits. The transit down the birth canal applies a variety of pressures on the infant’s head which help to free it from the shape it was molded to in utero. The transit through the birth canal also compresses and re-expands the chest wall preparing the baby to breathe and clear fluid from the lungs.

     Once the baby is born, osteopathic physicians hope to hear a fairly immediate and powerful birth cry. Fetal life would be fraught with low oxygen levels if it were not for the mother’s higher hemoglobin levels and the baby’s faster heart rate. The transition from life in utero to life outside is a critical time in which the baby loses its maternal support and must provide for its own oxygen. A strong birth cry probably serves two crucial functions. It opens the alveolar air sacs throughout the lungs, thereby ensuring adequate levels of oxygen so essential to brain development. It also increases the internal pressure within the skull helping to re-expand those bones and membranes which were compressed in the birth process.

The infant will often communicate the presence of a problem by being irritable or difficult to calm. In addition, excessive wakefulness at night or