Osteopathy for acid reflux in babies? An increasing number of parents visits an osteopath or chiropractor to treat their baby's heartburn. Osteopathy tries to improve digestion by mobilizing your baby's neck .
The vagal nerve connects your baby's neck and head with his stomach. It originates in the brainstem, travels along the neck and ends up in the stomach. It determines the production of stomach acid and opens the pyloric valve, a circular muscle that regulates stomach emptening.
A misalignment of your baby's first vertebra, the atlas, pushes on the vagal nerve and irritates it. The stomach innervation gets disturbed and leads to acid reflux, heartburn and colic. That is why many parents with colicky babies visit an osteopath, manual therapist or chiropractor.
The atlas, your baby's first vertebra, supports the head. An osteopath checks if it rotates properly to both sides. The vagal nerve passes right in front, so a rotated atlas pushes on this nerve. It causes irritation and hinders nerve conduction towards the stomach.
To correct a rotation restriction in the upper neck, your osteopath performs gentle mobilizations of the atlas. He also checks the articulation between head and atlas and between atlas and axis (the second vertebra). Just like an elbow joint needs to gain mobility after a cast, your baby's neck needs to be turned to the other side if it has been 'fixed' from birth. Mobilizations lubricate joint surfaces with joint liquid (synovia) and stretch shortened connective tissue around the joint.
A good manual therapist or osteopath teaches you exercises to perform at home with your baby. One single mobilization session isn't enough to restore an upper cervical rotation restriction! You'll need four or five visits, combined with a home exercise routine, to achieve full rotation.
Your baby needs to train his muscles, stretch his ligaments and move his joints before he (or she) can rotate again towards his restricted side. Connective tissue takes time to lengthen and adapt. Simple exercises that stimulate your baby to look at the restricted site, laying him on the belly to stimulate neck extension and performing side bendings of his upper body to stimulate rotation can be done at home.
Birth can be traumatic for the upper neck. Forceps delivery, vacuum extraction and even norm birthing methods can put a lot force on a newborn's head and can cause a neck sprain.
Not every baby needs to be checked and treated by an osteopath.
If your baby can only turn his head to one side, he has a rotation restriction. It doesn't necessarily means that his vagal nerve causes stomach issues. For normal development of his neck and back, he (or she) needs a proper neck rotation. Some babies regain mobility without treatment, but some need help.
Be sure to go to a well trained and licensed osteopath or manual therapist. Not every therapist knows how to handle a baby's neck.