Osteopathy For Acid Reflux In Babies

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 .

Osteopathy For Acid Reflux

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. 

Osteopathy To Correct Baby's Neck

Craniovertebral Mobilization

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. 

Home Exercises

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. 

Cause Of Neck Problem

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.

Pros and Cons


  • Babies have an immature stomach valve during their first three to six months. Without treatment, acid reflux improves anyway because your baby's stomach valve gains strength. That's why you need to take sweet stories of other parents who went to see an osteopath with a grain of salt. Meanwhile, remedies for acid reflux in babies should make life comfortable.
  • Chiropractors who perform high-velocity manipulations on a baby's neck and osteopaths who apply sustained holding-techniques take serious risks. There are reports of serious accidents with babies.
  • A derotated atlas can push on the vagal nerve and cause stomach problems. However, an irritated vagal nerve should cause other symptoms too. It innervates the tongue, the throat, the intestines, the heart. With a vagal nerve irritation, your baby would show other symptoms like hoarseness, heart palpitations and swallowing difficulties.


  • If your baby can turn his head only to one side, he has a craniovertebral rotation restriction. That means that his head, the first and the second vertebra (the craniovertebral complex) are not positioned in the horizontally. As a result, the entire spine is forced into rotation, creating a scoliose in the entire vertebral column.  With gentle mobilization and exercises, this condition can be perfecly treated. A restored rotation relaxes your baby's spine and  creates space for the vagal nerve. 


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.

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