Is Cranial Osteopathy Safe For Baby? Benefits & Side Effects

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Cranial osteopathy is a therapy that involves detecting strain in the musculoskeletal system of the skull and the spine. The technique involves applying gentle manual pressure to release the strain (1). It is based on the phenomenon that babies could be subjected to stress during birth, leading to discomfort and excessive crying.

The procedure is performed by a professional osteopath and might be used as an adjuvant treatment option to manage colic, sucking disorders, complications of clubfoot, and regurgitation in babies (2). Due to the lack of sufficient research on effectiveness, and the risks associated with this therapy, it is not widely used.

This post tells you about the benefits and effectiveness of cranial osteopathy in babies.

Is Cranial Osteopathy Safe For Babies?

Cranial osteopathy involves the use of pressure on the skull. Therefore, applying it to preterm babies or with unfused skull bones should be done carefully. Excessive pressure can result in the sutures overriding each other.

Research suggests that the NE-O (the osteopathic model in neonatology) procedure of osteopathy is said to be developed to adopt safe techniques for neonates. Indirect pressures are applied since they are considered to increase the safety and effectiveness of the treatment. However, due to the lack of standardized osteopathic procedures in neonatology, the NE-O model cannot be compared with any pre-existing model.

The safety of cranial osteopathy ultimately depends on the baby’s health and the skill of the osteopath. Since there is little information on its safety and efficacy, it is best to talk to your pediatrician and employ a professionally trained osteopath to treat your baby (2).

When Can Babies Get Cranial Osteopathy?

Cranial osteopathy could be tried once the baby is a few days old. It is based on the belief that babies are subjected to a lot of stress and compressions during the birthing process. As the head of the baby passes through the narrow birth canal, it undergoes immense pressure, resulting in deformities of the head.

Even if there are no deformities, there is still stress. Some babies will be able to cope with this stress, which eventually fades out. However, in some babies, this accumulated stress may cause issues such as excessive crying, colic, restlessness, and inability to fall asleep. Thus, the use of osteopathic techniques could relieve stress in newborns.

Benefits Of Cranial Osteopathy For Babies

Although there is inadequate scientific evidence to prove its effectiveness, anecdotal evidence suggests that cranial osteopathy could help babies in many ways. The goal of cranial osteopathy is to remove the residual tension left in the body during pregnancy or birth, letting the baby relax and sleep or feed well.

Some benefits of cranial osteopathy for babies may include the following.

  • Improving latching or suckling problems
  • Relaxation of the soft tissues of the body
  • Treating torticollis and plagiocephaly
  • Reducing symptoms of gastrointestinal reflux and colic
  • Improving ear infections by helping drainage of the ear.
  • Removing the stress of difficult and traumatic births
  • Improving breathing skills, especially in case of asthma
  • Reducing excessive crying
  • Improving sleep
  • Reducing colic

There are a few studies to prove the effectiveness of cranial osteopathy. A study found that infants receiving osteopathic manipulative treatment showed significant improvement in their LATCH score compared to infants in the control group (3). Another study noted that cranial osteopathic treatment reduced the crying time when compared to the control group (1).

However, studies on cranial osteopathy usually have limitations, such as low sample size and researcher bias. Therefore, more extensive research is needed to estimate the benefits of this technique for babies.

Side Effects Of Cranial Osteopathy

Cranial osteopathy is relatively safe if performed by a trained professional. However, the treatment technique may be a bit uncomfortable for some babies, and they may cry during the treatment. The key is gentle molding.

It is best to avoid this treatment technique for babies with cerebral hemorrhages, recent skull fractures, bleeding in the brain, tumors, or open wounds. It is important to talk to both a pediatrician and osteopath about your baby’s medical history before initiating the osteopathic procedure.

Osteopath Vs. Chiropractor

A chiropractor is a medical professional who treats the spine, muscles, and joint pains. In the United States, they need to obtain a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. A chiropractor usually performs high-speed manipulations.

Osteopaths, on the other hand, are licensed doctors who specialize in osteopathic manipulative medicine. They need to attend four years of medical school and pass a licensing exam. An osteopath usually works on fixing bone and muscular pain. Sometimes, they may also work on the digestive and circulatory systems.

The two are different fields requiring different qualifications. It is essential to check the degree and other certifications of the professional to determine if they are an osteopath or a chiropractor.

When To See The Doctor?

Cranial osteopathy is an adjunctive treatment and must never replace a pediatrician’s treatment. If your baby is born preterm or has any ailments, it is best to talk to your pediatrician. Also, if your baby’s symptoms seem to worsen, then it is imperative to book an appointment with your pediatrician.

Cranial osteopathy could be a good additional treatment for your baby if they experience colic, restlessness, or poor sleep. It should be done with caution and by an experienced professional. However, it is important to discuss it with your pediatrician and find a trained professional. It is best to pick an osteopath experienced with treating babies for the best results.

Key Pointers

  • Cranial osteopathy is a therapy that involves applying gentle pressure to relieve the strain in the skull and the spine.
  • It relieves the tension and stress experienced during the birthing process to help the baby sleep and feed better.
  • The procedure is unsafe for babies with cerebral hemorrhage, recent skull fractures, brain bleeds, tumors, or open wounds.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Clive Hayden, and Brenda MullingerA preliminary assessment of the impact of cranial osteopathy for the relief of infant colic;PubMed
2. Francesco Cerritelli et al.,Introducing an osteopathic approach into neonatology ward: the NE-O model;U.S. National Library of Medicine
3. Osteopathic Manipulation In Breastfed Newborns;U.S. National Library of Medicine
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Dr. Mubina Agboatwalla

Dr. Mubina Agboatwalla is a well-known pediatrician, practicing paediatrics since the last 20 years in Karachi Pakistan. She is the head of the department of Pediatrics in Karachi Liaquat Hospital, as well as her private practice in three specialist clinics in Pediatrics. She is also a Public Health Specialist specializing in preventive health including nutrition, breastfeeding and infectious diseases especially... more

Dr Bisny T. Joseph

Dr. Bisny T. Joseph is a Georgian Board-certified physician. She has completed her professional graduate degree as a medical doctor from Tbilisi State Medical University, Georgia. She has 3+ years of experience in various sectors of medical affairs as a physician, medical reviewer, medical writer, health coach, and Q&A expert. Her interest in digital medical education and patient education made... more