Dr. Robert F. Kidd    

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Cranial Osteopathy in Children

Although cranial osteopathy is best known for its use in treating chronic pain in adults, it also has a special place in dealing with certain problems in children. These are often conditions which are poorly understood within conventional medicine, and are a source of frustration to the child, the parents, and the child's physicians.

The common denominator in many of these childhood ailments is a disturbance in the body's musculoskeletal balance. By "balance", we mean an efficient matching of the muscle tone on opposing sides of each joint and on opposing sides of the body. When this is present, the body moves with maximum efficiency and is less likely to develop muscle spasms, joint irritation, nerve entrapment, etc.

Disturbances in the body's musculoskeletal balance often develop early in life as a result of birth trauma or other injuries of infancy. The area most commonly affected is the head and neck, a result of abnormal pressures on the head either before or during birth. When this occurs the head is slightly misshapen or asymmetric. A little asymmetry in itself is not important but the internal pressures that it reflects may be. These areas of pressure may disturb body functions within the head, e.g., internal drainage of the ear (eustachian tube dysfunction), alignment of the eyes, (strabismus or crossed eyes) or even other parts of the body through reflex mechanisms.

Common childhood conditions that may be helped by cranial osteopathy include:


Although children may develop migraine or other rare types of headache very early in life, the most common type by far is tension headache. So called tension headache may be a result of stress but may also have at least in part a musculoskeletal basis and therefore be amenable to cranial osteopathy.

Recurring Ear Infections

Frequent ear infections, especially those that come with colds, are usually caused by poor drainage of the middle ear by the eustachian tube. This is often related to restricted motion of the temporal bones (the bones in which the ears and balance organs lie). If temporal bone imbalance is found, cranial osteopathy and correction of the imbalance will generally abolish further ear infections.

"Growing Pains"

This condition affects children in the four to twelve years age group. After a busy day the child experiences quite severe pain in the legs at bedtime, lasting sometimes an hour or two. The exact mechanism is unclear, but these children often have a disturbance in their bodies' musculoskeletal balance. Cranial osteopathy may be quite effective.


Strabismus (or "crossed" or "lazy" eye) is a result of an imbalance in the muscles controlling the movement of the eyeball. There are many possible causes of this condition, but at least sometimes, the cranial bones are found to be slightly out of symmetry. When this is present, cranial osteopathy may reverse the imbalance and allow the eye to straighten.

Other conditions which may have a musculoskeletal basis and can be treated by cranial osteopathy include: infant colic, learning disabilities, hyperactivity, cerebral palsy, and some cases of epilepsy.

If thould be clearly understood that cranial osteopathy should not be expected to cure or even help all cases with these problems. Only in those cases in which musculoskeletal imbalances are found, is maipulation appropriate and even then success cannot be guaranteed. It should be apparent on the first visit however if an imbalance exists and whether manipulation should be tried.