Monthly Archives: April 2012

What Causes Flat Head Syndrome in Babies?

What Causes a Flat Head?

Flat head syndrome is a condition that can appear at any time from birth, but it tends to take a few weeks or months to become apparent. Sometimes parents or health professionals notice that their baby’s head seems to have an altered shape with part of it appearing to be flat. If the flattening is severe enough, there can be asymmetry in the face and forehead with and one ear further forward than the other. There are a number of medical terms for this, including plagiocephaly, brachycephaly or scaphocephaly. Here we will discuss what causes flat head in babies.

There are many different issues that can cause a flat head in babies, but they all stem from the fact that babies are born with soft skulls. Before a baby is born, the bone structure is not firm, but has to be soft and flexible to allow the head to descend through the birth canal. The bone plates in the head are not fused, but are held together with cranial sutures, which are essentially elastic tissues which need to be flexible to allow the brain to grow. Because the bones don’t fuse until the baby is a toddler, it means that the shape of the baby’s skull can be affected by a number of factors.

For example, the way that babies lay in the womb can affect their skull shape. This is especially the case with multiple births where there is less room for babies to move around. It is the same for babies when there is not much amniotic fluid in the womb. Because the skull strengthens considerably in the last few weeks of pregnancy as mineralisation occurs, premature babies tend to have much softer skulls which are more prone to becoming misshapen.

However, flat head syndrome most commonly occurs because of the baby’s sleeping position. This can be due to the very good advice to put babies to sleep on their backs or it can be due to a tight neck muscle on one side, called torticollis. The excellent ‘Back to Sleep’ advice has radically reduced instances of cot death. However, if the baby is positioned on their back for too long either in a cot, on the floor or on a firm baby carrier can result in the development of flat head syndrome. In mild cases, this will probably correct without clinical intervention and up to the age of four months it’s best to treat all babies simply through repositioning techniques. For example, babies can be encouraged to move their head by relocating mobiles and toys.

During the day when they are awake and parents are with them, it’s a good idea to place babies on their tummy which relieves pressure on the affected flattened part. Tummy time is a great form of exercise for your child and allows them to develop muscles in the hips and spinal extensors.

If you don’t see an improvement in your baby’s head shape after a month, it is best to seek advice from a medical professional who can suggest other possible interventions. These can include physiotherapy to increase the range of movement through to specialised bespoke helmets which will use normal growth to gently reshape the skull.

These helmets gently help the skull reform into the correct shape as the baby’s head continues to grow and fuse. The helmets are custom-made so that they fit each child perfectly and they are lined with soft foam to keep the babies comfortable. Babies are also reviewed regularly to ensure that they are responding properly to treatment.

In many cases, flat head syndrome can be corrected by repositioning, but more severe cases may need further intervention. It is important to realise that babies’ the growth needed to bring about correction is minimal when they reach about eighteen months, so it’s important not to delay seeking advice.

Inspirational Unloader 1

One of our Unloader 1 clients sent us this really inspirational email this week. He’s happy for us to share it anonymously and it’s great to know that we’re helping people of all ages to get the maximum out of their lives. This gentleman certainly goes to the max and is an inspiration to us all.

When you fitted me with my second Unloader 1 in October 2011, you said that you would like to review my progress, so here are a few observations on their use since then:

As I commented then, the effect of the first Unloader 1 seemed to be that it had straightened the knee to its proper position, removing the pain in the process. The second one seems to have had the same effect, so that after a few weeks I could walk comfortably without wearing either of them.

A major test was my wedding last November, when I spent most of the day on my feet without the Unloader 1’s and without pain, though I was a bit tired next morning. Put that down to my 73 years! However, on our honeymoon in Cyprus I found that walking on a rocky, uneven path to the Baths of Aphrodite without the Unloader 1’s jarred them and caused the pain to return. Lesson learned – I now wear them whenever I anticipate jarring of the knees. However, this still means that most day to day activities do not require me to use them.

In February, our trip to New Zealand was, as you predicted, amazing. The Unloader 1’s came into their own walking down steep slopes, trekking to the Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers, touring the thermal village at Rotorua, and especially descending the steep cliff path to beautiful Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel. (By then I was accustomed to wearing the Unloader 1’s whilst wearing shorts). I did not need them for mountain biking since the knees were not load bearing then. I also wore the braces at the airports to ease the pain of long corridors and even longer spent queuing. Apart from these activities, I spent the vast majority of the month sightseeing without them.

Since the Cyprus experience, I have worn the Unloader 1’s when playing golf and found them a great help and my knees have been pain free. Pity my golfing skills were not so effective! This week, however, I tried my first round of golf without the Unloader 1’s and found it most liberating and still pain free. (The golf, however, was not much improved).

All in all, the Unloader 1 braces have enabled me to keep involved in outdoor activities using them to protect the knee joints from jarring out of position where the risks were apparent. But most days, I do not need to wear them at all and I am optimistic that I may be able to leave them behind on my next round of golf too (in the knowledge that the braces always go with me in the car boot, just in case).

So, many thanks for an excellent pair of Unloader 1 braces which have been most effective and undoubtedly worthwhile. Current plans include motorhome tours of Arran, Kintyre and Islay in June (walking, cycling and golf), the Edinburgh Tattoo and my step-daughter’s wedding in Glasgow in August. September is earmarked for a motorhome tour of Northern Spain, with a week in the Lake District in October. I can now confidently enjoy the great outdoors again, even if Munro bagging is off the agenda.

Plagiocephaly Infographic

Parents often ask us what can be done to minimise plagiocephaly. So to help and to use as an education tool, we have produced a Plagiocephaly Infographic to explain how plagiocephaly develops and what should be done to minimise and treat the condition. We are sure that parents and clinicians will find it useful.

Plagiocephaly Infographic Childers Head Shape & Size Technology In Motion TiM