Helmet therapy is a clinically proven treatment for moderate and severe cases of flat head syndrome. A condition affecting almost half of infants, flat head syndrome varies in severity from very mild, which is unnoticeable, to very severe, which shows itself as a significant flattening at the back or to the side, with visible facial and head shape abnormality.
Mild head shape deformities become unnoticeable by the age of five or six months, when infants start to move around more independently and roll around in their sleep. However, moderate and severe deformities are unable to catch up to a normal shape in time, and this is where helmet treatment comes in.
What is Flat Head Syndrome?
As the name suggests, flat head syndrome is characterised by an abnormal head shape. This may be asymmetrical (plagiocephaly) or disproportionately wide (brachycephaly), or a combination of both. The condition often occurs in conjunction with torticollis, a tightening of the neck muscles also known as ‘wry neck’.
Flat head syndrome is not to be confused with craniosynostosis, which also gives a head shape deformity but is more serious and requires surgery to be treated. If your baby has a flat head, you should book an appointment with a competent clinic or your GP to see if this is anything to be concerned about.
Why Does Flat Head Syndrome Occur?
Flat head syndrome occurs as a result of external pressures on the soft bones of the skull. ‘Back to sleep’ advice is a really successful policy and has drastically reduced the number of babies who unexpectedly succumb to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), but there is too little attention paid to the second piece of advice, ‘Tummy to Play’. This has led to a sharp increase in the incidence and severity of flat head syndrome over the past two decades.
Whilst your baby should always still sleep in the supine position, there are several other measures, known as ‘repositioning’, that parents can take to help prevent flat head syndrome in the early stages. Simple things like encouraging lots of tummy time and minimising the amount of time your baby spends in car seats, buggies and carry cots can make all the difference.
Do Special Pillows and Mattresses Help to Correct This?
There are many good pillows and mattresses on the market that can help prevent a head shape deformity from developing. However, these become less effective once infants reach 3 to 5 months of age. At this stage, babies start to wriggle away from the cushion dip and roll over, rendering these special pillows and mattresses redundant as the baby develops.
If your baby’s head shape is not improving by this time and the deformity is still very noticeable, you should consider helmet therapy. Many parents shy away from this thinking that they have damaged their babies, but this is not the case at all.
What is the Role of Helmet Therapy?
As your baby starts to move around more independently and the bones in the skull begin to harden, repositioning and pillows gradually become less effective. If the head is still noticeably misshapen once your baby reaches four to five months of age, helmet therapy may be the only way to ensure a full correction.
Also known as cranial remoulding therapy, this involves wearing a custom-fitted helmet or ‘cranial orthosis’ over a period of three to six months to gradually mould the head into a more normal, symmetrical shape.
Provided the orthosis is fitted early on and parents comply with the clinician’s guidelines, helmet therapy is a safe and effective treatment for flat head syndrome causing little or no discomfort to the wearer.
When is Helmet Therapy Needed?
Ideally, the infant’s head should be corrected during the most active period of growth. Between 4 and 7 months is the best time, but good results can be achieved at up to 12 months of age, with moderate results at up to 14 months.
After this, there is not enough growth to bring about a correction and the opportunity for helmet therapy has passed. Any remaining head shape deformity becomes permanent and the only way to reverse the effects of flat head syndrome is through surgery.
So if your baby has a head shape abnormality and repositioning has failed to make the difference that you had hoped for, it’s important to act before it’s too late.
Technology in Motion is a trusted provider of helmet therapy for flat head syndrome and has clinics all over the UK. Using our unique TiMbandAir treatment, we can help return your baby’s head to a more symmetrical shape with proportions that are accepted as the norm in today’s society.
Call 0330 100 1800 or fill out our enquiry form to book a free pre-assessment. Alternatively, browse our website for more information on helmet therapy and the service that we provide.