Osteopathic Exercises for Childen

Osteopathy has a lot to offer in the care of babies and children. We can assist children through developmental activities such as sitting, crawling and walking. We can provide support with balance, coordination activities and building strength. Monitoring a child’s development can be key for their recovery, management and prevention.

Knowledge of the development milestones helps us understand why a child moves and behaves in a certain way, and therefore, allows us to diagnose and treat more efficiently. Most importantly, it will help us identify when a child needs to be referred on to specialist services such as speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. We have to be aware that milestones are just guidelines as each child has their own pace and pattern of development due to various biological and environmental factors. They only provide us with a general idea of what to expect at certain ages.

There are many aspects of a child’s development that we can observe in a treatment room. The three main classifications of milestones are: motor development, language and speech development, and social and emotional development. Even though as osteopaths we can monitor all facets of these milestones, our main scope of practice is the motor development. Gross motor skills involve total body movements and activities such as: walking, running, throwing, lifting, and kicking by recruiting the larger muscles in the arms, legs and torso. These skills are also related to body awareness, reaction speed, balance and strength. However, we cannot ignore the other two areas as they are intrinsically linked to our care: the parent-child relationship, the relationship between the parents, the practitioner-guardian-child relationship, the social environment, and the style of parenting, etc. which will have an impact, in one way or another, on the child’s reaction to treatment and progress.

Paediatric developmental exercises are a great tool to add to our treatment modalities. First of all, applying them as a means of assessment: can the child perform this specific exercise or sit in this particular position? Secondly, using them as part of your treatment: guiding the baby or child through the exercise and learning the movements. Finally, making the parents aware of the transitions behind the process of growing up and offering them a way to actively participate in their child’s development and care. These exercises complement our manual skills of unlocking tension patterns by using functional movements to consolidate the changes.

There are many exercises that we can do with children to help them achieve developmental milestones.
At four to six months, we might look at milestones such as:
  1. Back to front rolling: using the hip to assist the baby with dissociation and rotation.
  2. Supine pull to sit to strengthen the neck and core.
  3. Sitting: side reach for a toy to engage the lateral trunk muscles.
  4. Sitting: forward reach for a toy to strengthen the core and improve balance.

At seven to nine months, we might look at milestones such as

  1. Unsupported sitting: behind reach to stimulate trunk rotation and different hand use.
  2. Side sitting to challenge the sitting position and prepare for transition to crawl.
  3. Four-point kneeling with gentle rocking to strengthen shoulders and core in preparation for crawling.
  4. High kneeling play on furniture to strengthen the trunk to prepare for pull to stand.

At nine to twelve months, we might start to encourage milestones such as:

  1. Half kneeling to stand with furniture support to strengthen legs and promote sitting to standing.
  2. Standing to half kneeling teaching the child to lower themselves back on the ground with control.
  3. Pull sit to stand to continue core strength and standing strength to help with cruising.

Osteopaths can play an important role in helping little ones to progress their motor skills, build confidence, and encourage development in all children.

Thank you to Niamh Wright, Osteopath at Surrey Physio for allowing us to photograph her and her beautiful son.

Eglantine Hallo

Eglantine graduated from the European school of osteopathy in 2009 and has gained over 10 years’ experience treating mothers to be and babies as well as working with patients of all ages on MSK issues. Eglantine trained in cranial and visceral osteopathy to be able to blend different types of treatment modalities to better suit the patient’s needs. As a certified Clinical Pilates instructor (trained with APPI) and with a diploma in nutritional advice, she can provide a truly holistic approach to her treatments.