Treatment for Plagiocephaly: Tummy Time And Helmets
Once your child is diagnosed as having flat head syndrome, whether it is scapocephaly, plagiocephaly or brachycepaly, every parent can take the following steps to try to improve the condition.
The Initial course of treatment to help overcome these ailments is through a repositioning technique called tummy time. Put simply, this involves placing the baby on his or her tummy whenever the baby is awake and supervised.
“Tummy time” helps in the improvement of an infant’s head shape by decreasing the force on the depressed areas of the head. In addition to this, Tummy time strengthens a child’s back & neck muscles, which is an essential part of helping the infant develop the skills of moving, rolling and sitting.
Frequent repositioning of the infant and checking that your baby doesn’t spend a large amount of time lying down in the same position are also very useful treatment techniques.
To support your positional therapy, it is important to monitor and reduce the period of time your infant spends in car seats or carry cots, as the pressure on the skull caused by these can make the condition worse.
Regrettably, in some instances of plagiocephaly, treatment using “tummy time” won’t be enough to substantially improve the head shape of a baby with an abnormal head shape. If the baby is four months or older, and treatment using positional treatment has failed, it is worth considering treatment of the condition with a helmet (cranial remodelling orthosis).
Helmet Therapy (Cranial Remodelling Orthosis)
Before your baby can be fitted with a helmet, you need to visit a plagiocephaly clinic. Unfortunately, this treatment is not currently available through the National Health Service as it feels that flat head syndrome is a totally aesthetic problem which will get better without treatment after time. Most flat head syndrome centres are able to offer a free assessment and provide a recommendation on the seriousness of the problem and the best treatment methods.
In more severe cases of plagiocephaly, or where treatment using positional techniques hasn’t succeeded, helmet treatment may be the most effective means to considerably improve the conditions.
Cranial remodelling orthoses (helmets) are made of either plastic and foam, or clear plastic and are individually moulded devices designed to carefully remedy abnormal head shape in babies.
They work by channeling head development to compacted parts, whilst providing full contact over all pronounced or bossed areas to deter extra growth there. Over a term of several months, helmet treatment helps to improve symmetry and abnormal head shape.
Right at the start of the treatment programme, an electronic 3D scan is often taken of your baby’s skull. This fast and simple technique is used to create a tailored helmet and enables the clinician to successfully keep track of growth.
At the regular checkups over the treatment period, your orthotist will examine and alter the helmet to help maximise improvement of head shape. Your infant’s helmet is worn for 23 hours each day, and treatment typically takes somewhere between 16 and 24 weeks depending how old the infant is and the seriousness of the plagiocephaly . The speed of your infant’s head growth isn’t going to be affected so long as your orthotist properly monitors progress made.