What is Deformational Plagiocephaly (DP)?

Deformational Plagiocephaly (DP) (also known as positional plagiocephaly, or flattening of the head) is an increasingly common condition in infants since the “Back to Sleep” program was initiated to help combat SIDS.

• Children tend to grow out of DP as they spend less time lying down• Incidence has been reported as high as 47% of infants 7-12 weeks old and dropping to less than 5% at 2 years old

Why is DP a Concern?

Contrary to popular belief, plagiocephaly is NOT simply a cosmetic issue. Multiple studies have demonstrated evidence of developmental delay at multiple ages in children with a history of DP in infancy. These include delays in:

  • Language
  • Fine motor
  • Gross motor, and
  • Auditory and visual processing

Also, these children tend to experience significantly higher rates of needing special help in school.

Unfortunately, not all health care practitioners are aware of the long term effects of DP on child development; parents are often told the child will “grow out of it”, and that there is nothing that can be done to help. Severe cases may undergo helmet therapy.

How Might Chiropractic Help?

Stellwagen et al. noticed a very high rate of limited neck movements in infants with DP. Lelic et al. found limited neck movements lead to abnormal/decreased input to the brain, changing how the brain is supposed to function. Haavik & Murphy have shown that better neck function can improve the body’s ability to communicate with the brain. Haavik has published many studies showing the impact of chiropractic care on improving brain function. A study specifically looking at how chiropractic care can affect brain function in infants and children still remains to be done. Chiropractic care has been shown to improve cervical (neck) range of motion in the adult population .

What Evidence is there for Chiropractic Care?

A chiropractic study demonstrated significant improvements in plagiocephaly after just one adjustment. One study is insufficient to draw conclusions, and further research is needed to understand the direct benefit of chiropractic care on the resolution of plagiocephaly and developmental outcomes.

Is Chiropractic Care Safe?

Chiropractic care in Australia has an exemplary safety record. In the paediatric population specifically, serious adverse events are extremely rare .

What Should I Do?

Infant with DP could benefit from being checked by a suitably trained chiropractor for neck function. Children with a history of DP should also be checked for altered neck function. The technique used to adjust the spine of babies is modified for age, developmental status and size.

Dr. Jenelle Bourgeois-Bell is a Diplomate through the Australian College of Chiropractic Paediatrics.

Should anyone be interested in contributing to research in the area of chiropractic care and the management of DP, please visit the website for the Chiropractic Paediatric Research Foundation (CPRF): https://www.kidschiroresearch.org.au.

Book your FREE consultation here today or phone the clinic on (08) 9298 8332

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  1. Mawji A., Vollman A.R., Hatfield J., McNeil D., & Sauve R. (2013). The incidence of positional plagiocephaly: a cohort study. Pediatrics, 132(2), 298-304.
  2. Hutchison, B.L., Hutchison, L.A., Thompson, J.M., & Mitchell, E.A. (2004). Plagiocephaly and brachycephaly in the first two years of life: a prospective cohort study. Pediatrics, 114, 970-980.
  3. Hutchison, B.L., Stewart, A.,W., & Mitchell, E.A. (2009). Characteristics, head shape measurements and developmental delay in 287 consecutive infants attending a plagiocephaly clinic. Acta Paediatrica, 98, 1494-1499.
  4. Stellwagen, L., Hubbard, E., Chambers, C., & Lyons Jones, K. (2008). Torticollis, facial asymmetry and plagiocephaly in normal newborns. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 93, 827-831.
  5. Lelic, D., Niazi, I.K., Holt, K., Jochumsen, M., Dremstrup, K., Yielder, P., … Haavik, H. (2016). Manipulation of dysfunctional spinal joints affects sensorimotor integration in the prefrontal cortex: a brain source localization study. Neural Plasticity, 1-9.
  6. Haavik, H. & Murphy, B. (2012). The role of spinal manipulation in addressing disordered sensorimotor integration and altered motor control. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 22(5), 768-776.
  7. Brown, K., Luszeck, T., Nerdin, S., Yaden, J. & Young, J.L. (2014). The effectiveness of cervical versus thoracic thrust manipulation for the improvement of pain, disability, and range of motion in patients with mechanical neck pain. Physical Therapy Reviews, 19(6), 381-391.
  8. Davies, N.J. (2002). Chiropractic management of deformational plagiocephaly in infants: an alternative to device-dependant therapy. Chiropractic Journal of Australia, 32(2), 52-55.
  9. Todd, A.J., Carrol, M.T., Robinson, A. & Mitchell, E.K.L. (2015). Adverse events from chiropractic and other manual therapies for infants and children: A review of the literature. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 38(9): 699-712.

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