Osteopathic Medicine—A Preventive Model for Children’s Health
By Roberta Bolduc
Although osteopathic physicians use all the conventional methods of diagnosis and treatment, they differ from allopathic or traditional Western medicine doctors. They are trained to place additional emphasis on the achievement of normal body mechanics as central to maintaining good health.
Another key point is the osteopathic physician is trained to view the patient as a whole person with certain key principles central to their care. Two major principles are that the body is a unit of mind-body-spirit, and that the body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing and health maintenance.
Osteopathic medicine as a preventive tool in the treatment for children is more widely acknowledged outside of the United States. Using osteopathic adjustments to help treat and prevent childhood problems such as colic, sleep issues and scoliosis are commonplace in European countries.
Dr. Rebecca Bowers, osteopathic physician and owner of Fulcrum Osteopathic Clinic in Greenville, South Carolina, reports that BMW, an international company with German origins, and Michelin, a French tire manufacturer, both based here, have contributed to the growing number of youngsters that she treats.
“We all suffer trauma from the birth process,” explains Dr. Bowers. Interrupted sleep, colic and digestive problems, and chronic earaches in infants may partially stem from the “rough ride” that muscles and soft tissue undergo in the trip through the birth canal. Osteopathic treatment in the early stages of child development has been found to be of assistance countering the trauma suffered during the birth process, and may stem other problems from developing at a later age.
Take earaches, for example. It’s not uncommon for children to have tubes placed in their ears to treat chronic earaches. “The Eustachian tube is part bone and part soft tissue. Trauma to the Eustachian tube from the birth process can be compared to a kink in a garden hose. An obstruction in the flow of fluids can cause bacteria to form resulting in painful earaches,” she explains. Osteopathic treatment can adjust the tissues and muscles, allowing the parts to move properly and signaling hormones to be delivered where they are needed for proper growth. This can provide a less painful and more efficient method of curing chronic earaches.
Colic, excessive vomiting, restlessness, and difficulty sucking may be the result of structural trauma to the infant’s skull as a result of the prolonged forces of labor, or they may be the effects of using forceps or other instruments to facilitate the birth process which can compromise the central nervous system function. Although such instruments are sometimes necessary to aid in a more rapid delivery when fetal distress is present, it can take a toll in the relationship of one bone to another, or in irritation and tension on the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.
While the neurodevelopmental consequences of these structural problems may not be seen until later in childhood, some newborn difficulties may be the first sign of a neurodevelopmentally troubled child. This may include vomiting, colic, restlessness, agitated sleep, difficulty sucking and spastic muscles. The earlier that osteopathic treatment to soft tissues starts, the more likely a positive outcome, though treatment later can be of great benefit as well.
In a white paper written by Dr. Bowers and published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association on osteopathic medicine as a preventive treatment, she notes that osteopathic physicians have an advantage over their allopathic counterparts in the osteopathic principles and practice training they receive. One of these skills is the opportunity to notice subtle variations that may be dysfunctional and to correct them. “This restoration of proper structure then allows the body to function as intended and to be better able to maintain equilibrium and avoid disease,” Dr. Bowers concludes.