Plagiocephaly Helmet Therapy
Deformational Plagiocephaly often presents as an asymmetrical or uneven head shape. The back of one side of the head will be flattened, often resulting in changes in the forehead and ear alignment. An abnormal head shape caused during the birthing process should begin to correct over time however if any flat spots are still apparent or new flat areas occur some form of intervention may be required. Other forms of deformational head shape that can be treated include; Brachycephacly which presents as an abnormally wide head shape resulting from a central flattening of the back of the head and Scaphocephaly which presents as a long, narrow head shape.
A baby's head position needs to be varied during sleep and waking periods. There are some simple things the parent can do to help prevent your baby developing deformational plagiocephaly:
Sleeping position: Place your baby at alternate ends of the cot to sleep, or change the position of the cot in the room.
Tummy time: Place your baby on their tummy or side to play when awake.
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How do we fix it?
In moderate to severe cases of deformational plagiocephaly, where a trial of counter positioning has failed, a cranial remodelling helmet may be recommended.
The helmet assists the skull moulding process by removing the pressure over the flat area, allowing the skull to grow into the space provided. Helmets are most effective between 4-12 months of age. The helmet is made of an outer hard shell and is lightweight with a foam lining.
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Why choose OAPL?
Clinically-proven state-of-the art cranial comparison software can compare head shape changes over time to ensure positional therapy or helmet treatment is achieving desired outcomes.
Treatment with a STARband cranial remodelling helmet begins with an initial photographic scan of your baby's head with a STARscanner. The scan is a quick, non-invasive process that enables us to create a custom cranial remoulding helmet that is accurate to 0.5mm, ensuring that your child gets the best possible clinical outcome.
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Where is this available?
STARband helmet therapy for plagiocephaly is now available in OAPL's Melbourne Clinics. OAPL has 7 clinics around Melbourne, please check our Clinics page for more information.
The head is flattened on one side, causing it to look asymmetrical; the ears may be misaligned and the head looks like a parallelogram when seen from above, and sometimes the forehead and face may bulge a little on the flat side.
A brachycephalic skull is flat in the rear. The head is also often taller in the back than in the front, the baby’s face may be wider than average, and his or her ears may stick out. The condition frequently occurs in combination with plagiocephaly, and is nearly always the result of positioning of the head of the baby, where pressure is placed on the back of the head for prolonged periods.
A baby with scaphocephaly has a long and narrow head with a wide forehead. The sides of the head may also have a flattened appearance, and your baby’s head may also seem small in size.
Is a condition in which an infant holds his or her head tilted to one side and has difficulty turning the head. The muscle that extends down the side of the neck - the sternocleidomastoid muscle - is tight and shortened. Infants with torticollis may have increased pressure in the same position when they lay or sit for long periods. This can contribute to the head shape deformities listed above. Infants with torticollis may need physiotherapy intervention along with positional/helmet treatment.
Tummy time is an important activity and needs to be part of a baby’s daily routine. In the first months of life, babies learn about movement of their body and develop the physical skills required for rolling over, sitting and crawling. They learn to respond and adapt to challenges. For this reason, a baby needs the opportunity to play on its tummy during waking hours (while being supervised) and to spend limited time in an infant seat/carrier, swing or other restrictive devices which inhibit free movement. Visual stimulation is another benefit of the tummy position. Unlike a baby on its back (who sees only the ceiling and objects on either side) a baby placed on the tummy will lift its head and view the world at eye-level. Not all babies enjoy tummy time. Some may cry or refuse to lift their head. We have provided guidelines to help you with this challenge and to make tummy time an enjoyable bonding experience and a productive part of your baby’s life, while mastering important skills.
Newborn to 2 Months
Place your baby on its stomach. If the baby cannot lift its head, place your hand on the baby’s bottom to shift weight from the upper body. If the baby is still unable to lift its head, put a rolled towel under the chest or place the baby over your leg. Another option is to lay the baby on your chest, offering a secure, cuddly feeling while encouraging a head lift.
3 - 5 Months
Your baby has gained more back and neck strength and, when placed on the tummy can prop itself up om the forearms. If additional support is needed a rolled towel can be helpful. Enjoy floor time with your baby – use toys and mirrors to encourage weight shifting and reaching. Your baby is now able to interact with the environment at eye level.
6 - 9 Months
Now your baby is stronger in both upper and lower back. Play games such as “Aeroplane” by lifting the baby up with support only on the hips and/or waist. Another variation is to rest the baby on your bent legs and move your legs up and down.
A physiotherapist can assess your child’s torticollis or muscle weaknesses. Physios can also prescribe resting positions or massage techniques to improve the child’s posture.If you would like more information, please ask your orthotist for a recommendation to a local paediatric therapist.