Plagiocephaly: How to manage from an Osteopathic Perspective

16 October 2023

Plagiocephaly: How to manage from an Osteopathic Perspective

person_outlineEleanor Leyden Dunbar
chat_bubble_outline 0
bookmark_border baby development

As a cranial osteopath, I often find myself addressing concerns from parents about their infants displaying a “flat head”, a flattening or misshaping of the skull known as plagiocephaly. I’m passionate about helping parents understand that there’s plenty of hope and positive action to take. Recognising the signs early can be a springboard to ensure a happy and symmetrical cranial development for your little one.

Plagiocephaly typically originates from external pressures affecting the soft, malleable cranial bones of infants. “Positional plagiocephaly” is the most common form, stemming from prolonged periods where an infant’s head rests against surfaces, leading to the development of flat spots.


This can occur when babies spend excessive time lying on their backs or sitting in car seats. Certain factors, like a difficult  delivery or lack of space in the womb, may also contribute. The incidence of positional plagiocephaly has increased by 600% since the “Back to Sleep” campaign that recommends babies sleep on their back to prevent sudden infant death.


Adherence to this advice is vital, but parents should be vigilant in spotting the early signs that could lead to plagiocephaly as early intervention can make a big difference to final the outcome. These signs may include a consistent preference for turning the head to one side, discomfort or fussiness when attempting to turn the head in the opposite direction, or observable flattening on one side of the head.


Cranial osteopathy presents a gentle and non-invasive approach to address both head preference and plagiocephaly in infants. Osteopathic principles emphasise the body’s innate capacity to heal itself, and cranial osteopaths aim to facilitate this natural process.  Cranial osteopaths employ gentle techniques to encourage the baby’s skull to return to a more symmetrical shape. These techniques focus on working with the cranial bones, fascia, and soft tissues to release any restrictions contributing to the head’s asymmetry. It is important to acknowledge that every baby is unique, and the outcomes of osteopathic treatment can vary. In some cases, multiple sessions may be needed.


Alongside osteopathic treatment, parents can take proactive steps to prevent or manage plagiocephaly. The osteopath will be able to give parents advice on positioning and exercises or stretches to work on at home and help reverse the head preference and activate muscles to reduce the flattening of the skull.In conclusion, identifying early signs of head preference is vital for addressing plagiocephaly effectively. Cranial osteopathy combined with positioning and exercise advice offers a gentle and effective method to manage the condition, aiding infants to achieve a symmetrical head shape and enjoy a healthy start in life.



Eleanor Leyden Dunbar

Eleanor Leyden Dunbar author

Comments (0)