Plagiocephaly and brachycephaly are conditions that are characterised by a flattening of part of the head. It first affects babies before the bones of the skull have fused and in some cases can last into adulthood.
The instances of this condition have risen since the nineties when parents began to be advised to ensure their babies sleep on their back. This is absolutely correct and is very important for your baby’s safety, but can have the negative effect of causing an area of your baby's head to become compressed. Your baby could also have developed a flatness during birth or due to positioning in the womb, especially if the baby is a twin or similar.
If your baby has an irregular head shape it is important to seek medical advice because it can also be a sign of craniosynostosis. This is a serious condition where the bones of the skull fuse too early and must be treated with surgery.
Many cranial irregularities resolve on their own.The most common resolution is to allow your baby to play on his or her tummy, and to ensure that your baby’s head is not always in the same position.
In some cases, there may be a physiological reason for your baby’s head to have developed a flatness, for example they may have a shortening of a muscle in their neck (the sternocleidomastoid). This is known as torticollis. Our physiotherapists work with babies to address these issues, improve flexibility and build strength.
We offer physiotherapy and orthotic treatment for plagiocephaly. If we suspect that your baby’s head shape is caused by something other than plagiocephaly or brachycephaly, then we can refer your baby on for further investigation.
We provide a free and commitment free screening service where an orthotist will asses the shape of your baby's head and discuss the treatments that you have already tried. Our orthotists will recommend conservative treatment involving repositioning where this is appropriate, or refer your baby to our physiotherapy team. If your baby is 5 months old or older and if they have been crawling for some time or the flattening is severe, then orthotic treatment may be necessary.
Find out more about the conditions we treat.