• Tonus asymmetry
• Oblique presentation deformity
• „Kiss syndrome“
• Screaming babies
• 3-month colic
• Delayed development
• Infant scoliosis
No-one really knows why about 10 % of all babies develop asymmetrically (tonus asymmetry, oblique presentation deformity, screaming babies, 3-month colic, delayed development, plagiocephaly, etc.). At all events, it is not due to the birth process. Children delivered by caesarean section are even more frequently affected than children born naturally.
The babies hold their head and spine crookedly and are reluctant to leave this position. Some have a tendency to constantly overstretch, bending their head backward and persisting in this position. Often the tonus asymmetry is accompanied by a lack of movement and thus a delay in development.
Many of these babies obviously suffer pain if forced into a position other than the preferred position. Others accept a different position for a short time, but tend to resume their preferred position at the first opportunity. Most of the affected babies do not accept lying on their stomach.
Sometimes there are difficulties in breast-feeding, as the babies do not accept turning their head in the unpreferred direction, and so they do not want to accept a breast.
A particular problem is that of the so-called screaming babies, who cry bitterly without being hungry or wet. These bouts of crying can last for hours, and rob both the babies and their families of sleep. The mothers rightly worry, because they have the impression that their child is not well. This is true, because the baby quite obviously cannot find any position in which it can relax for sleep. It may be assumed that these children have pain that is similar to the backache or neck pain of adults.
About 4/5 of all asymmetrical babies hold their head turned to the left and inclined to the right. In the other 1/5 it is the other way round. Why that is so is not known. The prolonged laying of the head on one side leads first to asymmetrical rubbing off of the hair, and ultimately to one-sided flattening of the cranial bones.
Often the mothers are blamed for the behaviour of their babies on the grounds that they are not treating them correctly, are too inexperienced, over-cautious or even hysterical. That is nonsense. A baby does not have one-sided tenseness of its muscles because its mother worries too much about its wellbeing.
The cause is disturbances in the baby’s mobility. It is not clear whether these are disorders of the joints of the spinal cord itself, especially the 1st cervical vertebra, or whether these joints are held in the asymmetrical position by the muscles. In that case it would be a disturbance of the control of the muscles by the central nervous system, as is generally known from the painful tenseness of the spinal column. The spinal column joints are at least as often the victim of faulty control of the musculature as the causative factor of the disorder.
In most cases, the external signs of tonus asymmetry in babies disappear spontaneously within 6-8 weeks. However, in some babies the condition persists for several months. Often the phenomenon is considered harmless because it disappears spontaneously, and waiting is propagated as the only measure. On the other hand, however, in the case of the common delays in development physiotherapy, not infrequently prolonged, is prescribed. However, it must be borne in mind that tonus asymmetry is not exactly harmless, for, according to international studies, a high proportion of children who suffer from migraine, develop distortions of the spinal column (scolioses), are unskilled in fine motor tasks when starting school and lag behind in some school tasks (e.g. weakness in reading and writing) are often formerly asymmetric infants. It can therefore be postulated that although the asymmetry is only temporary, it has more far-reaching effects and can lead to a variety of disturbances.
Babies who show discomfort due to their asymmetry, or are screaming babies, must be treated in the same way as adults who suffer from pain! The asymmetry itself must be remedied, because it not uncommonly has unpleasant later consequences.
Four fifths of the affected babies have a disturbance of the mobility of the atlas as the main sign. In the other fifth the mobility of the atlas is free, although the child is just as asymmetrical. However, common to all affected babies is the disturbance of mobility of the pelvic joints (ileosacral joints). This may be an expression of the fact that the entire musculature is affected, and not only the muscles of the cervical vertebral column of just the joints of the atlas and the cranium.
At the Clinic for Manual Medicine the babies are first examined for whether they show disturbances in development. Then tests are carried out to ascertain how the tonus asymmetry is affecting not only the upper joints of the vertebral column, but also the other joints of the vertebral column including the ribs and the mechanics of the pelvis. Then, depending on the findings, using very gentle treatment techniques from manual medicine, Arlen’s Atlas therapy and myofascial release techniques (a technique from osteopathic medicine), the disturbed mobility of muscles and joints is restored. The treatments are given almost exclusively with the fingertips. The treatment is absolutely painless. No side effects have occurred in the last 20 years.
One third of the babies are treated only once and become symmetrical in the following days, another third has to be treated a second time after about 2 weeks. For the remaining third the doctor has to be extremely critical and check his examination results and treatment techniques before deciding that the tonus asymmetry is exceptionally stubborn, and giving a third treatment. To check the findings, an X-ray of the cervical column is then taken.
Critical examination and checking from the outset is necessary because in very young babies tonus asymmetry can mask a whole series of serious disturbances and diseases.