What Causes Asymmetrical Heads in Babies?

Babies heads often present in different shapes and sizes.  It is quite common for a baby’s head to be asymmetrical, one type of asymmetry is termed plagiocephaly. Plagiocephaly can be quite worrisome for parents and can raise lots of questions.

 

Some babies are born with head asymmetry.  This can be caused by pressure being placed upon the cranium from intra-uterine constraint during gestation or by the strong pressures of contractions when descending down the birth canal during delivery.

plagiocephaly

images courtesy of ‘Medical advises’ Wikimedia Commons

This type of head asymmetry usually self-resolves over the first few weeks of life, when baby is moving their head evenly from side to side and spending lots of time on their tummy.

Plagiocephaly can also develop slowly over time and can seem to parents as though it suddenly appears.  Usually, a flattening to one side of the occipital bone of the cranium (the area at the back of the head) develops over the course of weeks to months.  This type of flattening is due to excess pressure being placed upon one side of the baby’s head during time spent on their back.  The underlying reasons for this would be due to lack of symmetrical movement of the neck and not enough time spent on their tummy.  This can indicate to the observer that the baby is avoiding turning their head to one side and this is likely to be because baby is uncomfortable or in pain.
The lack of movement in their neck can be due to an issue being present in the joints of the upper cervical spine.  There can be other reasons for this lack of movement, a condition called torticollis may be the culprit as well.  This is where there is tightening or shortening of an anterior neck muscle called the sternocleidomastoid muscle, this may be due to a soft tissue injury from birth or may even in some cases be due to a tumour.  Mishaped heads can also occur when there is a fusion of the cranial sutures (craniosynostosis), however, this is quite rare.

Chiropractors are able to treat complaints of the spine effectively.  When full range of motion of the neck is restored to the baby, if this is the underlying cause of plagiocephaly, baby’s head shape may return to normal.

 

 

References:

  1. Miller, R. I. and S. K. Clarren. 2000. “Long-Term Developmental Outcomes in Patients With Deformational Plagiocephaly.” Pediatrics 105(2): e26.
  2. Slate RK, Posnick JC, Armstrong DC, et al. 1993. “Cervical spine subluxation associated with congenital muscular torticollis and craniofacial asymmetry”. Plast Reconstr Surg 1993;91:1187-1197.
  3. Humphris et al. 2014. ” Resolution of non-synstotic plagiocephaly following Chiropractic Care: a case report”. J. Clin. Chiro. Paed. Vol. 14. Issue 3.