Many osteopaths work with all age groups and some with additional skills, training and/or experience work predominately with children (including babies and infants), their families, support networks and other health professionals to improve health and wellbeing.
Osteopaths with a focus on paediatrics see a range of patient groups, including but not limited to:
- Families seeking information on normal growth and development of babies
- Babies needing assistance after birth
- Children needing rehabilitation after injury or post- surgery
- Children with chronic conditions, other physical impairments, or difficulties relating to their growth, development, postures or movement.
Assessment and treatment
There are clinical processes and requirements that all osteopaths follow, regardless of their clinical focus, before they provide treatment. These include performing a physical assessment, a thorough health history, discussion of a proposed treatment plan, provision of advice and information on the risks and benefits of any proposed treatment; and confirmation of your willingness to proceed – otherwise known as informed consent.
An assessment performed by an osteopath with a focus on paediatrics may include the following additional and specific clinical components:
- Discussion of child’s case history to assist with diagnosis and understanding. This involves an obstetric and birth history for babies
- Screening for impediments in movement, coordination and balance. Paediatric osteopaths use physical, orthopaedic, neurological and functional tests designed for children to assess any impediments to developmental, age specific functional milestones
- Observation of a child during leisure, while interacting with others or performing particular activities, if required
- Discussion of child health issues of concern to parents and care givers, or to children
- Discussion of developmental milestones, requirements for optimal development, and functional capabilities relevant to a child’s age and sex
- Consideration of biological, social and psychological contributing factors in the lifestyle of a child, if issues needing clinical intervention have been identified
- Determination of an appropriate child health referral pathway, as required
- Discussion of the goals of a child and/or family. This assists in providing tailored therapeutic interventions
- Discussion of age or developmentally appropriate osteopathic and manual therapy treatments that can be applied in isolation or in tandem with a broader range of health interventions.
Osteopaths with a focus on paediatrics may provide individual treatment and work in association with a range of other health care professionals. They may provide education, information, or learning sessions relating to the identified clinical and functional needs of a baby, infant, child or family.
They may also design programs around the needs of a baby, infant, child or family incorporating child focused clinical advice, aerobic and strengths training, prescription of age appropriate activities, aids or toys that aim to encourage and maintain age appropriate movement and functional skill.
Wherever indicated or clinically appropriate, they may provide gentle manual therapies for babies, infants and children.
Osteopaths with a focus on paediatrics regularly give referrals to and work with medical practitioners, paediatricians, maternal and child health nurses, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, psychologists and other professionals in meeting the needs of babies, infants, children and their families. Osteopaths also receive regular referrals from other health professionals.
Special considerations of osteopaths with a focus on children
Osteopaths with a focus on children have in depth knowledge of:
- Anatomical, physiological, musculoskeletal and neurological issues and considerations in children and young people throughout their development
- Developmental milestones and normal development
- Paediatric screening protocols by age and sex
- Paediatric referral pathways
- Paediatric clinical presentations
- Serious health risks affecting children and young people
- Paediatric assessment and clinical tests for children and young people
- Screening for general health and wellbeing issues affecting children and young people
- Age appropriate manual therapy interventions
- Broader health interventions for children and young people outside of manual therapy that may have benefits
- Indicators of child distress/trauma
- Social and psychological factors that may impact physical capabilities in children and young people.
Note: there are no specialisations within osteopathy. However many osteopaths choose to work with a specific patient group or groups and undertake further study and/or training to support their clinical focus.
 Physical tests are used to assess anatomy and range of motion in regions of the body.
 Orthopaedic tests are used to assess joint function and joint abnormalities.
 Neurological tests are used to assess function of the nervous system.
 Functional tests are used to assess movement patterns and patient capacity to perform various activities.