From Newborns to Toddlers, Physios are a safe option for babies

From Newborns to Toddlers, Physios are a safe option for babies

Article by: Nicole Madigan

Photo and article by: Health Times

While controversy remains around the physical manipulation of infants and young babies, physiotherapists provide a trusted and safe option for parents whose babies do require intervention for numerous reasons.

“The list of conditions in infants that may include physiotherapy care is quite long,” says chair of the APA National Paediatric Group, Nicole Haynes.

“Some physiotherapists may be working in relation to breathing difficulties, sensory system impairments, musculoskeletal and orthopaedic conditions, infants born with a diagnosed or suspected neurological or chromosomal conditions.

“In a private practice clinic, the most common reasons a parent may think to take their child to the physio if they are concerned about their motor development or they are concerned about a physical presentation such as constantly looking to one side, a flat spot on the back of the head or an odd position of the feet.”

Physiotherapists are trained to work from neonates upwards, and can complete further training to specialise in paediatric physiotherapy.

Developmental coordination disorder/developmental delay, developmental dysplasia of the hip, gross motor development, idiopathic toe walking, infant headshape, talipes, torticollis, neurological conditions, gait assessment, rehab after surgery and respiratory conditions are all able to be treated by a physiotherapist.

“For babies with head and neck asymmetry problems, they should see a physio ASAP – the sooner this is assessed and managed, the better the outcomes for babies,” says Ms Wroth.

“For delays in gross motor issues, sometimes it is a matter of doing an assessment and reassuring the parents, plus giving some strategies to encourage development at home, rather than any urgent need to intervene or have intensive therapy. 

“On other occasions, if there is a significant delay in development, this is best identified early as early intervention management programs tend to result in better outcomes for the baby.”

Ms Wroth says physiotherapists base their interventions and treatments on the highest possible available scientific evidence, and never perform treatments that are deemed to be unsafe or risky. 

In addition, physiotherapists are regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

“This means that physio have to maintain their education, training and registration on an annual basis in order to keep practicing; physios are accountable to AHPRA for their conduct when with patients.”

Physiotherapy treatment includes advice and education to parents in relation to the condition, positioning and handling techniques, gentle exercises and stretches along with active play ideas to promote the recovery of musculoskeletal conditions in infants.

Furthermore, physiotherapists are well-equipped to help parents understand the reasons behind the condition that prompted the investigation, and will educate parents rather than treat babies unnecessarily.

“Physios can often identify any issues and refer on as required, or provide reassurance to new parents that their baby is developing typically,” says Ms Wroth.

“Parents may not think of taking their baby to a physio for unsettled behaviours, however physios have expertise in analysing movement and physical behaviours in babies and may be able to contribute to better understanding of the underlying cause for their baby being unsettled.”

Individual assessment forms the basis for any treatment program, which usually includes educating and instructing parents in management strategies and play-based therapy for the home environment.

“A typical assessment may take one hour, however the baby spends the rest of that day in a different environment so physio treatment tends to focus on supporting and upskilling the caregivers, who are with their baby most of the time.”

To book to see a paediatric physio at St Leonards Physiotherapy please click here or call (02) 9438 1782.