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What is Plagiocephaly?

What is Plagiocephaly?

Also known as ‘flat head syndrome’, deformational plagiocephaly is the most common craniofacial problem among babies today. It is characterised by a flattening on the back or one side of the baby’s skull, which can occur when the baby’s head lies in the same position for too long – usually when they’re left to sleep on their back for prolonged periods. Other causes include in-utero constraint, pressure put on the cranium during birth, and muscular/congenital torticollis.

If left untreated, the condition may correct itself. However, if it fails to do this, it can leave the child with an asymmetrical head shape and facial abnormalities.


Where necessary, it’s important to seek treatment between 4 to 8 months of age, as this is when the greatest correction can be achieved. Treatment may be sought from specialists including plastic surgeons, orthotists, chiropractors, and paediatric physiotherapists.

The most common forms of treatment are:

Counter positioning – This involves repositioning the baby to ensure their head is not resting on the flat spot. Babies should also be encouraged to lie on their tummies and on their sides during playtime.

Helmet therapy – In more serious cases, or where counter positioning has failed, a cranial remodelling helmet may be custom-fitted in order to mould the skull. The helmet removes pressure on the flat area, which allows the skull to grow into the available space. Helmet therapy typically lasts for 2 to 6 months, during which time the infant is required to wear the helmet for 23 hours each day.


There are a few simple things you can do to help prevent the development of plagiocephaly:

  • Repositioning during sleep – A baby must sleep on their back in order to reduce the risk of SIDS. But you can still work to prevent plagiocephaly by alternating the head position from left to right each time they sleep. Other things you can do include putting the baby at alternate ends of their cot to sleep, or moving the cot to different spots in the room so the baby is encouraged to look at objects from different angles.
  • Tummy time – Place your baby on their tummy or side when they play. Tummy time has the added benefit of stimulating the upper neck muscles and assisting in cognitive development and motor coordination.

To learn how chiropractic treatment can assist with plagiocephaly, get in touch with Melbourne Chiro Clinic today.

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