What is Plagiocephaly and How Can Physical Therapy Help?

Plagiocephaly is a condition when a flattened spot develops on the back or side of a baby’s head. This is caused by uneven pressures on the back of the head usually due to how the baby is lying. Plagiocephaly can lead to a misshapen head and in severe cases cause deformities in the facial bones around the cheeks and eyes.

In 2013 the American Academy of Pediatrics released a study to estimate the incidence of positional plagiocephaly in infants 7 to 12 weeks old. They looked at 440 infants who attended the 2 month well checkup. They found 205 infants to have some form of plagiocephaly. The instance of plagiocephaly is estimated to be 46.6% of infants. More on this study can be found at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/132/2/298.short.

Since this study was completed in one specific area more studies need to be completed to get a better representation of the country as a whole. However, that is a very high statistic in just a single area. Plagiocephaly is something that can easily be prevented in infants. One major cause of plagiocephaly is due to not enough tummy time. While awake, babies can spend half of their awake time on their belly. This is a great position for the child to play in and helps keep pressure off the back of the head. Limiting the time spent in containers (car seats, strollers, etc.) is another way to help reduce the risk of plagiocephaly. Too much container time can lead to plagiocephaly and also developmental delays according to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).  Read more about what baby container syndrome is and the impact it has on your child’s development here at http://www.moveforwardpt.com/symptomsconditionsdetail.aspx?cid=53d90264-1846-4b86-891f-0facc63db3e8.

The good news is that plagiocephaly can be easily treated through either a positioning program or through the use of an orthotic helmet. If you are worried that your child might have plagiocephaly, contact your pediatrician or bring them in to us at Lowcountry Therapy Center for a free screening.


-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

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