Birth Related Mild Neck Injuries and Their Widespread Domino Effect

Calving and lambing season has already started based on what our farmers are telling me. At our office, I often joke that we have our “lambing” season of sort, with crops of new babies arriving periodically. The last little one I saw on Friday reminded me of this article that I saw at my alma mater’s homecoming in early February, and that I have wanted to blog about ever since.

As one new mom aptly put it, birth is “an awful lot of contorting in a very small space”. Even under the best of circumstances the path from the in utero position to the outside world through such a narrow passage with lots of possible obstructions and delays, and the in utero position itself, head down in a small funnel for weeks, can be its own problem before the first contraction begins.

The 1992 article from a German surgical center is still incredibly relevant today. I could not load up the original (in German and before the internet cataloging), but the summary article from Dr. Murphy does it justice. These are some major takeaways:

  • Upper cervical injuries are extremely common, ranging from very mild to more severe.

  • There is a consistent, recognizable pattern of postural distortion in a newborn that affect not only the neck and head, but also the posture and development of the pelvis and feet.

  • Rigid head extension is one of the most common postural distortions (emphasis mine). This often means the the newborn will be averse to laying on their back and will scream in the car seat, because of painful pressure over the occiput. This is also the frequent cause of the occipital bald spot, with excessive friction of the skin when the head is extended too far.

  • There are neurological and autonomic issues secondary to the occipital sprain, including feeding difficulty such as reflux and spitting up, and sleep difficulties.

  • Carefully applied manual therapy is the best treatment.