Infant physiotherapy is one of the most effective ways to develop, rehabilitate, and improve the motor skills of babies who need treatment or assistance with balance, muscle control, or those who have developed disorders and disabilities either through birth injuries or genetic abnormalities.
What Is the Benefit of Infant Physiotherapy?
Infant physiotherapy can benefit infants who are experiencing difficulties in their physical or motor skills by helping the baby to achieve their maximum potential when they grow. Since infant needs vary according to disability or disorder, infant physiotherapy will vary depending on the goals of the therapist to his/her patient.
In this blog, we will discuss clubfeet, and it is important to note that there are different types.
A clubfoot is a range of foot abnormalities in which the baby's foot/feet is/are twisted out of shape or position. The tissues connecting the muscles to the bones or tendons are usually shorter than normal.
Types of Clubfoot
Idiopathic clubfoot- means that the cause is unknown.
Secondary clubfoot-means a different disease or condition caused the clubfoot, such as neurological or syndromic disorders like Arthrogyposis or Spina bifida.
Positional Clubfoot- means it is not a true clubfoot and can be corrected.
When an infant with clubfoot goes to the therapist for the first time, a full assessment is being made. This is to determine the extent of the abnormality so that proper treatment can be applied to correct the problem early on.
Common Exercises and Treatment
The newborn's bones, joints, and tendons are very flexible, so physiotherapy should begin in the first week or two after birth. The goal is for the baby to improve the way the infant's foot looks and works before he/she can learn to walk.
The treatment includes:
Stretching and casting (Ponseti method). The baby’s foot is positioned correctly and is placed in a cast to hold it there. The baby’s foot is repositioned and recast once a week for several months. A minor operation called percutaneous Achilles tenotomy is also performed to lengthen the Achilles tendon at the end of the Ponseti process.
Surgery. The orthopedic surgeon lengthens and or repositions the tendons and ligaments to help place the foot into a better position. This is usually recommended if the baby’s clubfoot doesn’t respond to nonsurgical treatments. The foot is placed on a cast for up to two months. The baby may need to wear a brace for a year or so to prevent the clubfoot from returning.
After the baby’s foot is realigned, the physiotherapist will teach you several exercises that you can do at home to maintain the corrected position after the casting and bracing phase of the treatment. He/she would usually use an infant mannequin/manikin like StandInBaby to demonstrate how the exercise is done. Below are the steps:
- The therapist will place the StandInBaby on its back, placing his/her one hand on the baby mannequin's flexed knee to demonstrate how to hold it steady.
- He/she will then cradle the StandInBaby’s foot with the palm of the other hand with the index finger above the heel, demonstrating how to do it properly.
- The therapist will then show how to move the foot outwards and flex it outwards, holding it for 5 seconds using the infant mannequin.
- The therapist will then demonstrate how to straighten the legs using the StandInBaby mannequin/manikin.
- Repeat as many times, taking note of how the therapist showed it using the mannequin.
- When you are confident that you know how to do it on the infant mannequin, you can repeat the steps on your baby’s clubfoot. When done, stroke or tickle the outside portion of your baby's leg and foot to stimulate his/her muscles and nerves.
StandInBaby (SIB) is ideal for the demonstration as it has engineered joints that will allow the physiotherapist to show the parents how to perform the clubfoot exercises. Head on to our website for inquiries or orders.
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