Craniofacial anomalies such as cleft lip and cleft palate affect 1 in 700 babies every year, and are the fourth most common birth defect in the US. These medical anomalies are facial and oral malformations that occur very early in embryonic development, and in most cases the cause is unknown. When a child is born with a cleft lip or palate there is a physical separation of the upper lip that often extends beyond the base of the nose and includes the bones of the upper jaw or gum. This separation of the lip and palate can lead to further problems such as eating problems, ear infections or hearing loss, speech problems, and dental problems.
This is, however, a repairable condition. With a team of surgeons and health professionals, the separations in the lips and palates can be closed up. Surgeries are usually started when the child is 3 months old, but will often require several surgeries over the course of 18 years. Bone grafts and braces are also often required later in age as the child grows. Over time with the amount of scar tissue that builds up with ongoing surgeries. These scars can cause muscle weakness and limited range of motion when smiling or puckering the lips, as well as the obvious abnormal appearance of the skin. These side effects of the surgery can cause some psychological issues for the child as well as the parents.
Studies have shown that massage has been effective in treating the scars and restoring range of motion and muscle strength in the lips. In one study conducted on a 19 year old subject, born with bilateral cleft lip and palate. The subject underwent three surgeries to repair the opening between his nasal and oral cavities; that left him with significant scarring. He stated that he experienced restriction under the scars when talking, eating and forming facial expressions, as well as muscle weakness and fatigue in the muscles of the mouth and nose while talking and smiling. He also noted a decrease in the natural symmetry of the lip. During this 5 week study the subject was put on a treatment plan consisting of fascial release, kneading and intraoral techniques.
Over the course of this study with 1 session per week for the 5 weeks, the client noted that he experienced range of motion and increased symmetry of his lip. He also noted that he was experiencing increased confidence of his scar and its appearance.
If you or anyone you know has had surgeries to repair a cleft lip or palate and is experiencing some of the negative effects from them, please call us in the office at, 480-686-8647, to set up your free consultation and find out how massage can help you achieve some of the same results.