What is torticollis?
Torticollis is an abnormal position of the head and neck and is common in infants.
What causes torticollis?
Torticollis may be caused by tightness in the muscle on one side of the neck (this muscle is called the sternocleidomastoid). Sometimes there is a thickening or lump in the affected muscle, called fibromatosis coli. This is called “Congenital Muscular Torticollis”. There may be tightness in other neck or shoulder muscles as well.
What are the signs of torticollis?
Your baby will prefer to turn their head to one side:
Your baby will have problems turning their head from side to side and will often keep their head turned only to one preferred side.
Your baby may tilt their head to one side:
Your baby may hold their head tilted to one side with one ear closer to their shoulder. You may see this most when your baby is in a car seat or in photos.
Will my baby’s head be misshaped?
Your baby may have a flattening or bulging on the back or side of the head. This is called Plagiocephaly. You may notice one ear is forward of the other ear. Muscle tightness may also change the shape of your baby’s facial features on one side of the face. For example, their cheek may appear fuller on one side, or their eye may be “more open” in appearance compared to the other side. Your baby may open their mouth with an uneven jawline.
Will torticollis make my baby fussy?
Your baby may become fussy when you try to change the position of their head or when they are put on their tummy because they are not able to lift or turn their head.
How is torticollis treated?
The affected muscle in your baby’s neck may be shortened, tight and strong, the muscles on the other side of their neck may be stretched and weak.
Therapy goals are to help you position your baby in midline, stretch the tight neck muscles and strengthen the weaker neck muscles.
What may influence good outcomes in babies with torticollis?
• How severe the torticollis is
• How old your baby is when you start treatment
• How well you follow through on your home exercise program
What can I do to help treat my baby’s torticollis?
Torticollis is treated through exercises that you do at home with your baby. It’s best you weave all suggested activities into daily routines.
A good way to work on the exercises is do a different one with each diaper change for example. That way you are working on them throughout your day.
What are the main areas that you will work on with your baby?
• Positioning (Tummy Time, changing carrying and feeding positions and avoidance of containers as possible)
• Stretching exercises
• Strengthening exercises
• Motor development