Torticollis is a musculoskeletal condition affecting infants and babies that inhibits full head movement due to a shortened neck muscle. The head of a baby with torticollis tilts to the affected side with the chin rotated towards the opposite shoulder.
Congenital torticollis is the most common form. While it is present at birth, it typically takes several weeks for parents to notice something is wrong because babies don’t have control of their head at birth. Congenital torticollis is often associated with plagiocephaly, which is when one side of the head or face has a flattened appearance. The cause of congenital torticollis is undetermined, but theories suggest that intrauterine position, decrease in blood supply and trauma to the sternocleidomastoid muscle during pregnancy or birth could all be possible causes.
Acquired torticollis typically occurs within the first four to six months of childhood. Children may develop this condition from sleeping with their neck in the wrong position or from
any injury to the neck or head. Unlike congenital torticollis, there is no asymmetry to the face, and the condition is usually benign. However, treatment is still necessary because it can be a sign of more serious problems.
Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation offers physical therapy for babies with torticollis. A physical therapist will evaluate the strength and range of motion of the neck and arms, as well as
assess motor skills. Along with physical therapy sessions, parents will be given at home exercises for their babies to stretch tight areas, work on increasing rotation and refocus alignment. With consistent treatment, patients will get 85 to 100 percent better in three to seven months.
If you are concerned that your baby may have torticollis, ask your pediatrician for a physical therapy prescription to evaluate your child.