What is torticollis and how is it treated?

Posted by Ridgeview Pediatric Rehab Specialties Staff on Jul 4, 2017 2:00:00 PM

Torticollis-1.jpgTorticollis is a common postural deformity that affects newborns and infants. It is typically characterized by the neck bending to one side (a tilt) and turning the head to the opposite side. Because of this, infants diagnosed with torticollis tend to favor these motions in their neck, but also certain sides of their body.

What causes torticollis?

Torticollis is often caused by the tightening of a muscle in the neck that allows for movement of the head. There are many ways in which torticollis can develop:

Congenital torticollis -

  • Present at birth and develops when the fetus is positioned in utero where they are unable to freely move; including breech positioning and multiple births.

Acquired torticollis -

  • Develops over time from simple, repeated, consistent positioning after birth. Positions of feeding, holding and crib location can all contribute.
  • Torticollis may also appear as a result of damage to the muscles, nerves or blood supply in the neck that can occur during a complicated birth or traumatic event post-delivery. It can arise from other concerns such as vision problems or hip conditions.

What are the signs of torticollis?

  • A consistent tilt and turn of the head
  • One-sided movement or play
  • Flattening of the head and skull

What should you do if you notice these signs in your child?

If you notice these signs, make an appointment with your primary care physician or pediatrician. If deemed appropriate, they will refer you to a physical therapist for further assessment and treatment.

What can physical therapy do to help?

Physical therapists are recognized as movement specialists who are able to assess and treat torticollis. Physical therapy will focus on stretching, strengthening, promoting development of motor skills, and caregiver education for home follow through. The earlier efforts begin to break the torticollis pattern, the greater likelihood your child's development will stay on track.

Why should you seek treatment for your infant?

Torticollis, although usually a musculoskeletal condition, can affect all areas of your child's development, including the ability to use both sides of the body equally, head shape, eye function, balance, and much more. All of these can lead to problems with play, learning and navigating their environment if left untreated.

If you believe your child may be exhbiting some or all of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your child's physician or call Ridgeview Pediatric Rehab to discuss your concerns with one of our physical therapists today at 952-442-8006.

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Topics: Primary Care, Wellness, Rehabilitation

Medical and health information presented here is intended to be general in nature, and should not be viewed as a substitute for professional advice. Please consult with a health care professional for all matters relating to personal medical and health care issues. In case of an emergency, please call 911. 

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