What is torticollis?


Torticollis, also known as “wryneck”, is a condition in which your baby’s head is tilted to a side. The chin points to one shoulder, while the head tilts to the other shoulder. Early treatment is necessary to prevent your baby’s face and skull from growing unevenly and to prevent limited motion to the head and neck.

What causes torticollis?

Torticollis happens when the neck muscle that runs up and toward the back of your baby’s neck is shortened. This will bring your baby’s head down to one side. This is known as congenital torticollis.

The exact cause is unknown. However, there is a chance that the muscle may get injured before or during the baby’s birth. The injured muscle may bleed and swell and scar tissue may build up to replace the injured muscle and as a result causing it shorter.

There are some cases of congenital torticollis are caused by a bone problem in the neck. This is a congenital malformation of the cervical spine.

What are the symptoms of torticollis?

Your baby’s head will be tilted to one side. The chin points to one shoulder and the head tilts to the other shoulder. You may notice that the baby cannot move the head as well as other babies. There may also be a lump in your baby’s neck muscle.

Not all torticollis occur during birth, it could also happen later in life.

How is congenital torticollis diagnosed?

You may notice that the baby’s head is always tilting to one side. If unsure, always visit your doctor for an examination to rule out other condition.

Your doctor will physically examine the baby and some questions regarding your baby birth. X-rays of the neck may be needed to see the bony problems.

How is congenital torticollis treated?

Your doctor may refer you to a physiotherapist to stretch your baby’s neck muscle.

Your doctor or the physiotherapist will also teach you to stretch your baby’s muscle so you can do it safely for your baby several times a day.

Your baby may need to follow up with your doctor to review the progress. However, if physiotherapy does not improve after a few months, surgery may be recommended to lengthen the neck muscle.

If the congenital torticollis is not caused by a shortened neck muscle but by a cervical spine abnormality, the spine abnormality is sometimes treatable.

Congenital torticollis is best to treat early to prevent problems in the baby’s future growing development.

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