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What is Torticollis?

It is a rare condition in which the neck muscles contract, causing the head to twist to one side. In newborns, it can happen due to positioning in the womb or after a difficult childbirth. This is called infant torticollis or congenital muscular torticollis. It can be upsetting to see that your baby has a tilted head or trouble turning his or her neck. There are five forms of torticollis:

  • Congenital muscular torticollis – is the most common form of the condition. It affects infants and is generally diagnosed within the first 2 months of life.
  • Postural torticollis – is diagnosed when the infant’s head tilt comes and goes. It is diagnosed within the first 5 months of life and often is the result of a lack of a variety of positions, such as when the child is consistently placed in a car seat or other baby “container” for extended periods of time.
  • Ocular torticollis – is caused by a vision problem in one eye, causing the individual to tilt his or her head to see better.
  • Spasmodic torticollis (wryneck) – occurs in older children and adults
  • Acute torticollis – occurs when a child or adult bends or twists the neck too far or experiences some type of trauma.

Can physiotherapy help babies with torticollis?

Yes. Regardless of the patient’s age, physiotherapy is the primary treatment for all forms of torticollis. Physiotherapists provide treatment to address the impairments caused by torticollis. Early treatment produces the best outcomes. If not treated, torticollis can become a permanent condition.

What are the causes of torticollis?

  • Cramped position in the womb or abnormal position such as breech position

  • Trauma

  • Infection of the head or neck

  • Tumours

  • Scar tissue

  • Arthritis of the cervical spine

  • Vascular abnormalities

  • Certain drugs of abuse

  • Family history

  • Congenital abnormalities of the cervical spine

How do I know if my baby has torticollis?

  • Your baby holds his/her head to one side

  • Your baby has limited neck movement

  • There is a small bump on the side of her neck

  • Your baby may also develop positional plagiocephaly (asymmetrical head shape) because they’ll often sleep with their head turned to the side

  • Your baby prefers to look over the shoulder, not at you

  • Your baby has trouble breastfeeding on one side or prefers to feed on one side only

  • Your baby works hard to turn toward you, struggles to turn his head all the way, and becomes upset because the movement is hard

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