Infant Torticollis occurs when an infant's head has found a resting side preference and tips to one side.
Quick Facts – What is it?
- Latin ‘Torticollis’ translation: Tortus= twisted and collum= neck.
- Tightness of a side neck muscle (sternocleidomastoid – SCM).
- Plagiocephaly, (aka flat head syndrome) = flat spot on back or one side of infant’s head.
- When the infant’s head has found a resting side preference, the head will thus tip to one side.
- It could be acquired (positioning preference after birth) or the baby can be born with it.
Possible Causes – Are there predisposing factors?
- It occurs when the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle, on one side of the neck, is shorter or weaker than it should be.
- Position of the baby in the uterus.
- Infant staying in one head turned position for too long (torticollis).
- Infant lying on their back for too long (plagiocephaly).
- Could be congenital (born with) muscular torticollis.
Complexity of Symptoms – Risk factors
- Affects the child’s ability of bending or turning the neck towards a shoulder.
- Head rotation may be hindered.
- Presence of a soft lump in neck muscle.
- Possible difficulty breastfeeding on one side.
- Infant may develop plagiocephaly (flattened side/area of baby’s head) from remaining in one position for extended periods of time.
Infant Torticollis is usually diagnosed by post-partum physician. They will test the extent of the baby’s head mobility. If you notice your child unable to turn their head easily or have a flatter area of their head, it may be a sign.
Treatment is essential to minimize difficulties as infant/child grows, if left untreated the child may experience:
- Limited control of their head
- Poor balance
- Problem feeding
- Crooked crawling
Physiotherapy is often all that is needed to correct the tight muscle, and correct plagiocephaly. Education, exercises, stretches, play-time tips, tummy time, etc. can help your child to improve.
CHEO has a program and resources available to help with self-management, as well as alternative treatment options when Physiotherapy is not enough. Check out CHEO’s information and home exercise sheets!
Need more help? Not sure where to start?
Give us a call and book an appointment with one of our experienced physiotherapists.
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