At Children’s Health℠, we see more children with torticollis than almost any other hospital in our region. Our team includes world-class doctors and physical therapists who specialize in treating children with torticollis and many other conditions. This gives us the experience and expertise to help your child overcome this condition and go on to a happy, healthy childhood.
Pediatric torticollis or infant torticollis is a condition that develops when a baby’s neck muscle (sternocleidomastoid) is short and tight. This issue causes a baby’s head to tilt to one side and limits their range of motion. The condition is usually present at birth (congenital) and is sometimes called twisted neck or wryneck
The two main types of infant torticollis are:
Congenital torticollis, also known as congenital muscular torticollis (CMT), exists at birth. It’s the most common type of pediatric torticollis.
Acquired torticollis is a condition that develops after a baby is born.
Our doctors diagnose pediatric torticollis with a physical examination. During the exam, we’ll discuss your baby’s medical history, check their head shape and test how they move their neck. Sometimes, we recommend X-rays and vision exams to help confirm a diagnosis.
Although congenital torticollis occurs at birth, it may go unnoticed for several weeks. On average, most babies with congenital torticollis are diagnosed within the first few months of life. Acquired torticollis typically develops in the first four to six months of a child’s life but can occur later.
The cause of pediatric torticollis depends on the type. Congenital torticollis results from the shortening or tightening of the neck muscle, which can happen because of:
Acquired torticollis usually results from an injury (trauma) or underlying health condition, such as:
At Children's Health, we offer care from a team of experts who have special training in helping children overcome torticollis and many other conditions. Our doctors and physical therapists will pinpoint what's causing your child's torticollis. Then we'll build a custom treatment plan just for them.
Treatment for congenital torticollis
Our doctors typically begin your child’s treatment for congenital torticollis with physical therapy (PT) to stretch and strengthen the neck. Most babies improve their head and neck movement after a few months of PT. We will also show you ways to support your child’s recovery at home, with tummy time and stretching routines.
Treatment for acquired torticollis
Treatment for acquired torticollis aims at addressing the underlying cause to improve movement and symptoms. Your child’s care plan may include:
The children we see with torticollis almost always completely recover. If torticollis affects the shape of your baby’s head, we fit babies for safety helmets at our specialty clinic.
Care and treatment from the right physical therapist can help children overcome torticollis. If the condition doesn’t improve, it can cause long-term effects such as:
Our care team recommends treatment for torticollis to prevent long-term complications. With proper care, children with torticollis usually fully recover.
Infant torticollis can delay important physical milestones, such as rolling over, sitting upright, crawling, standing and walking. Torticollis can also affect the quality of movement, making it harder for a baby to sit up, crawl or walk.
At Children’s Health, our pediatric team includes experts in plastic surgery, orthopedics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurosurgery and physical therapy. Together, our specialists identify the cause of torticollis and create a care plan that’s customized to your child’s needs.
Newborns with torticollis usually show signs and symptoms such as head tilting, trouble turning their head and difficulty feeding on one side. Your pediatrician can diagnose infant torticollis with a physical exam.
Without treatment for torticollis, your child won’t be able to move their neck and head properly. The lack of muscle movement can lead to complications that include:
The length of time torticollis may last will vary for each child and depends on the type of torticollis your child has. With most infants, we usually see improvement after about six months of physical therapy.