Torticollis

Infant torticollis occurs at or shortly following birth as a result of a shortening of the sternocleidomastoid muscle. The tightness in the neck muscles results primarily in a rotational position with a secondary side bend. Possible causes include birth trauma, fibromatosis colli (palpable mass in muscle), limited space in utero, limited mobility, or leading to confined positions (twins, etc.), ocular abnormalities, nerve damage, and GERD.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS:

  • Neck tightness leading to the child always looking in one direction or not turning the other direction
  • Muscle tension
  • Asymmetrical neck strength
  • Poor head control
  • Postural preferences
  • Plagiocephaly, which is a flattening of part of an infant’s skull that results from a child staying in a turned position, leading to more pressure on one side of the skull; addressing neck tightness relieves pressure off of the skull allowing skull bone to round out for proper brain growth and development

HOW CAN PHYSICAL THERAPY HELP?

Physical therapists can help correct muscle tension to allow for proper skull shape and brain development through soft tissue massage, stretching, neck strengthening, and correcting postural habits. Your child’s physical therapist will also teach you how to appropriately stretch the affected muscles as well as provide cues to help eliminate excessive pressure on the skull.

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