This Week we talk to physical therapist Jane Knowlton about torticollis, a somewhat common but relatively unheard of condition. In this post, find out what this condition is, how it can be prevented, and how it is treated.
Torticollis, or wry neck, is a condition that can be present in babies right after birth or that may take a few months to develop in a baby. No one knows the specific cause of torticollis, though it is generally thought to occur in babies who are abnormally positioned or are cramped while in utero. Some babies can also develop torticollis after birth because they are not allowed the movement needed to develop their neck muscles properly.
Torticollis: The Basic Facts
Torticollis literally means “twisted neck” in Latin, and is a condition that affects the sternocleidomastoid, or SCM muscle, which is a long rope like muscle that runs from the back of the ears to the collarbone on either side of the head. Babies develop torticollis because of the tightening of their SCM muscle which results in a head tilt to one side and neck rotation to the opposite side. If left untreated, torticollis can cause a flattening of the head on one side, development issues or delays in babies and children.
According to Jane, the PTC practice has seen a significant increase in torticollis cases in recent years. She attributes this increase to the push for babies to sleep on their backs (to prevent SIDS) while not being given the necessary amount of tummy time needed. The heavy use of baby equipment and gear by parents has also contributed significantly to this problem.
Signs and Symptoms
It can be easy for some parents to miss signs and symptoms of torticollis, especially in newborn babies, but there are a few things every parent should watch for including:
- Head tilt to one side consistently
- Hard time turning head completely to follow you with his/her eyes
- Baby prefers to look at you over one shoulder
- Trouble breastfeeding on one side
Additionally, some babies with torticollis can develop other issues such as Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip and Positional Plagiocephaly, or flat head, so it is important that a parent seek the help of a pediatrician or physical therapist if concerned.
Prevention and Treatment
There are a few things parents can do at home to help prevent this condition in their baby. Including:
- Limiting the amount of time the baby spends in certain equipment such as swings, car seats, and bouncy seats. It is important that parents hold their babies as much as possible.
- Taking baby to all Well Check ups with their pediatrician.
- Having baby spend as much time as possible each day doing tummy time, and keeping them off their backs unless sleeping. This will help stretch out and strengthen the muscles in their neck.
If a parent suspects that their child has torticollis, it is important that they get their child evaluated by a physical therapist who will be able to diagnose and treat the baby. If diagnosed with the condition, the physical therapist will work on strengthening the SCM muscles in the baby’s neck to ensure that the condition is remedied properly. Usually, a baby will require treatment at every stage of their development up until the child starts walking.
Pediatric Therapy Center offers exceptional, patient-centered occupational, physical, and speech/language therapy for children with orthopedic, sensory processing, cranio-facial, and genetic disorders. If you feel your child is exhibiting any signs of torticollis, or is struggling developmentally in any way, call PTC at 713.772.1400 for a consultation with one of our experienced therapists today.
If you would like more information about torticollis:
If you would like more information about how to use tummy time effectively: