Torticollis is a common condition and is often associated with plagiocephaly. It is characterized by an inability to turn the head fully in both directions, and there may also be a head tilt towards the affected muscle.
It can vary in severity, from mild where there is a slight restriction, to severe where the baby has real trouble turning fully in both directions. Depending on the symptoms that are present, an indication of the treatment needed to treat torticollis in infants. For example, some babies have developed a torticollis due to their position before birth in the womb during pregnancy; others may have developed the condition following a difficult birth.
Infantile torticollis, sometimes called congenital muscular torticollis (CMT), can be associated with infant fibrositis (a muscle inflammation) or a sternomastoid (SCM) tumour. This sounds scary but it’s just a little knot of muscle fibres in the muscle on one side of the neck. Tumour just means lump, it’s not cancer. While there are many potential causes of torticollis in young children, most cases will come from either neck positioning before or during birth leading to a continuation of positioning to give comfort.
Treatment for infantile torticollis will depend on the underlying cause of the condition, and may include Physiotherapy or Osteopathic therapy to gently stretch and extend the baby’s neck muscles to allow full range of movement in both directions.
To effectively treat your baby’s torticollis, there are a few steps you can take.
- Physiotherapy for torticollis can be effective in treating the condition, as gentle stretching and strengthening exercises will help to restore full range of motion. Early treatment and stretching exercises can reduce the incidence and severity of plagiocephaly.
- Changing the position of your baby’s head while feeding encourages them to use their full range of movement at other times. This is a simple and effective way to deal with infantile torticollis.
- Parents can encourage changes in position by moving toys across the baby’s line of sight to encourage head turning.
If you carry out stretching exercises regularly under the advice of a health professional, this can resolve the issue within a few months.
Baby’s Diagnosed with Plagiocephaly and Torticollis
If your infant has been diagnosed with plagiocephaly secondary to a torticollis, the types of repositioning techniques mentioned can help to reduce the severity of the head shape asymmetry if started early enough.
If the torticollis isn’t resolved within a month, or the condition becomes severe, we recommend further investigation.
Moderate to severe cases of torticollis which result in plagiocephaly can require treatment to correct the head shape in the form of a plagiocephaly helmet, which gently allows head to grow naturally towards the normal corrected head shape. We have almost 20 years’ experience providing this fast and pain-free treatment, and can provide you with all the information and support that you need.
Types of torticollis
- Congenital torticollis
- Acquired torticollis
Congenital torticollis refers to a condition that was present at birth and is the more common of the two classifications. Congenital torticollis can occur as a result of either difficult births or if the baby has maintained one specific position in utero during pregnancy. Although congenital torticollis is normally able to be identified soon after birth, many parents do not notice their child has this condition until they are about 2 months old and start to gain control over head movement.
Usually, congenital torticollis responds very well to repositioning techniques and the earlier the child is placed in an alternate position, the more successful treatments are. Congenital torticollis is often related to plagiocephaly as these babies spend a significant period of time in one spot leading them to have pressure on parts of their skull which can be asymmetrical making it difficult for them to grow properly resulting in an uneven shaped head.
Acquired torticollis is a medical condition which can develop after birth, often becoming noticeable within the first six months. The cause of acquired torticollis is typically the muscles in the neck not growing evenly in length resulting in a restriction to one side.
Treatment options include seeking professional diagnosis and pursuing necessary treatment as soon as possible.
If you’re concerned about your baby’s head shape and are treating your child with torticollis, don’t hesitate to contact us. We have a team of clinicians ready and waiting to help you