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What Is Torticollis?

Torticollis (Latin for “twisted neck”) is a condition where the baby’s head is tilted to one side while their chin is turned to the other.

It can be upsetting to see that your baby is having trouble rotating or tilting his or her head. Most babies don’t feel any pain from torticollis and the problem usually responds well to physical therapy intervention, especially when started early.

What Causes Torticollis?

Torticollis affects both boys and girls equally and is due to tightness in the muscle that connects the breastbone and the collarbone to the skull (it’s called the sternocleidomastoid muscle). This tightness usually develops due to the way a baby is positioned in the uterus. This happens in about 1 in every 250 infants and is typically diagnosed in the first 4 to 6 months of life. Usually torticollis is an easily treated condition and does not leave any lasting effects.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Torticollis?

Babies with torticollis behave and develop like all other healthy babies, except when it comes to activities that involve head and neck rotation. A baby with torticollis might:

  • Tilts the head to one side (this can be hard to notice in very young infants)

  • Have limited movement.

  • Gets fussy when trying to position the baby on the affected side.

  • Swelling in the neck muscles.

  • The head may be flattened or unbalanced.

  • In some cases of early infantile Torticollis, there may be a slight delay in gross motor development.

How Is Torticollis Diagnosed?

Your baby’s pediatrician will do a physical exam to see how far your baby can turn his or her head. The doctor then may refer your baby to a pediatric physical therapist.

Care For Torticollis

At Bright Star Physical Therapy, we are dedicated to your baby’s needs. We have found that most babies with torticollis respond very well to our physical therapy program. Usually we see a complete resolution within a matter of months. Our dedicated team of physical therapists will provide an exercise plan that actively involves you in your baby’s care and development. Book an appointment today!

Sources: Baby Center: Kids Health: Children’s Hospital:


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