What is torticollis?

Infant torticollis diagnoses are on the rise and early detection is critical for effective treatment. Torticollis is any abnormal posture of the head and/or neck caused by neck tightness and weakness that often can develop during pregnancy. The first sign of torticollis that parents usually notice is that their baby prefers to look to one side. In addition, a head tilt (ear to shoulder) may also be observed. These may be very subtle and usually require the skills of a pediatric physical therapy to determine if your baby has torticollis.

The earlier the treatment for torticollis is initiated, the quicker it may be resolved. If the physical therapist determines that your baby has torticollis, he/she may recommend treatment and will educate you on various exercises, stretches, and repositioning techniques. A family’s active involvement in consistently completing the homes exercise program prescribed by the physical therapy is a key component to the resolution of torticollis.

In the meantime, there are things you can do before you schedule your appointment:

  • TUMMY TIME! Tummy time, while baby is awake, can be started immediately and there is no limit to the amount of time a baby can spend on his or her tummy.
  • If you notice your baby has a preference to only look one direction, reposition to promote looking the opposite way
  • Limit use of “containers” such as care seats, Rock-n-plays, swings, etc. Unless a baby is required to remain upright after eating or during sleep due to such things as reflux, all positioning devices should be limited because of their tendency to promote poor posturing of the head and neck and decreasing the child’s ability move their head in all directions. This can result in worsening of any neck muscle tightness that may be present, as well as significant head shape changes. Time spent playing on the floor is the best position for your baby to move through his or her full motion and promote developmental strengthening, as well as explore and interact with their environment.

If you feel your child may have torticollis, seek out a physical therapist that specializes in pediatrics, and in particular, torticollis evaluation and treatment. It is important that they are assessed, as every child presents differently and will have a unique treatment plan that includes stretching, but also strengthening exercises to the opposite side. Again, early identification is essential to resolving neck tightness and weakness, allowing your baby to move, discover, and explore his or her environment for optimal development!

Call us for details: In Sioux Falls, 605-444-9700. In Sioux City, 712-226-ABLE (2253). In Rapid City, 605-791-7400.

Learn more about LifeScape’s therapy services.