What is Torticollis?
Torticollis, otherwise known as wryneck, is a condition usually seen in infants where there is damage or tightness to the sternocleidomastoid muscle in the neck. This muscle’s action is to tilt the neck to the same direction and rotate it to the opposite direction. Hence, when a child (or an adult) has torticollis, they generally appear to have a head tilt to the affected side (where the muscle is shortened) and chin rotated up to the opposite direction. Other types of conditions, such as infection, tumors, ophthalmologic problems, and cervical abnormalities should be ruled out by the pediatrician prior to a referral to physical therapy.
What causes torticollis?
There are many potential causes for congenital muscular torticollis. Generally, intrauterine malposition or birth trauma during delivery are ways that torticollis can be caused during pregnancy or delivery. Babies who are born in the breach position, multiples and babies who are delivered with the aid of forceps are at higher risk for torticollis. In addition, positioning after birth can cause torticollis if the infant is always faced in the same direction or positioned in the same way. Plagiocephaly, or flatness to the head of the infant, can in itself cause tightness to the neck muscles and associated torticollis.
How do I treat torticollis?
Physical therapy involves gentle stretching of the affected sternocleidomastoidas as well as strengthening to the neck musculature to achieve a neutral neck position and full range of motion available to the neck. Close attention is also focused on facilitating gross motor milestones as torticollis can cause a developmental delay if not treated early in life. Often times a therapist will work with a peanut-shaped ball to help facilitate strengthening and balance reactions in an infant. Other techniques, such as gentle massage and positioning techniques are completed during the therapy session. Parents are always given a home exercise program to work on stretching and exercise at home to help the infant correct the torticollis as soon as possible.
Our approach to torticollis
North Shore Pediatric Therapy physical therapists are trained in the treatment of torticollis and will provide your son or daughter with the best treatment possible. Physician communication is something that NSPT prides itself on and enables healthy, frequent communication with your child’s health-care team to ensure well-informed team members. Your therapist will carefully go over your child’s home exercise program and will make sure that you as the parent feel comfortable with all of the home exercises to ensure successful treatment from all angles.