What is torticollis?
It is tightness or postural preference of the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle in the neck. It causes your baby to look one direction most of the time or prefer to feed on one side. It can cause tightness in the SCM on one side of the neck while the other SCM is weak and stretched out.
How do I know if my baby has torticollis?
- Directional feeding preference (only feeds on one side or has difficulty switching sides)
- Tilt of the head toward the shoulder
- Preference to look only one direction or difficulty looking equally left to right
- Plagiocephaly (often characterized by a flat spot)
Why does my baby have torticollis?
There are many different causes. It can be due to in-utero positioning (such as breech), reflux, or positioning. The etiology is often unknown.
Will it resolve on its own?
Due to torticollis being caused by muscle tightness and weakness, torticollis rarely resolves on its own. It requires knowledge of positioning in cribs, car seats, and while being held. The earlier it is addressed by a qualified professional, such as a physical therapist, the faster it will improve. If left to resolve on its own, your baby will often have unsymmetrical gross and fine motor development. This means that the baby may begin to learn and achieve gross and fine motor milestones but often only on one side. Achieving these milestones unsymmetrically can cause problems in the future with attainment of crawling, walking, riding bikes, or any activity that requires both sides of the body.
What can I do to help?
First, speak with your doctor. They will be able to provide you with a referral to physical therapy. Physical therapists are experts in the treatment of torticollis and will be able to evaluate the infant and provide education and a home program. The home program will often consist of positioning, stretching, and strengthening techniques. The physical therapist will then have you come back for follow-up visits to track progress and advance the home programming as needed.