Torticollis is a condition characterized by an involuntary tilt of the head to one side of the body. In infants, it is typically seen in children that were breached for months at a time. The condition can occur in adults or infants and may be temporary or persistent, depending upon the cause. This article is designed to create awareness and provide treatment options.
What is Infant Congenital Torticollis?
This type of torticollis is present at birth and is often caused by positioning in the womb or birthing trauma. Many breech babies that were subject to staying in the same position in the womb suffer from congenital torticollis. It is considered a situational condition and can be treated and cured in most cases.
The primary symptom of torticollis is the abnormal positioning of the head or neck. Often, the infant will favor laying on one side of their face due to stiffness of the neck. Limited motion is also a symptom, while pain and discomfort can occur as well as chin positioning to the opposite side of the head tilt.
For infants, additional symptoms may include difficulty breastfeeding on one side, a flat spot on the head or face due to persistent head tilting, and delayed motor development on the affected side.
The treatment of congenital muscular torticollis (CMT) includes gentle stretching of the sternocleidomastoid muscle. Physical therapy is often prescribed by a general pediatrician and can include stretches (exercises instead of stretches?) and massaging designed to loosen the neck muscles and provide a range of motion toward the affected area.
Additional treatment may be needed as the infant progresses. More often than not, with the right treatment, congenital torticollis can get progressively better. Most infants diagnosed, upon seeking treatment, recover well within 5 months.
A licensed and certified occupational therapist can be recommended by your pediatrician. The early that treatment is started will result in a better outcome. Common stretching and positioning of the neck and head can improve motor functions and decrease the likelihood of long-term complications. Your physical therapist will also give you instructions on stretching that you can do at home, on your own time outside of treatment.