What is Torticollis and How Do I Know if My Baby May Have It?

What is Torticollis?

Torticollis is the shortening/tightness of the muscles on one side of the neck, typically the Sternocleidomastoid muscle. Due to this shortening/tightness they may always look to one side and be unable to look in the opposite direction. You can think about it like when an adult strains a muscle in their neck and it is uncomfortable or they are unable to move their head through their full range of motion. Torticollis is common in many infants and can easily be treated.

How Will I Know if My Baby May Have Torticollis?

Do you notice that when your baby is on their back, belly or seated position, that they always look to one side of their body and never or rarely look to the other side of their body? Due to the tightness in their neck muscles they have a preference to look to only one side.  Additionally, they may have difficulty or are unable to turn to look toward the other side of their body.

What Could Have Caused the Torticollis?

Torticollis can occur for many reasons including:

  • Positioning Before Birth – Due to how your baby was positioned in utero, your baby may have always kept their head toward one direction which lead to the tight neck muscles. This is common with large babies and with multiples.
  • Positioning After Birth – It can also occur in the months following birth for a variety of reasons, which may include:
    • How your baby is being held and fed;
    • Toys/objects in their environment are always placed on one side of their body;
    • They spend too much time in equipment such as swings, bouncers, car seats, etc.

What Now?

If you have concerns that your baby may have Torticollis, then an evaluation by a pediatric physical therapist will be your next step to determine your baby’s needs.  If you have questions on what to expect during a Torticollis evaluation you may check out this blog [link to other blog].  Torticollis is commonly treated by a pediatric physical therapist and when caught early, (2-4 months of age) it may be able to be treated in a short time period. 

-Kelly Raines, PT, DPT

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *