As a new parent lots of worry revolves around your babies head and neck. The muscles in babies necks are not fully developed so you have to constantly support their neck. But what happens when it seems your baby’s neck is twisted? Torticollis is a condition in which the head is tilted to one side and the chin to the other. This can be painful but luckily most cases can be corrected with exercises that strengthen the muscles in the neck.
Torticollis can be diagnosed at birth but most cases are diagnosed when an infant is between 6 and 8 weeks old. This time is when babies start to gain control of their neck and head. There are thought to be various causes for torticollis as each case is different. Most of the time torticollis is thought to be idiopathic and no cause is know. When torticollis is present at the time of birth it is usually because of the position of the baby in the womb. If the baby’s head was tilted in the womb the muscles may not have been able to properly develop. The sternocleidomastoid muscle which extends down the side of the neck may be tightened or shortened causing the baby to not be able to have a full range of neck motion.
While there is currently no way to prevent torticollis, many treatment options are available. Since torticollis is mostly caused by the muscles the best way to treat it is by working those muscles. Physical therapy is a great way to start using the muscles in a controlled environment. You cannot make a baby roll or stretch their neck so a physical therapist would be able to guide the head and gently start to stretch the muscles. In some extreme cases surgery may be necessary to correct the problem. Applying heat and massage can also help to alleviate pain and start getting the muscles to work properly.
If you notice something off about your babies head position or see them struggling to look around like other babies you should ask your doctor about the possibility of torticollis. Starting physical therapy at the first sign of torticollis is the best way to help your child overcome a head tilt and regain full control of their neck muscles.