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Torticollis (Wry Neck)

  • What is Torticollis (Wry Neck)?

    Torticollis (also called Wry Neck) is when your baby’s head is tilted. The chin points to one shoulder, while the head tilts toward the opposite shoulder.

  • Congenital Torticollis occurs when the neck muscle that runs up and toward the back of your baby’s neck (Sternocleidomastoid Muscle) is shortened. Torticollis may:

    • Be present soon after birth due to scar tissue and tightness of the muscle on one side of the neck
    • May occur later in childhood

    Pain can indicate an infection or displacement of the joints in the upper neck. Sometimes congenital torticollis is caused by a bone problem in the neck portion of the spine (cervical spine). This is known as a congenital malformation of the cervical spine.

  • Your baby will have difficulty in turning the head to the opposite side. Your baby may not be able to move his or her head as well as other babies. You may also notice a lump in your baby’s neck muscle. Your baby may have flattening of head and face due to his or her preference of head position. The neck muscle (Sternocleidomastoid) may be tight.

  • Treatment involves stretching the baby’s tight neck muscle. A physiotherapist will show you how to do the exercises safely. Other ways to naturally stretch your baby’s neck is to do things so that he or she rotates the chin toward the shoulder of the affected side, for example:

    • During feeding, hold your child in a way that makes him or her rotate the chin to the correct position
    • Place the crib so that your child turns his or her chin the correct way in order to see the room
    • Place toys and other objects in such a way that your baby has to turn his or her head to see them and play with them

    If your baby does not improve after a few months of stretching, surgery may be needed to stretch or lengthen the neck muscle.

  • Complications include:

    • Asymmetry of the head
    • Contracture (shortening) of the neck muscle
    • Flat head
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