What is Torticollis? Torticollis is the tightening of neck muscles that causes your infant to tilt or turn their head to one side. They may have a flat spot on the back of their head, from being in the same position for the majority of time.
Identifying Torticollis in your infant
Look at your infant while they are lying on their backs on a flat surface (crib, changing table, floor). Are they tilting their head to one side? Does their head seem a bit flatter on one side? Are their cheeks asymmetrical? If so, your infant may be exhibiting signs of torticollis.
What can you do if you suspect that your infant is exhibiting signs of Torticollis?
Consult with your Pediatrician or local trusted Physical Therapist and have them evaluated. Physical Therapy and family education is the primary treatment for Torticollis. The earlier the intervention, the better the prognosis.
The Physical Therapist will focus their treatment on stretching and strengthening the neck muscles, instruct the family on positioning techniques, and provide family support as the infant grows.
Most often the child improves with positioning, stretching, and strengthening interventions. In some cases, a positioning helmet may be necessary. The purpose of this helmet is to aid in shaping the infant's head to alleviate the flat spot, making it easier for the infant to turn their head to either side. What can you do at home to help your infant?
Consult your pediatrician and/or therapist for information for proper positioning and stretching techniques.
Position infant during play, carrying, and feeding to optimize proper head positioning.
During play in sitting, side-lying, or stomach, position toys to the opposite side of the head tilt to encourage gradual turning over time to the weaker/tighter side.
In the crib, position the mobile, etc. to opposite side of baby's preference to work on turning to the weaker side gradually over time.
While feeding, encourage head turn to opposite side.
Stretching/Positioning to help with Torticollis
Sidelying: This position allows good alignment of the head and neck and allows the child to play, using both hands Stomach: This position improves head control and neck and back strength. Position all toys away from the “tilted” side of neck. You may help them turn their heads if needed. Carrying your infant: Hold the infant facing away from you in a side-lying position, your forearm between the child’s ear and shoulder to improve head/neck position and stretch. Carry your infant this way as much as possible. Car seat positioning: Roll up a cloth diaper or receiving blanket and place it on the side of the baby’s head. Or there are special pillows that can be purchased. Ask your Physical Therapist! If your baby is diagnosed with torticollis, don't panic! This is something that responds very well to conservative management including Physical Therapy and positioning techniques you can easily learn at home. If you would like to schedule a free phone or in-person consultation with our Pediatric therapist, feel free to do so quickly and easily here https://www.thegrpt.com/events-and-offers
Written by: Debbie McCormick, PTA, Therapist at The Green Room Physical Therapy with over 30 years working in Physical Therapy, including expertise in the field of Pediatrics. www.thegrpt.com
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