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Effective Therapy for Torticollis

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The neck has two ropy muscles, one on each side, which are called sternocleidomastoids or SCMs.

When one of these muscles is shorter than the other, the neck and head may tilt down to favor one side. This condition is called Torticollis.

Torticollis occurs in infants. The most common type of this condition is congenital muscular torticollis, which means the baby has the condition at birth. Babies can also develop the condition even after birth. This is called acquired muscular torticollis.

Generally, the symptoms will not be as apparent in the first six to eight weeks. As the infant gains more control of their neck and head, the symptoms will be more noticeable. The following are the possible signs of this condition:

  • The baby’s head tilts to one side while their chin points to the opposite shoulder. In 75% of torticollis cases, the right side of the neck is affected.

  • The baby finds it difficult to turn from side to side or up and down. This also means they will prefer to look over their shoulders instead of turning.

  • The baby experiences difficulties when breastfeeding on one side.

  • A soft lump may be present in the baby’s neck muscle. This lump is not painful or dangerous and usually disappears within six months.

  • The baby develops positional plagiocephaly or a flat head because they prefer sleeping only on one side and in one position all the time.


Torticollis Causes


There is no known definite cause for torticollis. Some researchers point to the relation between abnormal positioning in the womb or crowding of the baby when they were still in the uterus.

These may develop an injury to the neck muscle. When this injury heals, it scars. This scar causes the muscle to tighten.

Torticollis and hip dysplasia are more common in first-born children who usually experience a tighter space in the uterus.

There is no known prevention measure against congenital muscular torticollis.

During delivery, the use of forceps or a vacuum device may also cause torticollis because of the pressure placed on the baby’s SCM.

Traditional Treatment for Torticollis

Doctors usually recommend a suite of exercises geared towards stretching the SCM. This involves turning and tilting movements of the neck. The doctor or physical therapist will guide parents to perform these exercises correctly.

Doctors may also recommend a few of the following to help the baby improve their SCM:

  • Placing toys in locations where the baby will need to turn their head to see or access them.

  • Carrying the baby in a way that requires them to look away from the limited side.

  • Positioning the changing table and crib so the baby will need to look away from the limited side to see the guardian.

  • Laying the baby on their stomach for short periods when they are awake. This helps strengthen the neck muscles.


Surgical treatment may also be recommended if the previously mentioned measures are not effective. Around 10 percent of children with torticollis need surgical intervention which is usually scheduled during the child’s preschool years. It can be an outpatient surgery wherein the doctor will lengthen the SCM.

Read a great article on Torticollis by Clicking Here.


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Superior Physical Therapy

The success rate of the traditional treatments for torticollis may not be encouraging especially since they only focus on the area of the issue. At Superior Physical Therapy, we evaluate the body as a complex system of moving parts.
This means that if there is also a problem elsewhere in the system, we can address it for a more lasting solution.

You can get into an easy, 15-min discovery call with our own Dr. Andrew Gorecki to learn about your options.

Dr. Gorecki has developed The Superior Method while working hand-in-hand with patients for over 15 years. This method focuses on pinpointing the possible causes for the condition and coming up with a therapy program to address it.

Take the first step in finding a lasting solution for your child’s torticollis by dialing 231.944.6541 or sending an email to info@thesuperiortherapy.com. Book your free consultation today.

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