5 Simple Tips to Prevent Torticollis
Commonly referred to as “twisted” or “wry neck,” torticollis is a common musculoskeletal problem in children. The condition is caused by tightness in the sternalcleidomastoid muscle, which results in an abnormal tilt of the head and neck. If a child's left side is affected, he or she would tilt ear to shoulder on the left and rotate their head to the right.
The condition is most frequently seen in infants who do not have the muscle control to compensate for gravity. Their lack of developed muscle control, combined with common everyday infant activities, can lead to acquired torticollis.
Fortunately, torticollis is generally preventable by following a few simple tips:
- Limit the amount of time your infant spends in baby equipment, such as baby swings and bouncers. Try entertaining your child on the floor with a blanket and a toy or two.
- Ensure your infant is receiving enough “tummy time” (10-20 minutes per day).
- Encourage your infant to turn his or her neck to both the left and right sides. Games like peek-a-boo and the use of mirrors are helpful in grabbing and keeping babies attention.
- Carry your baby using one of the many baby carriers available on the market. It can be a safe way to keep your child with you while running errands or moving around the home, while controlling the positioning of their head and neck.
- Unwrap your baby quickly after coming in from outdoors. Torticollis is diagnosed more frequently in the winter when children are bundled up to keep warm, somewhat restricting their movement.
If you are concerned about your child developing torticollis, here are some signs to watch for:
- Consistently looking in one direction and reverting to that position even when placed looking to the other side
- Flattening of the back of the skull
- Using only one arm
- Difficulty feeding when on one side or when fed in a different arm
A rehabilitation provider that specializes in evaluating and treating the effects of torticollis – whether the child was born with the condition or acquired it – can help reduce or reverse the symptoms and improve posture and movement.