Outpatient Spotlight: Treating Torticollis

Torticollis, the third most common congenital musculoskeletal anomaly, involves tightness in the sternalcleidomastoid muscle (SCM) that results in the asymmetrical posturing of the head and neck. Torticollis is common due to babies sleeping on their backs. While it is the safest position to prevent sudden infant death syndrome, back sleeping allows gravity to put the head comfortably at the side, causing SCM tightness.

Torticollis is diagnosed more frequently in the winter, when children are bundled up to keep warm and spend more time in car seats that place them in a tilt position. The more bundled children are, the less they are able to move against gravity.

Known as “twisted neck,” torticollis causes a tilt to the same side of the face and turn of the face to the opposite side. For example, if the child's left side is affected, he or she would tilt ear to shoulder on the left and rotate their head to the right.

Signs to look for include:

  • Face consistently looking in one direction and reverts to that position if placed looking to the other side
  • Flattening of the back of the skull
  • Use of only one arm
  • Difficulty feeding when on one side or when fed in a different arm

Good Shepherd Pediatrics specializes in evaluating and treating the effects of torticollis, whether acquired or congenital, including:

  • Absent or significantly compromised postural reactions
  • Impaired midline development
  • Injury to the SCM muscle
  • Palpable mass found in the SCM muscle
  • Poor visual tracking
  • Side bend of the head and a rotation of the head

Rehabilitation can help reduce or reverse the symptoms of torticollis and help improve physical function.

For more information on Good Shepherd’s torticollis treatment or to refer a patient, call 1-888-44-REHAB (73422) or visit GoodShepherdRehab.org/request-appointment.