Torticollis – What is it and how can physio help?
Torticollis is caused by shortening and tightening of the rope-like muscle (sternocleidomastoid) that attaches from the back of the ear to the collar bone on one side of the neck. It may cause your baby to hold their head to one side or have difficulty turning their head.
Tightening of the neck muscle is believed to be caused by:
- Positioning in the womb (packing/cramping/crowding in the uterus or breech positioning)
- Difficult childbirth (use of forceps or vacuum devices)
What are the symptoms of torticollis?
- Limited range of movement in the head and neck
- Baby has a preference to look/turn to one side (may prefer being breast fed from one breast only)
- Head tilts to one side and the chin tilts to the other
- Occasionally a small lump or bump similar to a ‘muscle knot’ is found on the side of the neck in the contracted muscle
- Asymmetries or flattening of the head (plagiocephaly) due to lying/ turning to one direction all of the time
- Other musculoskeletal problems including hip dysplasia are sometimes present
How can physiotherapy help torticollis?
- Provide targeted stretching exercises to loosen the tight muscle and restore normal head posture
- Advice on strengthening activities to engage the underused/opposite side
- Provide assessment of any other musculoskeletal concerns eg hip dysplasia or flat head
- Education on the best positions for your baby’s cot/change table, and how to hold your baby during feeding and playtime
Physiotherapy is a very safe and non-invasive treatment option for your baby. Physiotherapy treatment is proven to help get on top of musculoskeletal concerns before they become a bigger problem. My approach to the treatment of little ones is very gentle, calm and caring.