Understanding Infant Torticollis

Does your child seem to avoid turning his or her head a specific direction, or is their head always tilted a certain way? If your baby does not have full range of motion to turn their head, they may have infant torticollis. Usually, this condition is not serious and can be remedied with some specialized stretching and treatment. Here's what you should know about this condition.

What causes infant torticollis?

Usually, a strange position in the womb or a traumatic vaginal delivery can stress the muscles and cause stiffness in the neck, preventing your infant from having the normal range of motion. Developmentally, always feeding with your child's head in a specific direction or falls (such as when a baby rolls off the bed or is dropped accidentally by an older sibling) can cause similar stiffness. It should be noted that, if your child is born with torticollis, he or she may prefer to feed with the head positioned in a specific way or will feed better at one breast that they other when breastfeeding.

What can you do to treat it?

Usually, your doctor will check your baby's head movement at well baby appointments (2 weeks old, one month old, etc). If your physician notices that head movement is restricted, you can start doing stretches at home to encourage your infant to have better movement in the neck. However, some cases can be more severe, and in those cases, you can:

  • take your infant to a chiropractor. Discomfort and knots in the muscles can be caused by misalignment in the spine. Infants have very soft bones, so they can easily slide out of place. Fortunately, it only takes gentle pressure to restore ideal spine alignment. Chiropractic treatments are always gentle. You can contact a company like Yaeger Chiropractic for more information.
  • see a physical therapist for more intensive stretching that you might not be qualified to do at home. 
  • learn infant massage. Infant massage can help you calm and bond with your baby, but it can also be soothing to muscles and keep your baby on the path to full range of motion. 

Is there any long-term negative effects of torticollis?

Most of the time, this condition is not serious at all, as it resolves itself with regular intervention. However, in severe cases where is prevents feeding and rest, your child can have trouble meeting developmental milestones. In other cases, this condition can be an early indicator for larger problems. For example, the muscles in the neck can stiffen as a reaction to medications or indicate some genetic conditions like Klippel-Feil syndrome