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What Causes Infant Torticollis and How Is It Treated?

Posted on Aug 18, 2023


Medically Reviewed by: Carina Torres, PT, DPT, PCS
Pediatric Physical Therapy Specialist
Reviewed on: June 30, 2023

Infant torticollis, also known as “wryneck,” is a condition where a baby’s head is tilted to one side, while the chin is turned to the opposite side. Symptoms often include a visibly tilted head, stiffness in the neck muscles, difficulty turning the head, and a preference for looking in one direction. In some cases, there may also be a small lump or swelling in the baby’s neck, known as a “sternomastoid tumor.”

Torticollis arises from the shortening or tightening of the sternocleidomastoid muscle, which runs on both sides of the neck from the back of the ear to the collarbone. This muscle imbalance causes the head to tilt and turn, leading to the characteristic posture of the condition. As a result, there can be an unequal use of the neck and head muscles, which might lead to muscle strain or, in prolonged cases, to asymmetry in head shape.

Congenital torticollis is present at birth and may result from the baby’s position in the womb or from a traumatic birth process. Alternatively, torticollis can develop within the first few months of life due to various reasons, including muscular imbalances or underlying conditions. While the exact cause isn’t always clear, prompt diagnosis and treatment can help in preventing complications and promoting a healthy neck posture for the baby.

What Causes Infant Torticollis?

Infant torticollis can have a few different causes. One common cause is a condition called congenital muscular torticollis, which occurs when the muscles in the neck are shortened or tightened. This can happen if the baby’s head is in an awkward position during pregnancy or if there is a difficult delivery. Another cause can be a problem with the baby’s spine or nervous system, such as a spinal cord injury or a problem with the bones in the neck. In some cases, torticollis can also be caused by an underlying medical condition, such as an infection or inflammation in the neck muscles.

How Is Infant Torticollis Treated?

The treatment for infant torticollis depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. In many cases, simple stretching exercises and positioning techniques can help to gradually improve the baby’s head position and muscle strength. These exercises can be done at home with guidance from a healthcare provider or physical therapist. In more severe cases, a healthcare provider may recommend other treatments, such as wearing a special brace or using a device to help stretch the neck muscles. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the underlying problem causing the torticollis.

Overall, early intervention is key when it comes to treating infant torticollis. The earlier the condition is diagnosed and treatment is started, the better the outcome is likely to be. With the right care and support, most babies with torticollis are able to fully recover and regain normal head control and movement. So if you suspect that your baby may have torticollis, don’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare provider for evaluation and guidance. They can help you navigate this condition and provide the necessary resources for your baby’s well-being.

Causes and Risk Factors of Infant Torticollis

If you’re wondering what in the world could possibly lead to this twisted neck condition, brace yourself for a jaw-dropping revelation about the mind-boggling risk factors behind it.

Infant torticollis can have both congenital and acquired causes. Congenital torticollis often occurs due to positioning in the womb, birth trauma, or abnormalities in the neck muscles. On the other hand, acquired torticollis can be caused by muscle imbalances, injuries, or conditions such as plagiocephaly.

Certain risk factors increase the likelihood of developing torticollis in babies. These include being a first-born child, being a male, having a large birth weight, and having a family history of torticollis. Additionally, babies who spend a lot of time in car seats, swings, or bouncers may be at a higher risk.

To prevent or minimize the risk of torticollis, parents and caregivers can follow some simple tips. Ensuring proper positioning during sleep, avoiding prolonged periods of time in car seats or other restrictive devices, and providing regular tummy time can help prevent the development of torticollis.

If your baby is diagnosed with torticollis, there are various treatment options available. Physical therapy, stretching exercises, and positioning techniques can help improve muscle strength and flexibility. Early intervention is crucial for better outcomes, so don’t hesitate to reach out to a pediatrician or specialist if you suspect your baby may have torticollis.

Remember, you’re not alone in this journey, and there are resources and support available to help you and your little one.

Diagnosis and Evaluation of Infant Torticollis

When your baby shows signs of neck stiffness or limited range of motion, it’s important to consult with a pediatrician or specialist for a thorough diagnosis and evaluation of their condition.

The process of diagnosing infant torticollis typically involves a physical examination and a medical history review. The healthcare provider will assess your baby’s head and neck positioning, muscle strength, and range of motion. They may also order additional tests, such as imaging studies, to rule out other underlying conditions.

During the evaluation, the healthcare provider will consider various factors to determine the severity and cause of your baby’s torticollis. They will assess if it is congenital or acquired, and if there are any associated conditions or injuries contributing to the condition. Understanding the underlying cause is crucial for developing an appropriate treatment plan.

Treatment options for infant torticollis often include physical therapy, stretching exercises, and positioning techniques. Physical therapy can help improve muscle strength, flexibility, and range of motion in the neck. Stretching exercises can be performed regularly to encourage proper alignment and movement. Positioning techniques, such as proper head and neck positioning during sleep and encouraging tummy time, can also aid in the treatment process.

Early intervention is key for better outcomes in treating infant torticollis. With proper diagnosis and evaluation, along with consistent treatment and support, your baby can make significant progress in overcoming this condition. Remember to consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice and guidance throughout your baby’s treatment journey.

Treatment Options

Get ready to embark on a journey of baby yoga, adorable stretches, and creative positioning techniques that will have you feeling like a contortionist extraordinaire!

When it comes to treating infant torticollis, there are several options available. The most common and effective treatment is physical therapy. A skilled therapist will work with your baby to stretch and strengthen the neck muscles, improving range of motion and reducing the tilt. These therapy sessions may involve gentle exercises, massage, and play-based activities.

In addition to physical therapy, there are also stretching exercises that can be done at home. Your healthcare provider or therapist will teach you how to perform these exercises safely and effectively. It’s important to be consistent and follow their recommendations to see the best results.

Positioning techniques are another key component of the treatment plan. Proper positioning during sleep and awake times can help prevent further tightness and encourage proper alignment. Your healthcare provider or therapist can provide guidance on the best positioning techniques for your baby’s specific needs.

Remember, early intervention is crucial for the best outcomes. With the right treatment and support, your little one can overcome torticollis and thrive. Stay positive and don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider or specialist for guidance and support throughout the treatment process. You’ve got this!

Prevention and Management

To prevent and manage torticollis in your baby, it is important to take proactive steps. Incorporating proper positioning techniques and regular tummy time into their daily routine can help promote the healthy development of your baby’s neck muscles and reduce the risk of torticollis. Here are some key tips to consider:

Positioning during sleep: Place your baby on their back to sleep, as recommended by pediatricians. Avoid prolonged time spent in car seats, swings, or other devices that restrict neck movement.

Tummy time: Encourage regular tummy time sessions when your baby is awake and supervised. This helps strengthen the neck muscles and promotes overall development.

Changing positions: Avoid keeping your baby in one position for too long. Alternate the side they lie on in the crib and change their orientation in the car seat periodically.

Gentle stretching: Incorporate gentle neck stretching exercises recommended by your pediatrician or physical therapist into your baby’s routine.

Early intervention is crucial in managing torticollis effectively. If you notice any signs or symptoms, consult your pediatrician or a specialist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. They may recommend physical therapy, stretching exercises, or other interventions to help your baby overcome torticollis and promote optimal neck muscle development.

Stay proactive and supportive in managing this condition, and remember that with the right care, most cases of infant torticollis can be successfully treated.

Get Support and Resources

Finding support and resources can greatly assist parents and caregivers in managing and overcoming the challenges associated with infant torticollis. It is important to remember that you are not alone in this journey, and there are resources available to help you navigate through this condition. Here are some support options and resources that you may find helpful:

Support Groups: Connecting with other parents and caregivers who have experienced or are currently dealing with infant torticollis can provide a sense of community and understanding. Support groups, both online and in-person, offer a platform to share experiences, ask questions, and seek advice from others who have been through similar situations.

Pediatricians and Specialists: Your child’s healthcare provider is an essential resource for information, diagnosis, and treatment options. They can guide you through the process and refer you to specialists such as pediatric physical therapists or orthopedic surgeons if needed.

Educational Materials: There are various educational materials available that can help you understand infant torticollis better. These materials may include brochures, websites, and online resources that provide information on the condition, its causes, treatment options, and tips for managing torticollis at home.

Early Intervention Programs: Early intervention programs aim to support infants and young children with developmental delays or disabilities. These programs may provide physical therapy services, occupational therapy, or speech therapy to address the specific needs of your child.

Remember, seeking support and resources can make a significant difference in your journey with infant torticollis. Reach out to others, ask questions, and stay informed. With the right support network and resources, you and your child can overcome the challenges associated with torticollis and achieve positive outcomes.


So, now you know all about infant torticollis. It’s a condition that affects the muscles of the neck and can cause your baby’s head to tilt to one side. But don’t worry, there are ways to prevent and treat it.

By practicing proper positioning during sleep and regular tummy time, you can minimize the risk.

And if your baby does develop torticollis, early intervention is key. With physical therapy, stretching exercises, and positioning techniques, your little one can overcome this challenge.

Remember, you have the power to help your baby thrive!



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