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Torticollis in Infants: Essential Insights to Enhance Movement and Development

Posted on Sep 11, 2023

Medically Reviewed by: Carina Torres, PT, DPT, PCS
Pediatric Physical Therapy Specialist
Reviewed on: November 14, 2023

Are you a caregiver for an infant? Are you noticing that your baby consistently turns their head to one side and has a limited neck range of motion? It’s possible that your little one may be experiencing torticollis, a common muscular condition in infants. But don’t worry, early identification and treatment can make all the difference in supporting your baby’s movement and development. In this article, we will provide essential insights into torticollis to enhance your understanding and equip you with strategies to help your baby thrive. We’ll explore what torticollis looks like, its association with plagiocephaly (flattening on one side of the head), preventive measures, the importance of tummy time, and when professional treatment might be needed. So join us as we dive into the world of torticollis and discover how you can play an active role in promoting your baby’s well-being.

What is Torticollis

Torticollis, commonly known as “wry neck,” is a condition where the head tilts to one side, with the chin pointing towards the opposite shoulder. It results from a tightened or shortened sternocleidomastoid muscle in the neck. This can be congenital, due to positioning in the womb or birth trauma, or acquired from injuries or other causes. Symptoms often include limited neck movement and neck pain. Early diagnosis and treatment of torticollis, which might involve physical therapy and stretching exercises, are crucial to prevent complications and promote normal head and neck development.

What does Torticollis look like

Picture a baby with their head constantly tilted to one side, chin pointing towards the opposite shoulder, and a flat or misshapen head. This is what torticollis in infants can look like. This common muscular issue, often stemming from in-utero crowding, can also lead to plagiocephaly, a flattening on one side of the baby’s head due to continuous pressure. If you spot these symptoms, it’s crucial to consult a Pediatric Physical Therapist or pediatrician promptly. Addressing it early can mitigate long-term impacts, fostering your baby’s overall health and developmental progress.

The Link Between Torticollis and plagiocephaly

The connection between torticollis and plagiocephaly becomes evident when observing the telltale signs of a baby’s head consistently tilted to one side, accompanied by flattening on that same side. Torticollis in babies refers to the tightening of neck muscles, causing limited range of motion and a preference for turning their head to one side. This can lead to pressure on a particular part of the head, resulting in flattening or misshaping known as plagiocephaly.

Torticollis treatment focuses on repositioning techniques, stretching exercises, and physical therapy. By encouraging babies to face the opposite direction and engaging them in activities that promote head movement from side to side, we can help correct mild plagiocephaly while addressing torticollis. Tummy time is also crucial for muscle tone and developing adequate strength in the neck and upper body.

At NJ Craniofacial Center, we emphasize early intervention and treatments, including tummy time for muscle development. However, while this article offers insights, always consult with a pediatrician for tailored guidance on your baby’s health.

5 Strategies for Preventing Infant Torticollis

To prevent infant torticollis, it is important to follow proper sleeping position guidelines and avoid prolonged pressure on one side of the baby’s head. Additionally, vary your baby handling techniques by carrying them in different positions and encouraging them to turn their head both ways. Make sure to incorporate regular tummy time sessions and engage in neck stretching exercises to promote muscle strength and flexibility. Lastly, remember to regularly change your baby’s position throughout the day to avoid prolonged pressure on one area of their body.

Proper Sleeping Position

Ensure that your baby sleeps on their back. This not only reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) but also ensures an even distribution of pressure on the skull, preventing any imbalances.

Varied Baby Handling

While holding or feeding your baby, alternate arms regularly. This encourages the infant to turn their head in different directions, avoiding prolonged pressure on one side.

Tummy Time Regularity

Incorporating regular tummy time is vital. It strengthens the neck muscles, promotes better posture, and helps in evenly distributing head weight.

Neck Stretching Exercises

Gentle neck exercises, done consistently, can improve flexibility and muscle strength. However, always consult a pediatrician or physical therapist before starting any exercises.

Regular Positional Changes

Rotate your baby’s position in cribs, strollers, and carriers. This change ensures that they aren’t consistently resting on one side, reducing the risk of muscle tightness.

By adopting these strategies, parents can significantly reduce the risk of their infant developing torticollis, promoting a healthier developmental journey.

Essential Practices for Baby Tummy Time

Tummy time is an invaluable practice for infants to bolster their neck and upper body strength. By simply placing your baby on their stomach for brief intervals daily, you can foster their physical development. To enhance their comfort, consider using a nursing pillow or an infant lounger for support. Keeping your baby engaged is key; employ toys, mirrors, or even playful siblings. Even holding your baby against your chest serves as a form of tummy time, doubling as a bonding exercise. As they grow accustomed, gradually extend these sessions. If torticollis is a concern, tummy time encourages your baby to move away from their favored side. Always prioritize safety, ensuring a stable environment, and maintain supervision. Use bright toys or mirrors to capture their interest. By integrating consistent tummy time, you’ll be nurturing both their physical growth and overall health.


When is professional treatment needed for torticollis?

When your baby consistently turns their head to one side and shows limited neck range of motion, it’s important to bring these symptoms to the attention of a pediatrician who may suggest a referral for professional treatment. Professional treatment for torticollis is typically recommended when there is flattening of the baby’s head or if other signs of torticollis are present. A licensed Pediatric Physical Therapist will evaluate your baby and provide instruction on stretches and exercises specific to their needs.

Professional treatment plays a crucial role in addressing torticollis effectively. The therapist will work closely with you and your baby to develop a personalized plan that includes stretching exercises, proper carrying techniques, and correct positioning for play and feeding. They will also encourage your baby to look away from their preferred side and limit the time spent in places where the headrests in the same spot.

By seeking professional treatment early on, you can prevent long-term effects of torticollis and support your baby’s movement and development. At the NJ Craniofacial Center, our professionals will provide tailored guidance on enhancing your baby’s neck strength and overall health. The therapist will guide you through the necessary steps to improve your baby’s neck strength, range of motion, and overall well-being. Remember, timely referrals and communication with your pediatrician are essential in ensuring proper treatment and interventions for your little one. Together, we can enhance their quality of life and promote optimal development.

Torticollis Therapy Nearby: Find Local Treatment Options

Find local treatment options for torticollis therapy nearby and discover the personalized care and support your baby needs to overcome this common muscular condition. When it comes to addressing torticollis in infants, finding a knowledgeable and experienced healthcare professional is crucial. By seeking out local treatment options, you can ensure that your baby receives the specialized care they need for their specific condition.

In the quest to address torticollis effectively, choosing the right treatment option is paramount. The NJ Craniofacial Center stands as a beacon of excellence in this domain, offering specialized therapies tailored to individual needs. Leveraging expert insights and a patient-centered approach, we are committed to fostering optimal developmental outcomes for every child. For those searching for top-tier torticollis therapy in the vicinity, NJ Craniofacial Center is your go-to destination, ensuring both quality care and peace of mind.

Remember, early intervention is key when it comes to addressing torticollis in infants. By finding local treatment options for torticollis therapy nearby, you can ensure that your baby receives the best possible care to enhance their movement and development.


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