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6 Signs Your Child May Have Torticollis

If you’re a parent, the health of your child is the most important thing in your life. You want to see your baby grow into a well-functioning adult. Some babies get a condition called torticollis, which results in the head turning slightly to the side. It’s important to get early treatment for torticollis for two reasons: (1) so that it doesn’t become a stubborn condition that’s harder to treat in the future, and (2) to rule out torticollis occurring with another medical issue. 

Weeks after you take your bundle of joy home from the hospital, you might start noticing a head tilt. In infants, torticollis can appear at birth, which is called congenital muscular torticollis, or during the first few months, when it’s called acquired torticollis. 

Experts aren’t sure of all of the causes of torticollis, but two of the most common are placement in the womb and/or method of delivery. Your baby’s head may be in an abnormal position inside the womb — for example, a breech position. Forceps or a vacuum device used during birth may cause torticollis. 

A rope-like muscle runs down both sides of the neck, from the ears to the collarbone. The conditions cited above may put too much pressure on one side of your baby’s neck. The excess pressure can cause the muscle to tighten and become shorter than the muscle on the other side of the neck. 

Infection and trauma are other causes of torticollis in infants and children, but these are not as common. Acquired torticollis in children may accompany other diagnoses such as misalignment of the cervical vertebrae (atlantoaxial subluxation), a bone growth disorder called Klippel-Feil syndrome, or vision problems (ocular torticollis), which are good reasons why it’s important to diagnose this condition promptly. 

Whatever the cause, Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy, in Charlotte, North Carolina, provides outstanding occupational and speech therapy to children from infancy through 12 years old. Once our licensed pediatric occupational therapists perform a thorough assessment, they develop a comprehensive treatment plan to help your child achieve their potential. They are experienced in treating torticollis in infants and children; the therapy helps restore your child’s range of motion, functioning, and continued acquisition of motor milestones. 

Signs of torticollis

The following are common signs of torticollis. Early treatment ensures the best results. 

Head tilt in one direction

One of the most important parental activities is bonding with your baby. Looking in your baby’s eyes is important for bonding and attachment. Is your baby’s head turned slightly to the side so that he’s not looking at you straight on? This is a symptom of torticollis and one you must get checked out and treated. You may also notice your baby prefers to look only in one direction, even when it may be less stimulating (i.e. towards the wall in their crib), due to the tightness caused by torticollis. 

Trouble moving head toward you 

When you try to get your baby to look at you, does he have trouble moving his head to turn toward you? Does he get fussy if he has to move his head? This is a possible indication of torticollis.

Trouble feeding from both breasts

If your baby prefers to feed from only one breast, it may be because he has to strain his neck to reach the other one. Of course, he doesn’t have language to express his discomfort. 

Flat skull in one area 

Does your baby’s head look flat on one side? Your infant can develop this condition, called  plagiocephaly, simply from sleeping on one side. The reason your infant prefers to sleep on only one side may be because he doesn’t have full range of motion in his neck due to torticollis. 

Lump in the neck

Does your baby have a small lump on one side of his neck? The muscle may be constricted and form a knot. You’ll see it dissipate when your baby receives occupational therapy. Please refrain from palpating or massaging the area, but you can let your therapist or position know. 

Trouble turning head side to side or up and down

If your baby doesn’t bend his neck to look up or down or resists moving his head side to side when presented with stimuli, this could be a symptom of torticollis. Most commonly, babies with torticollis tend to always prefer a single side when placed on their back to sleep, even if they are observed to look to both sides when away. 

The good news is that torticollis is treatable; call Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy today for an appointment. 

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