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How to Tell if Your Child Has Torticollis

You have so much to learn and absorb with a new baby at home. Like most new parents, you’re keenly observant of all of your baby’s movements. In the last few weeks, you’ve been noticing that he always wants to lie with his head rolled to one side. He’s not happy when you try to move him to the other side during breastfeeding. He only wants to feed on one side. Is this normal? 

Sometimes infants have or acquire a condition called torticollis, or wry neck, which means a neck that tilts and/or twists to one side. Thankfully, it’s nothing life-threatening and is a condition that can be treated with therapy. 

The pediatric occupational therapists at Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy, with two offices in Charlotte, North Carolina, are trained to help babies recover from torticollis. 

Why does my baby have torticollis?

If your baby has infant torticollis, the muscles in his neck between the shoulder and chest are too short. This creates tension that pulls his head to one side, tilting it downward and/or rotating it sideways. Infant torticollis can be congenital or acquired. 

The neck muscles can be too short for a number of reasons. The way your baby was positioned inside your womb, a bone defect in the cervical spine, an injury to the neck muscle at birth, a muscle abnormality, or an inherited condition that damages the nerves or muscles are all possible causes of congenital torticollis. Sometimes the cause is unknown

Acquired torticollis could be caused by a virus, injury, sudden movement, or sleeping in a way that strains the neck muscle. 

What are the symptoms of torticollis? 

A new baby doesn’t have control over his head and neck; those muscles haven’t adequately developed, so he can’t hold his head up on his own. That’s why you’ve been taught to support the head at all times. He should be able to move his head from side to side, though. 

Once you’ve been at home for a few weeks with your infant, if you notice any of the following signs, you need to check with your baby’s doctor to determine if the symptoms could be torticollis: 

Therapy for torticollis 

If your infant doesn’t improve from recommended exercises that you’ve tried at home, our therapists can help him. They use a variety of modalities to relax and strengthen the neck muscles. They also measure how far he can turn his head and measure the head, checking for flatness to determine if he needs a helmet. They’ll also provide additional exercises for you to do at home with your baby to exercise the affected muscles. 

Pediatric therapy for torticollis prevents future problems in posture and motor development. Call Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy or send us a message online today if you suspect your child has torticollis. 

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