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What is Torticollis, and What Can You Do About It?

After a nine-month sleep in a cramped womb, some newborns enter the world with the equivalent of a stiff neck, called torticollis. Although the cause isn’t entirely known, it’s believed that the position of the fetus while in the uterus can contribute to the kinked neck, as well as the use of forceps during delivery. Whatever the cause, the prognosis is good, and most babies recover fully from the condition with appropriate intervention.

Pediatric occupational therapist Danielle McDaniel and her team at Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy in Charlotte, North Carolina, love working with infants and their parents to help loosen those little neck muscles and offer relief from the stiffness and distortion, along with making sure babies still develop typically.

Know how to spot torticollis

Since they can’t talk yet, babies can’t tell us that they have a pain in their neck, so it’s up to us to observe them carefully so we can identify anything out of the ordinary. If your baby has torticollis, he or she might:

Things you can do to help your baby with infant torticollis

Changing your baby’s position whenever you get a chance and performing gentle stretching exercises can help your little one’s neck muscles relax and relearn how to function properly.

Always check with a licensed, experienced health care provider, like Danielle McDaniel, before attempting any stretching, but feel free to try the following techniques at home.

Tummy time

While on their back is still best for baby’s sleep time, switching things up for short intervals during play time can do wonders for strengthening the neck muscles. Try letting your baby lie on his or her tummy with you on the side that he or she tends to avoid. Talk, laugh, sing, and make silly noises to call attention to yourself and cause your baby to practice turning toward the tight side.

Don’t overdo it; 10 or 15 minutes a day will help tone the muscles and also get your baby ready for crawling.

Sleep position

This tip may or may not work with your baby, but it sure won’t hurt. When you put your baby down to sleep — always on the back — position him or her close to the wall or away from the center of the room. Your baby will naturally turn to look at something more interesting than the wall (unless you have entertaining wallpaper) and will start using those weaker-side neck muscles to see what’s going on outside the crib.

Treatment for torticollis that doesn’t improve with at-home efforts

If you’ve tried to help your baby overcome the symptoms of torticollis at home with little success, don’t be discouraged. Many infants just need a little occupational therapy to help them work out the tight muscles and strengthen their weaker side. It’s best to get started on therapy as soon as possible so you can help your little one avoid some potential complications of torticollis, including:

The trained specialists at Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy can assess your baby’s unique set of circumstances and develop a custom treatment plan that leads to full recovery. If you think your baby might be suffering from infant torticollis, call us at (704) 912-1011 or click the “get in touch” button here on the website. We’re here to ease your concerns and get your baby back to a full range of motion.

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