Baby, Toddler

Torticollis in Babies – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

It is very possible that you have at one time or on several occasions far apart woken up with a twisted neck. You wake up only to find that your head tilts on both side and experience pain when you try to turn your head. That is what is referred to as Torticollis, a condition that is commonly known as wry neck.

Just like in adults, infants and babies do develop Torticollis. However, they do not experience that pain that adults do experience. Similarly, causes of Torticollis in infants and babies differ from causes in adults. Development of the condition is usually because of uncomfortable sleep due to improper sleeping position or placing of the head.

It is unbelievable but Torticollis is very common in infants and babies. You may indeed not realize that your infant or baby has the condition because it does not cause any pain in both infants and babies. The condition mostly affects newborns and babies of up to 3 months.


The main symptom of Torticollis is unusual positioning of the head. Your baby can develop any of four types of Torticollis: retrocollis associated with both the head and neck bending backwards, rotational Torticollis associated with rotation of the head along the longitudal axis, latercollis associated with the head tilting on either the left or right side of the body and anterocollis, which is associated with forward tilting of the head.

The above types of Torticollis can be very difficult to notice. However, you are bound to observe that your baby has difficulty in looking at you straight and strives to turn toward your direction. You are also most likely to notice that your baby has difficulty breastfeeding properly or prefers feeding on one breast only. That should serve to alert you that he/she has Torticollis.


What causes Torticollis is not well understood. However, one thing is clearly understood: it involves distortion (shortening) of the sternocleidomastoid muscles. There are two of these muscles located on either side of the neck. These muscles run from back of the ears down to the collarbone. It happens that they do contract (shorten), forcing the neck to flex. This is what leads to Torticollis.

What prompts these muscles to contract in infants and babies is what is not known. Medical experts are of the opinion that cramping of fetus in the womb, abnormal positioning of fetus in the womb and use of mechanical devices during delivery encourages development of Torticollis at birth of a few weeks after.


Most cases of Torticollis in babies rarely require medical intervention. Most cases resolve on their own so long as a baby is able to turn, which loosens tightness of the neck.

The fact that Torticollis can persists makes it necessary to take your baby to a pediatrician for professional handling. A pediatrician is most likely to refer your baby to a physical therapist who is bound to subject your baby to various exercises aimed at stretching muscles in the neck. It is only in extreme cases where a pediatrician can recommend surgery for treatment of Torticollis associated with joining together of the sternocleidomastoid muscles.

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