Congenital Muscular Torticollis
Congenital torticollis means that a
baby is born with an odd position of the neck. The odd position is because of a tight,
short neck muscle. It affects the right side more often than the left side. It may
from mild to severe. The condition is sometimes called wryneck or twisted neck.
Healthcare providers don't know
what causes the condition. It may be from an abnormal position in the womb. Or it
from an injury to the neck muscle before birth. This causes scar tissue to form and
tighten the neck muscle.
Congenital muscular torticollis may
be seen at birth. Or you may not notice it until your baby is at least a few weeks
Each child may have slightly different symptoms. Symptoms may include:
- Tilting of the baby’s head to one
- Turning of the baby’s chin toward the
opposite side of the head
- Trouble moving the head
- Firm, small, lump in the middle of the
In severe muscular torticollis, a
baby may also have:
- Flattening of the side of the
- Differences between the sides of the
- Oddly positioned ear
- Other abnormalities of muscles, bones,
The symptoms of congenital muscular
torticollis may look like other conditions. Make sure your child sees their healthcare
provider for a diagnosis.
Your baby’s healthcare provider
will usually find the abnormality when examining your baby. Your child may need these
tests for diagnosis:
X-rays. This will check for abnormalities in the bones of
the neck and shoulders.
Ultrasound exam. This test uses sound waves to check the
Treatment will depend on your
child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the
Treatment may include:
Gentle stretching. This will help ease tightness and
lengthen the neck muscle.
Environmental adaptation. The home environment can be
adapted to encourage your baby to turn their head in the direction that stretches
neck muscle. This will help your baby learn to move and stretch the muscle.
Your baby may be referred to an outpatient physical therapist for
Surgery. Rarely, surgery is needed to correct the
If the problem is not fixed, the
baby will be unable to move their head normally. It will lead to permanent muscle
tightening. It will cause the neck and face to develop unevenly.
You can help your baby loosen and
stretch the muscle by:
- Doing stretching exercises that your
baby's healthcare provider shows you
- Putting toys where your baby has to
turn their head to look at them
- Holding your baby so that the baby has
to turn their head
- Putting your baby in the crib so that
the baby has to turn their head to look at you
Talk with your baby’s healthcare
provider about seeing a physical therapist. They can help you with exercises and
positioning. And your baby may also receive therapy.
Your baby’s healthcare provider
will recheck your baby regularly to make sure the torticollis is getting better.
When to Call a Healthcare Provider
Call your baby’s healthcare
provider if you notice symptoms of muscular torticollis. And if your baby has the
condition, call the healthcare provider if it is not getting better.
Congenital muscular torticollis is
a condition in which a baby’s neck muscle is tight and short. This causes the neck
- Healthcare providers don't know what
causes the condition.
- Congenital muscular torticollis may be
seen at birth. Or it may not be found until a baby is at least a few weeks old.
- Usually gentle stretching exercises
and positioning are all that is needed to treat the shortened muscle.
- If the problem is not fixed, the baby
will not be able to move their head normally. It can lead to permanent muscle
tightening and uneven development of the neck and face.
Tips to help you get the most from
a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
- Know the reason for the visit and what
you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down
questions you want answered.
- At the visit, write down the name of a
new diagnosis and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new
instructions your provider gives you for your child.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment
is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects
- Ask if your child’s condition can be
treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is
recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if your child does
not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If your child has a follow-up
appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your child’s
healthcare provider after office hours, and on weekends and holidays. This is
important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.