Is Torticollis Affecting Your Baby’s Head Shape?
Torticollis, or wry neck, is a relatively common condition in new born babies. Translated from the Latin, it literally means ‘twisted neck’. Congenital muscular torticollis, the most common form of paediatric torticollis, occurs because the sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM) has shortened and contracted. The SCM muscle runs along each side of the neck and controls how the head moves — side to side, and up and down.
What causes torticollis?
There are a few common reasons why the SCM muscle may have become contracted and cause your child’s head to tilt to one side:
• The way your baby was positioned in the womb before birth
• Abnormal development of the SCM muscle
• Trauma or damage to the muscle during birth
You may not notice anything unusual about your baby for the first 6 or 8 weeks. It’s common for torticollis symptoms only to become obvious once an infant gains more control of the head and neck.
Torticollis: what symptoms should I look out for in my baby?
Some of the symptoms you might experience:
• Your baby’s head tilts to one side with its chin pointed to the opposite shoulder. In about 75% of babies with torticollis, the right side is affected.
• Your baby’s head doesn’t turn side to side or up and down easily.
• You feel a soft lump in your baby’s neck muscle. This isn’t dangerous, and goes away within 6 months, usually.
• Your baby prefers to look over the shoulder at you. Its eyes don’t follow you because that would require turning the head which is difficult.
• Your baby has trouble breastfeeding on one side or prefers to feed on one side only.
• Your baby works hard to turn toward you, struggles to turn its head all the way, and becomes upset because the movement is hard.
• Your baby might start getting a flat head on one side - or both sides - from lying in one position all the time.
At the London Orthotic Consultancy, we have found that torticollis is the primary cause of flat heads in the babies that we examine. It is important, therefore, to take action to treat your baby’s torticollis - either by following some simple, gentle neck exercises at home, or by referral to a specialist physiotherapist.
How can I help my baby overcome Torticollis?
If we find that your baby has a neck problem at an initial, free flat head consultation, we will advise you on the steps that you can take. We can also refer you to a paediatric physiotherapist. Stretching exercises are most likely to work well if started when a baby is between three and six months of age. But, be aware that even if started at this age, it still might take some months to resolve the condition completely.
If your baby has developed moderate or severe asymmetry of the head, helmet therapy will probably be the recommended treatment option, since the optimum age to start this treatment is between four to six months and after 18 months of age, the treatment becomes less effective. Helmet therapy can be started concurrently with any physiotherapy for Torticollis, as the helmet will prevent the baby’s head from getting any flatter. The London Orthotic Consultancy has more than a decade of experience in treating Positional Plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome), and baby helmet therapy is a proven, effective treatment.
Worried about your baby’s head shape?
Using our flat head diagnosis form, you can get a fast, free, flat head diagnosis from our fully-qualified orthotics team online.
Simply follow the instructions on our form to upload pictures of your baby’s head and one of our highly-experienced orthotists will contact you within 24 hours to give you a free, qualified and impartial opinion on your baby’s condition. Or, if you prefer, you can book an initial, free flat head consultation at one of our clinics, where we will be happy to make an assessment and offer advice and discuss any necessary treatment.