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Torticollis Causes & Symptoms

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What is infant torticollis?

Torticollis means “twisted neck” in Latin and is a common condition describing the muscular tightening in the neck that is often felt after an uncomfortable night of sleep. When torticollis occurs in an infant, it is likely due to positioning in the womb or a challenging childbirth. It is relatively common and can be treated with conservative options.

What causes torticollis in infants?

Infant torticollis is usually caused by childbirth difficulties or positioning in the womb. It can also be caused by the following less common situations:

  • Laying in one position for extended periods of time
  • Infections
  • Fractures
  • Reactions to medication
  • Genetic conditions (i.e., Down Syndrome, Klippel-Feil Syndrome)

What are the symptoms of infant torticollis?

It can be difficult to notice torticollis in children or infants. Some indications that a baby is suffering from torticollis include:

  • Keeps head tilted in one direction
  • Has difficulty breastfeeding on one side
  • Cannot turn head completely to one side
  • Looks at you over shoulder rather than following with eyes

How is infant torticollis treated?

Physical therapy at home is the most common cure for infant torticollis. Torticollis treatment at home can include using exercises to encourage babies to move their head in both directions. This will help to loosen the infant’s neck muscles. Infants should only be encouraged to move on their own, without help, to avoid further injury. Some exercises to use with your baby include:

  • “Tummy time” (place baby on stomach) to practice lifting head with neck muscles
  • Sounds (snapping or music makers) to encourage baby to turn neck from side to side
  • Food or bottle feed on the side that the baby does not prefer to encourage turning neck other direction

It can take up to six months for torticollis to completely resolve. When symptoms persist longer, your baby may be a candidate for a surgery that releases the tightened muscles. Speak with your New York ENT doctor to determine the best treatment options for your baby.

If you believe your child may be suffering from torticollis, the first step is to schedule an evaluation with an experienced ear, nose and throat doctor. Board certified physicians with New York ENT have extensive experience diagnosing and treating a wide variety of neck and throat conditions. Fill out the form on this page or call our office at (212) 873-6168 to schedule an appointment today.

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