Torticollis and pediatric physical therapy

Torticollis and pediatric physical therapy

Congenital torticollis is a condition that affects infants, and is usually seen within the first 8 weeks of life.  The term refers to a “twisted neck”, and describes the condition in which a child’s head is tilted, with the chin pointing to one shoulder and the top of the head going to the other shoulder.  It is mainly related to a tightening of the sternocleidomastoid muscle, which is a long strap-like muscle that spans from the side of the head to the collar bone.   The abnormality is thought to arise from either trauma at birth or intra-uterine positioning during the pregnancy. If left untreated, the condition could lead to facial asymmetry as the child develops.  Normal treatment involves referral to a physical therapist for specific exercises; however if it persists, a surgical release of the involved musculature may be necessary at an older age. 

To correct the torticollis a pediatric therapist will typically utilize a combination of:

  • Stretching – for rotation and side bending of the neck
  • Positioning – to encourage bringing the head into more normal alignment
  • Parent education – to provide exercise and positioning strategies while the child is playing, feeding, or being carried, to promote normal muscle balance

If you believe that your child may have torticollis, you should speak with your pediatrician for assessment and consider the best options available to you. For those parents living in the Portland metro region, Beyond the Clinic is pleased to provide pediatric physical therapy house-calls to assist with your child’s recovery at home.  Please call (503) 496-0385 to speak with our team about how we may be of assistance.