Torticollis, also known as wry neck, is the clinical term for a rotated or awkward positioning of the head due to the decreased range of motion and integrity of a critical neck muscle called the Sternocleidomastoid. This muscle is responsible for head rotation and head tilt.
Torticollis can occur following the birth process or become evident as a baby develops some head control (Congenital Torticollis).
Torticollis can also emerge at any age following an injury or develop when extreme strain is placed on the neck musculature (Acquired Torticollis).
Torticollis compromises both gross and fine motor development of a child. Visual tracking, upright head position, and upper extremity movements necessary for feeding and play may also be impacted. Flattening of the baby’s head and facial features may develop if untreated.
How therapy can help
Intervention with a trained therapist would start with an initial evaluation and interview to understand how torticollis is impacting development, skills, and family life. Education about this condition is a key component of treatment in order to guide caregivers in proper positioning while feeding, sleeping, and transporting. A home program is developed which includes individualized routine daily neck, shoulder and trunk exercises and a description of play postures that can provide therapeutic exercise throughout the day. Cleaning of the neck and shoulders are common concerns for parents and discussed in therapy.
Creative ways to incorporate tummy time and the routine exercises are explored in order to treat the conditions yet provide the infant with a playful experience. In addition to these targeted areas, environmental changes may be recommended such as repositioning of toys, diaper table, and crib in order to maximize outcomes. Your therapist will also provide you with referrals if additional intensive physical therapy is indicated or if cranial helmets are recommended.