Torticollis is a condition that presents as a stiff neck in infants or children. The head appears rotated or awkwardly positioned. It is caused by a decreased range of motion in the womb or decreased integrity of a primary neck muscle, the Sternocleidomastoid. This muscle controls rotation of the head. As aforementioned, congenital torticollis is caused by positioning and space in utero, but torticollis can also be acquired and caused by irritation to the ligaments and structures in the neck resulting from a viral infection, movement, or poor sleeping position.
Untreated, torticollis may impact many essential gross motor and visual motor skills. Maintaining an upright head position may be challenging. In addition, the child may struggle with visual tracking exercises and upper extremity movements necessary for feeding and play. In addition, flattening of the face, ear, and head are common on the affected side. Your occupational therapist will evaluate the child and develop meaningful, age-appropriate goals based on skills the child should acquire but are currently inhibited by torticollis. In addition, the occupational therapist will educate families in order to ensure proper positioning during feeding, sleeping, and transportation. The occupational therapist may also provide a safe stretching routine for the child.
One risk of torticollis is plagiocephaly, which is the term for an asymmetrical head shape caused by repeated rest on the same side. To combat the development of plagiocephaly, your therapist may recommend exercises that are completed with the infant on their belly.