When your baby’s neck muscles force its head to move and spin to one side, this is known as torticollis. Also, wryneck refers to another name for this condition, which can occur by inheritance or by being acquired. Furthermore, tight or swollen neck muscles give rise to the condition. Gentle muscular stretches and posture modifications are commonly used in treatment.

What is Torticollis?


TorticollisTorticollis is a frequent condition in infants and toddlers that causes a baby’s head to twist and tilt to one side due to weak neck muscles. In addition, your baby’s neck may appear at an abnormal angle. Their chin may tilt to one side while the top of their head is slanted to the opposite side.  Torticollis comes from the Latin words “tortus” and “collum,” which mean “twisted neck.”

Doctors can recognize Torticollis at birth (congenital). It might also appear later in life, during childhood or adolescence (acquired). Congenital torticollis appears as the most prevalent type. It’s possible that parents won’t notice this condition until their child becomes a few weeks old. Parents notice the condition when their child starts to control their head.

Torticollis appears during the first four to six months of a baby’s life or later. It might happen all of a sudden, or it could happen gradually. In conclusion, torticollis can either occur as an innocuous (benign) condition or a symptom of a more significant health problem.

Types of Torticollis

Temporary Torticollis

This form of wry neck normally goes away in a day or two. It might occur as a result of:

  • swollen lymph nodes
  • an ear infection
  • a cold
  • swelling of the head and neck caused by an accident

Fixed Torticollis:

Acute torticollis, sometimes known as permanent torticollis, does not disappear without medical intervention. Generally, it’s caused by a muscle or bone structural issue.

Muscular Torticollis:

Fixed torticollis appears as the most prevalent. Scarring or stiff muscles on one side of the neck cause it.

Klippel-Feil Syndrome:

This condition relates to a congenital wry neck condition. It occurs when the bones in your baby’s neck develop improperly, most commonly owing to the fusion of two cervical vertebrae. When children are born with this condition, they may have hearing and visual problems.

Cervical Dystonia:

Spasmodic torticollis is a term used to describe this uncommon condition. It produces spasms in the muscles of the neck. Cervical dystonia causes a head to twist or spin violently to one side. It also causes the head to tilt forward or backward. Cervical dystonia can go away without therapy, although recurrence is a possibility. Cervical dystonia may strike anyone at any time. This condition affects adults between the ages of 40 and 60. It also affects a greater number of women than males.

Congenital Torticollis Symptoms

  • Your baby’s head and chin tilt to one side and the other.
  • A baby’s head and neck demonstrate limited mobility.
  • Your baby’s shoulders appear higher on one side than the other.
  • Muscle stiffness or tightness in the neck.
  • Neck muscles appear swollen.
  • One of your baby’s neck muscles gets a little pea-sized lump in it.
  • Face characteristics that appear asymmetrical (unbalanced).

Acquired Torticollis can Cause the Following Symptoms:

  • Your child’s chin tilts to one side and his head tilts to the opposite side.
  • Head and neck mobility appears restricted in your child.
  • Your child’s shoulders appear taller on one side than the other.
  • Muscle stiffness or tightness in the neck.
  • Swollen neck muscles.
  • Severe neck pain.
  • Head tremors.

What causes Torticollis?

Congenital torticollis is caused by a shortening of one of your baby’s sternocleidomastoid muscles (SCMs). Two huge muscles in the neck are known as SCMs. They join the back of the head to the sternum (breastbone) and the collarbone (collarbone) (clavicle). Researchers do not know why one of these muscles in certain newborns shortens. The cause may link to:

  • The location of your child in your womb (uterus).
  • The SCM develops improperly.
  • Your baby’s neck muscles become injured with a hematoma.
  • Abnormal neck muscle tissue thickening fibrosis.
  • Klippel-Feil syndrome is an uncommon birth disorder in which your baby’s neck vertebrae merge.

Swelling in your child’s throat is a common cause of acquired torticollis. The tissues around your child’s upper spine relax as a result of the swelling. Their vertebrae shift out of their regular place as a result of this. Their neck muscles spasm, as a result, causing their head to tilt to one side. The swelling might result from an illness, an accident, or something else entirely. Torticollis can occur for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).
  • Vision problems.
  • Reaction to assured medications.
  • Scar tissue.
  • Arthritis of the neck.
  • Sandifer syndrome is an uncommon illness in which GERD and neck spasms coexist.
  • Grisel’s syndrome is an uncommon consequence following ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgery or infections in the head and neck.

Diagnosing Torticollis

To diagnose torticollis, your baby’s healthcare professional will do a physical examination. They’ll assess how twisted or slanted your baby’s head appears. They’ll also search for swollen or tight muscles in your baby’s neck. Your baby’s healthcare professional may prescribe tests like these, depending on the severity of the condition.

  • Neck X-ray.
  • A neck and head CT scan.
  • A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the head and neck.

Treating Torticollis

Doctors treat congenital torticollis with stretching exercises and posture adjustments. Depending on the severity, your baby’s healthcare practitioner will either call us into the case or will show you how to stretch the muscles in your baby’s neck. You’ll have to gently turn your baby’s head to the other side. Torticollis stretches should occur multiple times a day. Parents should increase the motions gradually over time.

During naps and nighttime, put your baby on their back with their head positioned on the other side for position adjustments. Move toys and other items around when your baby awakenings so that they move their neck in the opposite way.

If none of the simple approaches work, your baby’s doctor may recommend calling in one of our doctors from the Medical City Children’s Orthopedics and Spine Specialists. Our doctors will review all of the tests, visit with the child and parents and determine the best course of treatment for a rapid cure.  Please note that our specialists believe in surgery as a last resort.

Acquired torticollis is treated by addressing the underlying cause and alleviating symptoms. The following treatments may be used:

  • Injections of botulinum toxin to relax tight neck muscles.
  • Heat therapy.
  • Neck braces or collars.
  • Physical therapy.

What can I do to Avoid Torticollis?

Torticollis can’t be prevented in any manner. However, early therapy can help your baby’s condition from worsening. It may also save your kid from requiring surgery in the future. Within a few months of your baby’s birth, begin torticollis stretches with them. You can also avoid any long-term issues if you get started right away.

If my Child has Torticollis, What Should I Expect?

Torticollis is a frequent disorder in toddlers and newborns. The issue is usually treated by stretching your baby’s neck and adjusting his or her head. Within a few months, you should see a difference in your infant. Finally, if therapy is started early, they should have no long-term problems.

The Risks Associated with Torticollis

Because of the lack of muscular mobility, your baby’s face may develop a deformity if they have torticollis. Flathead syndrome is another problem that might arise (plagiocephaly). Your baby’s skull is malleable and flexible. When they lay the same part of their head on a surface too frequently, the pressure might flatten it.

When Should I Contact My Physician?

Set up an appointment with your doctor if you detect indicators that your baby could develop torticollis. To begin, the doctor will measure how far your baby’s head will turn. Our doctors may also request imaging studies, such as X-rays and ultrasounds, to rule out any other issues. Moreover, one in every five newborns with torticollis will have a hip issue. Of interest, the majority of newborns with torticollis have no underlying medical issues. However, it has been associated with infections, fractured bones, drug allergies, and genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome and Klippel-Feil syndrome (a rare bone disorder of the neck).

Why does Treatment Matter?

You can help your infant avoid long-term difficulties if you act quickly. Without treatment, your infant may develop issues such as:

  • Lack of head control.
  • On the afflicted side, there is limited reach and reduced eye tracking.
  • It takes longer to sit and walk than it normally does.
  • There is a feeding issue.
  • Poor equilibrium.
  • Crawling in a crooked manner.
  • Just rolling to one side.

What Can You Do From Home?

Toys should be placed in such a manner that your infant is forced to gaze in both directions. Those that utilize music and lighting to catch their attention are quite successful.

Motivate them to play with their hands and feet. Babies like joining their hands and bringing their feet up to their hands. This promotes the growth of the muscles needed for crawling.

Permit babies to spend as long on their tummy as possible. This position will develop your baby’s back and neck muscles while also preventing the back of their head from flattening. Usually, they should have fifteen minutes of tummy time four times each day. If it’s easier, you can support them on your chest, across your lap, or on a cushion.

Why Choose Medical City Children’s Orthopedics and Spine Specialists?

There are many reasons why parents should choose Medical City Children’s Orthopedics and Spine Specialists for their child when he or she is diagnosed with torticollis.

  • Experienced and skilled doctors. The doctors at Medical City Children’s Orthopedics and Spine Specialists are highly experienced and skilled in the treatment of torticollis in children. They have treated hundreds of children of all ages with this condition.
  • State-of-the-art technology. The Doctors at Medical City Children’s Orthopedics and Spine Specialists use the latest state-of-the-art technology in the treatment of torticollis.
  • A team approach. The doctors at Medical City Children’s Orthopedics and Spine Specialists work closely with a team of other healthcare professionals, including physical therapists, athletic trainers, and child life specialists. This team approach ensures that your child receives the best possible care.
  • A focus on patient satisfaction. Medical City Children’s Orthopedics and Spine Specialists is committed to providing the highest quality care and a positive patient experience. The staff is compassionate and understanding, and they will work with you to answer all of your questions and concerns.

If your child has been diagnosed with torticollis, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with the doctors at Medical City Children’s Orthopedics and Spine Specialists with offices in Dallas, Plano, Frisco, and McKinney, Texas. They will be able to discuss your child’s individual case and develop a treatment plan that is right for them.


American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Torticollis