Center For Pediatric: Torticollis

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“Don’t Ignore The Stiffness In Your Infant’s Neck!” TORTICOLLIS October, 2017

While this is a rather common health problem that newborns experience, it is still typically concerning to see your child born and unable to move their neck to the full capacity, and so treatment and therapy options are available to help you newborn overcome this problem. In most cases, torticollis resolves by three months. Understanding Torticollis Everyone wakes up time to time with a stiff neck. Sleeping awkwardly on your pillow, or falling asleep in a chair instead of your bed may leave your neck feeling tense and limit your range of motion. This is essentially the problem with infant torticollis. The difference being that as an adult, you know that you have the ability to move your neck and that the stiffness is a result of awkward positioning. For newborns, the stiffness in their neck is all they ever know, and so while they experience pain and discomfort from the stiffness, they are not starting to naturally move their neck in the same way that a child born without this condition would. This can be concerning for a parent, but it is important to recognize that there are therapeutic options to support infants who experience this problem, and the best way to help your child overcome the concern is to be proactive. There is no explanation as to why some babies develop torticollis while others don’t. All babies grow in the womb, but some babies become cramped and develop this stiffness in their neck as a result. Other babies are able to develop without experiencing this problem. Torticollis is typically recognized by the neonatal staff in the hospital when the infant is born, but there are some cases in which you may notice the concern gradually after returning home with your infant. Symptoms of torticollis include: • Constant or almost constant tilting of the head in one direction • Demonstrated preference for looking in one direction over another • Difficulty breastfeeding on one side • Frustration and difficulty with turning in one direction instead of another

If you notice one or more of these concerns, then it is a good idea to bring attention to the problem with your infant’s pediatrician. Your pediatrician can assess the issue and consider if there is a clear preference for physical reasons or if other concerns may be at play. For example, some infants may prefer one breast over another as a result of a clogged milk duct, or perhaps your infant looks one way more often than another due to the positioning of your furniture and layout of your nursery. Infant torticollis is treated through a series of targeted exercises. Your pediatrician will talk to you about at-home strategies that you can use to encourage more neck movement to reduce stiffness and to help your child overcome the concern. It is not a good idea to try any activities that may encourage movement of the neck without first discussing the concern with your pediatrician, and under no circumstances should you try to force your child’s neck to move one way over another.

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