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What is Congenital Torticollis?

The term “Congenital” refers to any condition that exists in a patient from birth. Torticollis, sometimes known colloquially as “wryneck,” refers to when a baby comes out of the womb with a tilted head. With Congenital Torticollis, a baby’s chin will angle towards a shoulder, while the top of their head tilts the opposite direction. Physicians urge immediate treatment in order to prevent the baby from growing an uneven bone structure that will limit the future range of motion in the face and skull.

Indication Of Congenital Torticollis

The main symptom of congenital torticollis is the asymmetrical positioning of the head and neck, typically presenting as:

  1. Head Tilt: The infant’s head is tilted to one side, with the chin pointing towards the opposite shoulder.
  2. Neck Rotation: The infant may have difficulty or limited ability to turn the head fully in both directions.

In some cases, additional symptoms or findings may be present, including:

  1. Firmness or Lump: Palpable thickening or tightness in the affected sternocleidomastoid muscle.
  2. Facial Asymmetry: The face may appear flattened on the affected side or have noticeable differences in facial features.
  3. Developmental Delays: In rare cases, prolonged or severe untreated torticollis may lead to delays in motor development, such as delays in rolling over, sitting up, or crawling.

Treatment For Congenital Torticollis

Early diagnosis and intervention are important in the management of congenital torticollis. The goal of treatment is to stretch and strengthen the affected muscle, promote symmetrical head and neck movement, and prevent long-term complications. Treatment options may include:

  1. Stretching Exercises: Gentle stretching exercises are performed to lengthen the tight sternocleidomastoid muscle and promote improved range of motion.
  2. Positioning and Repositioning: Encouraging frequent changes in the infant’s head position during sleep and awake times to avoid prolonged pressure on one side of the head.
  3. Physical Therapy: A physical therapist specializing in pediatric care can provide guidance on specific exercises, positioning techniques, and assistive devices to promote proper alignment, strengthen muscles, and improve motor development.
  4. Parental Education: Educating parents on home exercises, proper positioning techniques, and strategies to encourage symmetrical movement and development.
  5. Referral to Specialists: In some cases, referral to a pediatric orthopedic specialist or other healthcare professionals may be necessary to assess the need for further intervention, such as serial casting or surgical release of the tight muscle (rarely required).

With early intervention and consistent management, most cases of congenital torticollis can be effectively treated, and the majority of infants achieve full recovery and normal neck function. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a pediatrician or physical therapist, for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan based on the specific details of your child’s condition. They can guide you through the recommended interventions and monitor your child’s progress to ensure optimal outcomes.