Congenital torticollis affects 1 in 300 infants in the US each year according to the American Academy of Orthotists & Prosthetists. Many parents are not made aware of their treatments options. Torticollis (AKA Wry Neck) is a form of dystonia (prolonged muscle contractions) in which the neck muscles, particularly the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle, contract involuntarily causing the head to turn. The medical approach to this condition is often surgery on neck muscles, nerves and tendons, intensive physical therapy and drug therapy. The surgery entails cutting the SCM muscle and lengthening it.
Treatment Triad: Alternative Care for Torticollis
- Chiropractic- Dr. Amber Brooks, DC is a Board Certified Pediatric Chiropractor (ICPA) with gentle and effective care. This portion of the triad will address the diagnoses and treatment of any musculoskeletal problems, these are usually as a result of in-utero restrictions or the birthing process. Please read more about chiropractic here.
- Craniosacral Therapy (CST)- CST is a gentle, hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the functioning of a physiological body system called the craniosacral system—comprised of the membranes, cranial bones, cerebrospinal fluid and the tissue that surrounds and protects the brain and spinal cord. Using a soft touch generally no greater than five grams, or about the weight of a nickel the tension in the body can be addressed and the Torticollis may be reduced. Please read more about CST here.
- Physical/Occupational Therapy- Therapy helps speed up range of motion with stretching, teaches families positioning options and promotes additional aid.
I have seen many torticollis cases through the years and many children’s abnormal range of motion is often not the only symptom presenting, some common symptoms include:
- Head tremor
- Shoulder is higher on one side of the body
- Stiffness of neck muscles
- Swelling of the neck muscles (possibly present at birth)
- Lumps in neck/muscle belly
- Difficulty dressing/bathing
- Problems breastfeeding
- Positional preference
- “Fisting”- constant fisting of hands
- “C” shape- the shape the body is when they are laying flat
- Reflux (GERD)
There are 3 Types of Torticollis
Congenital: This type is present at birth and develops as a result of damage to the nervous system or muscles and is more common type.
- Birth trauma, multiples or intrauterine malposition.
- May occur if the fetus’ head is in the wrong position while growing in the womb.
- If the muscles or blood supply to the fetus’ neck are injured.
- Clavicular fractures seen in neonates secondary to birth trauma.
- Arnold-Chiari, Goldenhar or Moebius Syndrome.
- Ocular Torticollis- should NOT be treated.
Acquired: Occurs because of another problem and usually presents in previously normal children and adults.
- Tumors of the skull base
- Sandifer Syndrome
- Trauma to the neck can cause atlantoaxial rotary subluxation, in which the two vertebrae closest to the skull slide with respect to each other, tearing stabilizing ligaments.
- The use of certain drugs (example: antipsychotics).
The torticollis occurs without a known cause.
Common Risk Factors:
- In- Utero constraint
- Traumatic Birth
- Multiple Births
- Extended time in car seat
If your child has Torticollis we may be able to help and/or make a proper referral