Torticollis

Torticollis is a condition characterized by a turned and tilted head and neck. Torticollis can appear temporarily and go away again. It can also be present at birth (congenital).

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Patients can be seen by Texas Children's experts in Orthopedics.

Causes & Risk Factors

Both boys and girls get all types of torticollis. Muscular torticollis happens more often if babies are crowded while developing in their mother's womb. It can also develop due to accidents or injuries.

Symptoms & Types

General symptoms include:

  • Stiff neck and difficulty moving the neck.
  • Holding the head to one side.
  • Chin pointing up a little. 

Different types of torticollis may have different symptoms: 

  • Fixed torticollis may result in faces that look unbalanced or flattened (plagiocephaly). The child may also have mild delays in the use of their muscles (motor skills).
  • Children with Klippel-Feil syndrome frequently have other issues, such as trouble hearing.

Types of torticollis include:

Acquired 

  • The neck tightens to one side and the child is unwilling to move it because of pain.

Congenital

  • One side of the neck becomes tighter than the other, pulling the head and neck to that side. This can occur when scar tissue forms in this muscle.
  • Congenital abnormalities of the cervical spine.

Traumatic

  • Damage to the neck due to trauma such as a trampoline accident.

Diagnosis & Tests

A physical exam, X-rays, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), or a CT scan may be used to diagnosis torticollis.

Treatment & Care

In about 90% of babies, muscular torticollis improves during the first year of life. The condition may improve faster if your baby gets physical therapy to stretch the neck muscles.