What is Muscular Torticollis (Wry Neck)

Torticollis means "twisted neck," and if a child has this condition, the head can be tilted to one side while the chin is turned to the other side, or the baby cannot turn the head equally from left to right. About 1 in 250 infants are born with torticollis. (Ten to 20 percent of babies with torticollis also have hip dysplasia, in which the hip joint is malformed.)

It is interesting that many adult’s ears are not level. This is one of the signs of mild Torticollis as an infant.

Congenital torticollis

Congenital torticollis is most often due to tightness in the muscle that connects the breastbone and the collarbone to the skull. ( Sternocleidomastoid muscle)

This tightness might have developed because of the way your baby was positioned in the uterus (with the head tilted to one side) or because the muscles were damaged during delivery.

In severe cases the un-equal muscle tension can pull the skull out of shape.

Acquired torticollis

Acquired torticollis develops after birth.

Generally this occurs when baby is allowed to favour one sleeping position allowing the sternocleidomastoid muscles to develop unequally.

This is normally associated with Plagiocephaly.

How will I know if my baby has torticollis?

You'll probably notice that your baby holds her head to one side and has limited neck movement. Another telltale sign is a small bump on the side of her neck.

Congenital muscular torticollis is usually diagnosed within the first two months of a baby's life. Even if parents don't spot it, a paediatrician will.

Babies with torticollis may also develop positional plagiocephaly (asymmetrical head shape) because they'll often sleep with their head turned to the side.

In addition to a physical exam, the doctor may need to order X-rays of the neck to determine which form of torticollis your child has. The doctor may also order other tests, such as an ultrasound of the hips or kidneys, depending on the type of torticollis.


Don't Forget "Tummy Time"

Laying your baby on the stomach for brief periods while awake (known as "tummy time") is an important exercise because it helps strengthen neck and shoulder muscles and prepares your baby for crawling.

This exercise is especially useful for a baby with torticollis and a flat head — and can actually help treat both problems at once. Here's how to do it:

  • Lay your baby on your lap for tummy time. Position your baby so that his or her head is turned away from you. Then, talk or sing to your baby and encourage him or her to turn and face you. Practice this exercise for 10 to 15 minutes.


Most babies with torticollis get better on their own through position changes and stretching exercises. The condition might take up to 6 months to go away completely, though in some cases it can take up to a year or longer.

If you find that your baby's torticollis is not improving with stretching, talk to your doctor. Your baby may be a candidate for muscle-release surgery, a procedure that cures most cases of torticollis that don't improve with physical therapy alone.