Talking About Torticollis...TORTAwhat???!!
I am going to start a series of blogs about certain conditions. This is in hopes of empowering YOU, the parents and caregivers. My mission in starting develoPT was to get access to high-quality healthcare and education for ALL children and families. One of the most common issues of early childhood is torticollis. I want to bring more attention to this condition and possibly help some of you prevent issues with your little one down the road.
There is actually a ton of information to know about torticollis. I will give you the most important aspects, but if I went into all the details you would start snoring…ZZZZZZzzzzz…
Sooo…let’s get started.
Torticollis is abnormal positioning of the head and neck, common in babies.
There are many possible reasons and factors that play into torticollis. Here are some of the most frequent causes/types:
Congenital Muscular Torticollis
Tightness in the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle on one side of the neck
Sometimes accompanied by a thickening or lump in the muscle
Sometimes tightness in other neck and shoulder muscles
Soft tissue or bony abnormalities
Time spent on back
Finding the specific reason for the torticollis is important, as it will guide treatment and prognosis. This may involve getting imaging like X-rays, MRIs, or ultrasounds of the muscle.
Again, there is a TON of information to understand with torticollis and its effects, but with the right help and guidance from a pediatric PT, you will rock this! Your home program will be specially tailored to fit you and your baby’s lifestyles. It will give you ideas on how to set up your home, and the CONFIDENCE to apply stretches, carrying, positioning, and strengthening within your little one’s play.
***FIND a specialist (pediatric physical therapist) that treats this condition frequently. Not all physical therapists are experienced in treating this.
Torticollis is named by the side that is tight and tilted, not the direction they are looking in.
If you don’t know a pediatric physical therapist, then go to your doctor IMMEDIATELY when you have a concern. The earlier you get your baby treatment for torticollis, the better and faster the outcomes. We want your baby to LEARN skills the correct way, instead of trying to FIX incorrect habits down the road.
Telehealth pediatric PTs are an amazing resource for this condition, and can answer questions on whether or not you need to be concerned (AND super convenient and accessible!!)
Instead of Googling it and coming up with the conclusion that your baby is possibly going to lose his/her head, PLEASE consult a HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL to ensure that you are getting accurate information!
Your doctor and healthcare provider should check that there are no contraindications to be aware of, and work towards finding the cause (ruling out the more rare conditions).
Limit time in ‘containers’ like carseats, swings, bouncers, Bumbo seats, elevated slings, etc.
They cause poor positioning, pressure on the back of the head (think flat spots), decreased active movement, and difficulty breathing because baby's chin is resting on his/her chest.
DO lots of floor time and tummy time to promote exploration and rolling :)
TUMMY TIME!!! SOOO important for little ones’ development, and to strengthen neck and back muscles.
Place baby on back to sleep to decrease SIDS risk...but try to keep the time baby is on back while awake to a minimum.
If addressed early enough with dedicated parents, healthcare providers, and baby, torticollis can be completely resolved!
Torticollis is a muscular issue, but it CAN affect the whole body, as it functions similar to a chain.
Since this is a muscular issue, I highly recommend NOT doing chiropractic care for your babies. It will not address the root cause, and could potentially be dangerous.
Be an advocate for your child- talk to your pediatrician or find a pediatric PT directly.
Seek guidance from a specialized pediatric PT that can help you through the process and ensure that no piece is left unresolved.
Educate yourself on the importance of early intervention, and how torticollis can affect different aspects of development.
PUSH tummy time! Even if your baby does not particularly enjoy it, the benefits majorly outweigh the fussing. Be creative, interact with baby during tummy time, and who knows?!?! Maybe they’ll learn to like it :)
Promote active play and movement into the non-preferred range.
Be aware of compensations that your little one may be using to function.
Change your home set-up to maximize baby’s attention to the non-preferred side, and use positioning tips from your pediatric PT throughout the day.
Torticollis involves many different parts of the body.
Range of motion
Developmental milestones and coordination
Torticollis can reappear when your baby is learning new motor skills, having a period of brief growth, or experiencing illness and fatigue. This is normal, but that being said, PLEASE do NOT let it continue. Work extra hard on the home program your PT has given you, and reach out if you have any concerns with regression.
Last, but NOT least- PLEASE don’t fall into the mommy/daddy guilt trap. There are so many reasons torticollis appears, and it is NOT because you’re a bad parent!
WHEW!!! I know I threw a lot of information at you, but please don’t feel overwhelmed. Knowledge empowers YOU to help your baby embrace their fullest potential! If you would like a helping hand to guide you along the way, and get a customized evaluation for your sweet babe, please reach out to me on my website, www.develoPTpeds.com.
In the meantime, I have put together a visual that summarizes the most important aspects of torticollis and treatment. It is awesome to quickly refer to, even with a crying baby ;) You can access it HERE!