44 answers

Wryneck - Head Tilts to One Side

At my son's 4 month check up the Pediatrican told me that my son as Wryneck or Torticollis. This is a condition that causes the baby to hold her head in an abnormal position. My son hangs his head to the right. At first I just thought his neck muscles weren't strong and thought nothing of it (I'm a first time Mommy0. But I thought I'd better bring it up to the Dr anyway. He told me to just massage the tendon on the right side of his neck 5 times a day and sleep him on the opposite side at night to stretch out his neck. He told me that this most likely happened from his position in my womb because it wasn't a tramatic birth (no forcepts, no complications at all).
So, I am just wondering if anyone else is having this same issue and what advice their Pediatrician gave. I want to know if anyone else's baby had this and it went away. I've been followig the Dr's orders for a month and I see a slight improvement on his head tilt but an evn bigger improvement on his range of motion (like looking to both sides).

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

First of all thank you for all the great advice. I took my son to the Pediatrician on Wednesday for something unrelated but I had him look at his neck again anyway. The Pediatrician says he looks a lot better from a month ago but he does have a flat spot on his head. He thinks the flat spot is more causing the tilt now than the tendon. The Dr also had me call him and see if he looks my direction and holds his head well and my son did. He said to continue the massage and sleep position and he'll look at it again in a month. I may ask for a referral to a Physical Therapist if there's no change by then or not completly gone. My Dr is in the Laguna Area and someone suggested a PT in Elk Grove, I'll keep that in mind. Thanks again everyone!!

Featured Answers

I don't know that much but found some good information online. Another thing to be aware of with this problem is that babies often get flat heads from being forced to sleep in the same head position each night (this is why I know about it - my daughter has a flat head and I am now looking into a helmet for her, although she didn't suffer from torticollis - she was just an excellent back sleeper). I would keep on the doctor about it and consider some proper baby massage... sorry I don't know more.

S., Since he has something with an actual name you can see if he qualifies for physical therepy. It sounds like you are doing a good job. If there is improvment keep it up and just keep watching it.

My son had the same thing and it went away without doing anything at all. By 8 months you probably wont notice a thing.

Good luck
T.
mom of two boys

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My son had the same thing and it went away without doing anything at all. By 8 months you probably wont notice a thing.

Good luck
T.
mom of two boys

I would suggest signing up for baby massage class. Alta Bates offers a good one, but I'm sure there are others around as well.

S.,
My son was also born w/weak neck, always preferred to turn his head to one side. Whwn I started spoon feeding him cereal, and first baby foods, I turned his infant seat around enough for him to have to turn his head the other way, he loved his food,( Kinda sideways) The Dr. was amazed at how well his head tilt problem was being resolved, plus the massage really helps too! Good Luck w/ your Beautiful baby boy

You might want to ask for a referral to a physical therapist also. They work with children with torticollis and can evaluate his needs. It sounds like you're doing the right thing since he's improving but it's better to be safe!
Good Luck

My daughter had this problem too and was referred to a physical therapist (at CPMC in SF) at 3 mos. old. She continued with physical therapy (about once a month) until she was about 12 months. The therapist observed her tilt and gave us a list of things to do to help her stretch the short side of her neck. Similar to what your doctor told you, but it was helpful to have a check in every month. They grow so fast at that age and the suggested at home therapy changed somewhat as she grew. Some of the things I remember were to stretch the short side of her neck when we carried her on her side (this only really worked at a very young age, when you basically held her head with one hand), put toys on her left side (short side) to encourage her to turn her head that way, and when she started sitting up, elevate her right side by placing a small towel under her right butt, which actually made her left side longer. At around a year, the therapist thought she'd straightened out enough that she didn't have to continue the sessions. Sometimes I still think she leans a little to the left (but than again, she's born and raised in SF : ), especially when she's tired. She's 2 years, 9 months now. But it's not really noticeable to anyone other than me and I don't expect she'll having any lasting problems from being squished in the womb. If the tilt doesn't improve much with your at home therapy, you might want to ask your pediatrician for a referral to a PT at your next appointment.

First of all (and all you chiropractic fans out there can piss and moan at me all you'd like, Im used to it by now) - unless your pediatrician recommends taking your infant son to a chiropractor, DO NOT LET ANYONE BUT A MEDICAL doctor handle and/or advise you when it comes to his neck and spine. For what I think is the hundreth time - children and infants have no business being at a chiropractors office. They are not medical doctors, and I for one would never trust something as important as my helpless infant's neck and spine to someone without a medical degree or pediatric training.
Wryneck or torticolis is also known to us lemans as "a crick in the neck" - and your pediatrician is completely correct in advising you to massage the area several times a day. There is nothing medically wrong with him persay, his neck muscles are just very tight and need stretching. I would suggest you buy a book or do some research on baby massage via the internet, and you should be able to resolve the torticolis. Try massaging or stretching his little neck muscles while he is in the bath, and even make a full body massage part of your bedtime routine. I work in special education, and nearly all of my students have suffered or do suffer from either hyper or hypotonia (high and low muscle tone), and even in these severe cases when the muscles of the entire body are compromised, we would NEVER send a parent to a chiropractor. It is not ever a solution - so, continue what you are doing, and if for some reason his torticolis does not resolve itself on it's own, he may need some small physical therapy (NOT chiropractic care) to take care of the problem once and for all.

Hi S.,

I am a physical therapist who's son also had torticollis (needless to say it drove me crazy!) It is treatable as long as there is not a lesion or nodule in the muscle (your MD should have checked for this by feeling the neck muscles). Massage is a good treatment but I would also recommend passive stretching away from the tight side at least 5 times per day or during nap times and before bed. I could only do this when my son was sleeping because he wouldn't hold still long enough while he was awake. Don't be surprised if you see fluctuations in the tilt positions. My son would seem to imprpove and hold straight for a while and then revert back during time of stress (teething, not feeling well, etc). Just keep up with your home stretching and massage! Good luck

I don't know that much but found some good information online. Another thing to be aware of with this problem is that babies often get flat heads from being forced to sleep in the same head position each night (this is why I know about it - my daughter has a flat head and I am now looking into a helmet for her, although she didn't suffer from torticollis - she was just an excellent back sleeper). I would keep on the doctor about it and consider some proper baby massage... sorry I don't know more.

Hi-

My son had the same thing. The Dr. had us do some neck stretches 4-5 times a day. It eventually went away. He's now 7 and has no long term evidence of anything :)

Good Luck!

D.

Hello S.,
May name is M. and Am a Christian. As I was reading your request letter, the Holy Spirit prompt me to write you back and say a prayer for your little son. Please agreer with me.
"Father who are in Heaven, in the name above of all names, Jesus Christ I lift up to you S. and her family, specially her litte son, Father your word says, that even since he was in S.'s womb you already knew him by his name, this little one is a gift from you to her, I pray for healing of his little neck, for you to streight his little mascles and I pray that you be glorify with this healing. I pray spirit of peace that passes all understanding in his parents heart to know that you are tha healer of all healers, I pray blessings upon this family and a hetch of protection around this family, around their home and business, and if they don't know you personally, that they get to know you. In Jesus name I pray. Amen."
S., trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own undestanding, and know that God has your family in his hands. God bless.
M.

Take him to a chiropractor and get him adjusted. It may take a few adjustments, but this can easily be fixed.

I don't know about Wryneck but I do strongly believe in the Chiropractor. I went all through out my pregnancy. My kids all went when they were born and then periodicly after that. If you think about the whole birth process. There little heads are moved around and yanked on so much that there spine has got to be out of whack. I have an amazing chiro if you need one let me know.

My daughter (now 11 months old) had the same condition. Our pediatrician referred us to a physical therapist (who specializes in babies with this condition) at about 3 months. We went to weekly appointments for 12 weeks, and after that her condition was cured. The therapist had me do about 5 minutes of very specific stretching exercises with her every single day. They were not fun or comfortable for my daughter, yet she was never in any pain. It was a lot of work, but I am definitely glad to have invested the time in doing the exercises!

I would love to recommend my physical therapist, but I am currently living in Munich, Germany right now. But I would recommend asking your pediatrician if you can perhaps get a referral to a physical therapist for babies, just to make sure there isn't more that you can do.

Good luck! :)

S., Since he has something with an actual name you can see if he qualifies for physical therepy. It sounds like you are doing a good job. If there is improvment keep it up and just keep watching it.

The physical therapy suggestion made by many others is a very good idea. I did want to relate an experience a friend of mine had. She is a physician and had a 5 year old patient hospitalized with severe neck pain and inability to move the neck from it's "cricked" position. Ran all the tests and found no source of the problem - it was just torticollis. Tried several muscle relaxants and other medications without sucess. Finally they tried a muscle relaxant generally reserved for adults - Valium. It helped him IMMEDIATELY and allowed him to begin moving. Along with some therapy he was completely cured. I'm not necessarily advocating valium for a baby, but to find a specialist who is aware of all the options.

My daughter had the same problem. My pediatrician referred her to physical therapy which helped a great deal!!! Ask you Dr. to refer you to a children's physical therapist. The tightness in the neck will go away in about a month. You will be given better excersizes to do with you baby. It is very important to get this taken care of. They had me freaked out that she was going to have to have a helmet. I don't know how true that is but I wanted to get it taken care of right away. I went to Laguna Physical Therapy in Elk Grove. Carrie was really good with my baby and has a lot of experience with newborn.

Hope this helps

S.
My nephew had it and you need to take him to a pediatic physical therapist. The stretches and exercises they had us do caused some discomfort to the baby as they are stretching the muscles, not stretched while you were pregnant. It is just an uncomfortable feeling for the baby. Your turning and stretching the babies neck in a way that it has not done before. I would not say it is terrible pain just uncomfortable. They had him better in about 2 1/2 months. I watched the baby everyday and had to do these on him 4X/day. It does go away, but go see a therapist. You don't want him to have a flat head. My sis didn't know any better and he had a big head. I don't think we went and saw anyone until 3 months and he already started to develope a flat head. With the treatment it went away and he is very smart and normal, but if you really look at his head, he does have a flat spot still.

Go see a therapist or get a referral to see one.
Good luck Trish

My son had the same thing around 3-4 months, and our pediatrician referred us to a physical therapist. He had a very slight case. We followed the physical therapist's recommendations, and the issue was resolved within a few weeks. Keep at it, and hopefully your son will be 100% soon!

As a Lactation Consultant I see this often - and often I see it way before the Ped does. I know several ped therapsits in my area and they are wonderful people and I refer to them but not for Torticollis...

My professional opinion on torticollis and Physical Therapy is - well, I don't like it. The stretching does hurt and the babies really don't like it at all. I do know that it works, but I prefer a modality that does not cause the baby weeks of pain as it does take several weeks of working and stretching. Put yourself in their shoes...how would you feel? Would you want therapy that was pleasant and quickly effective or one that took weeks of painful exercise that made you cry?

We have in our area (Sacramento) a woman who does extensive work of babies working with their muscles for all sorts of reasons. I work with a lot of babies who had birth trauma and cannot suck correctly, tight jaws, tongues that don't move well, etc. I send them to this gal and she fixes the right up. Babies love the massage she gives (a specialized type of massage) and they respond wonderfully. I have seen severe cases of torticollis resolve within a couple visits - and this is without mom and dad doing painful stretches at home with the baby...

Her name is Venice Sullivan - ###-###-#### check her out here. http://www.hopehealingtherapy.com/new_borns.htm

Honestly - I am extremely picky about who I will send my babies to for assistance when it is needed. She is the best in the area - she is one of the best in the country - her skills are phenomenal...

I wish you luck. It just doesn't have to be painful and traumatic to help baby get rid of torticollis...the rest of the world just hasn't quite figured that out yet...

Good luck to you!

Warmly,
J.

Hi S.,
You might try a chiropractor. I have used Dr. Virgilija Tali. She is in her 30's and comes to your home! She does quite a bit of work with pregnant women, new moms, and babies. I have had her work on my little guy at 6 weeks to correct some jaw issues. She has worked with our moms with similar situations as yours. Here is her ____@____.com or her website www.drtalidc.com ###-###-#### She really is great. Prices are reasonable...I think $35 for a baby with one freebee just to examine? Good Luck

Ask for recommendations for a chiropractor. I was leery of the practice at first. I was in a hoorible car accident in 2005 after my son was born. Nothing could relieve the pain better than an adjustment. Good luck.

I would try an osteopath too.
P.

I used to manage a pediatrician's office, and we saw cases of torticollis once in a while. Your doctor's advice sounds just like the advice the two docs I used to work for would give. Massage, lay on other side, and wait for it to correct itself. Just as a funny aside (in case you need some comic relief): we have two Burmese cats - gorgeous creatures - and one of them was born with a wryneck. So we named her Noke, which, oddly enough, means something like "bent neck" in Japanese. Since we'd named her twin Neko ("cat" in Japanese), it was somehow suitable. Anyway, your baby is more precious than a cat, but I just wanted you to smile so you'd know it's not serious and it will work itself out (so to speak).

K. in EC

HI S.,

I would get another opinion. We have a friend whose daughter had a more serious care of Torticollis and they had to do pretty intense therapy with her. The reason she developed it was because she was a GREAT sleeper and always slept on the same side of her face. (They warn us about a flat back of the head, but not this...) PT is a lot easier to do when it's a somewhat mild case and before the babies get older. It doesn't hurt to ask someone else. Your doctor sounds a little bit nonchalant about it...

Good luck,
J.

My 18 month old son was diagnosed with torticollis
when he was a baby. We started physical therapy with him
when he was 6 months old, and his neck is perfectly straight now.

The therapist showed us a lot of exercises to help strengthen
the neck muscles. We went once a week until he was a year old, but it really paid off.

Not sure where you live, but in San Francisco,Susan Kern, is the physical therapist that we worked with; she is located at the Child Development Center on Van Nes (through CPMC). She has a lot of experience with torticollis.

Hope this helps! Good luck.

Hi there! My little one had the exact same thing when he was about 2 months old. He must have slept in a weird position because he didn't have it at birth. But, our pediatrician noticed it at 2 months old and when I look back at the pictures it's so obvious! Anyways, as soon as it was brought to my attention I adjusted him (I'm a chiropractor) and he was immediately better. I also did the massage on his neck and changed his sleeping side. He unfortunately did get a little bit of a lop-sided head shape from sleeping on that same side for the time he had the torticollis, but at five years old you can't even tell (full head of thick hair always helps). I have a practice here in Sunnyvale and love treating small babies and children and am very gentle. If you'd like to contact me I'm at ###-###-#### (Dr. J. Lomori). I wish you luck!

Mom to three boys (5, 3.5 and 2), J.

my daughter had a slight tilt. our ped recommended that we see a pediatric opthamologist, because sometimes the tilt can be due to a vision issue. she didn't think it was urgent, but worthwhile. we saw dr. day (who was fabulous). she was unable to diagnose the problem as vision related, and recommended that we wait six months to see if it went away on its own, and come back if it didn't. it did go away, so that was nice. you may want to look into getting your son's eyes checked too if the problem persists.

my son's head tilts to the left...we were referd to see a physical therapist who gave us some stretches for him to do through out the day which has helped. maybe you can ask your docotr for a referral to see a physical therapist

Hi Sue - My name is F. and I have twins that are 3 years old and when our daughter was about 3 months old we noticed the same thing. Our pediatrician told us it was torticollis and that if we took her to physical therapy it would help.

We took her to North Bay Medical in Fairfield over by the mall and they were just wonderful! They specialize in therapy for children and are all very nice and professional. She went for a total of 6 weeks one time per week and she has been fine ever since.

We did stretching with her at home put we were not using enough pressure due to the fact that she would start crying because it does hurt and we were scared we were doing something wrong. The best thing we could have done was take her to North Bay Clinic.

Your son will be fine - it is not a permenant condition. If you need to talk just send another response to mamasource.

F.

Hi- I am not a "fan" of chiropractors myself but I did have a positive experience taking my very young infant to one. I have been to the Chiropractor exactly one time for myself and didn't think it helped much (other than an expensive massage!).
I had extensive nursing problems with my first born though and although I cannot be certain, I think the Chiropractor really helped. I had a couple of months of recurring breast infections while nursing my firstborn. It was a really extreme with two cases of mastitis turning into abcesses, really the worst time in my life medically. The many doctors I saw said they had never seen anything like it. After recovering to a certain degree I was nursing and doing OK but my daughter refused to nurse on the left side. I was emotionally overwhelmed and willing to try anything at that point. I took her to a Chiropractor who specialized in infants and I swear 15 minutes after leaving the office she was nursing on the left. The session itself was very gentle (no cracking or pulling!). I asked a lot of questions and was right there with her the whole time. We went back one more time and never had nursing problems again. My point is never discount an available treatment just because the person is not an MD. There are all kinds of ways to treat medical conditions that western medicine may not endorse but that have worked for centuries. Do your research follow your intuition and make sure you feel comfortable with whatever is happening at all times. Our family doctor (who is an MD) also believes in some alternative treatments including Chiropractors. Good Luck!

S.

My best advice from personal experience is chiropractic. It seems a bit extreme but it does work wonders. You would be amazed. If you live in the Roseville area, I do have an excellent one to recommend.

Take care
and if you have any questions, please ask

my younger daughter has this as well. we did not 'catch' it until she was a bit older than your son. i thought it was just a tendency to act cute and imitate mommy. we ended up having an mri and x-rays done to reinforce that is was indeed a muscular condition. at 2 it is much better. the neurologist we went to said that because it is a muscle issue it will correct in time, and if it does not completly correct cosmetic surgery could be done later. of course, daddy and mommy think boo is perfect the way she is. the dr. also commented that if she wanted it fixed with cosmetic surgery SHE could do it later. after reading online, surgery would involve cutting muscle and tendons in her neck. nothing i would like to sign up for myself. in more extremem cases there are cones you can put on the baby to help encourage the baby to hold their head straight-picture the family dog after neutering. we are seeing good results with time and some massage. you may want to get referred to a specialist if you are more worried and your doc isn't getting you enough info.
good luck.

I'm a pediatric physical therapist and get referrals for kids with torticollis. Your pediatrician's advice is sound; you can also do one more step by facilitating strength on the weaker side. I use this special tape called KineseoTape - it has a stretch to it and it is as thin as a layer of skin. Depending on how it is applied, it cues the muscle to either relax or contract, which is how it would be applied on your son. He is young and I think it would be a great adjunct treatment for your son. The results are instantaneous and I have had great success using it with stretching and positioning. He would first have to do a patch test to make sure he is not allergic to the adhesive (most kids are fine with it). You can tell your pediatrician your concern that you are seeing slight improvement and want a referral to a pediatric physical therapist. If you have difficulty finding one, you can contact me at ph.###-###-#### or e-mail at ____@____.com. I hope this is helpful.

N. Shimizu, MPT, CKTP

Whoa, I just saw an episode on Torticollis on Discovery Health, of an adult that has this onset at about age 21, stuck for about 3 years to no avail. The solution was Botox injections and to this day 20 plus years later he is totally fine. You may notice the tilt goes away when the baby in deep sleep, when the brain is sleeping the muscles totally relax. For an infant I personally would just follow the doctors advice and pray that it is a temporary thing but should you find yourself in the future with the same problem, visit Discover Health and try to get the adult information. God Bless you and hang in there...I find nature has a way of correcting itself quite often. Wishing you and the baby the best.

My son, now 43, slept with his head way back. It scared me and I would move his head. He would end up with it back the same way. He was OK when he was awake, so I didn't worry too much. I think your doctor gave you good advice. The tendons probably are shrunk on the one side and tendons can stretch. You say he is improving, so keep doing what you are doing.

Even though it was a non-traumatic birth the doctor still more then likely pulled and twisted to assist in getting the baby out. Chiropractic is the best next step. If any vertebrae were misaligned in pulling him out all the stretching and massage won't fully fix it and would leave him with problems. Usually only 1 or two adjustments will take care of it.

My daughter, now 2-1/2, had the same. Unfortunately, she was breach and was "stuck" in an awkward position. Luckily, we have Kaiser and her pediatrician sent her to a physical therapist. She basically showed us some stretching excercises to do with her. It seemed to work and when she started to walk, her whole body, including her head seemed straightened out and re-balance itself. Now, you would never know she had that problem. Suggest from your pediatrician to refer you to a physical therapist.

My daughter had it as well. We took her to physical therapy and between what they did and what they taught us to do, it did go away. See if you can get a referral for p/t. In the mean time, keep up the good work. It will go away.

Hello. My son had the same problem. When I brought it up with my Ped. at about 2 months, she referred us to a Pediatric Physical Therapist (I have Kaiser) and we were seen for 6 appts. We learned not only how to loosen up the muscles on the one side but also how to strengthen the opposing muscles. I would push to get a referral because he should be evaluated by a specialist. We got total results and he is just perfect at 15 months. That's my two cents worth, I hope you get some help. Take care.

a few friends have children with this and they were referred to physical therapists. They'd see the therapist and in-between visits they'd do the recommended massage, but for the most part the progress was monitored.

S.,

I wish i can help but no worries kids grow out of it. how cool he has the same birthday as mine :)

Hi,

My best friend's daughter who is also 4 mo old just experienced the same problem. The doctor told her it is not an extreme problem but did recommned a few visits with a physical therapist. Apparently it is not all that uncommon but if not caught can lead to the need for the child to wear a helmet later on.

In any case, she has had 4 visits and seems to be fine now. They are going to the last visit just for good measure but she should have no lingering effects and moves her head normally now.

Hope that helps a bit. Good luck! I'm sure it will be fine =)

My son had this too, which I discovered around 2 months. It was considered a very mild case but I still brought him to a physical therapist. She showed me the proper way to do the stretching, massaging at home. It went away very quickly once we were seeing her. It got about 90% better after a month but that last 10% took a while so I ended up going back to the PT and new muscles had tightened up, which I guess is common so I had to work on stretching a different area. I recommend going to a PT. It will clear up very quickly if you do the right stretches and will be harder to resolve as the baby gets older.

Hi S., my son, now 16 months old, had a bout of torticolis and we didn't really catch it until about 4.5 months. At about 6 months we had either 6 or 8 trips to the physical therapist (O'Connor Hospital, San Jose) after convincing our pediatrician that it WAS that bad (he's great, but not the worrier type). The PT was great for him (playing/distracting to get him to look to the opposite side, stretching, mommy-therapy!). He cried during stretching, but since the PT was helping me I realized that it was helping and not hurting him - he was just annoyed. Trying to do that on my own would not have worked b/c I would have given up due to the crying. His neck turned out great.

Since we did catch it late and he spent much time on that side in the crib (repositioning alone didn't help, that's why the PT referral), and because he was bone to bone in my pelvis for awhile, my son had to wear a helmet for about 8 months to reshape his head. Even the helmet isn't too bad ~ his head and neck are both great now! Please feel free to email if you have any questions and good luck!

~ J.*

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