Torticollis

Updated on November 18, 2007
S.K. asks from Minneapolis, MN
21 answers

Yesterday when we took my son in for his 2 month appt, the doctor thought he might have torticollis. This is when a baby has a tendency to look toward one side due to weak neck muscles on one side of hsi neck. I have noticed this a bit, but thought it was natural for some babies and it would correct itself. The doctor recommended physical therapy so we are going in for an evaluation next week. I have read a little about it on-line and it doesn't seem very serious, but I am wondering if anyone has had first-hand experience with this. It's always hard to hear there is something "wrong" with your baby.

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L.M.

answers from Minneapolis on

My neice had this also. My sister just had to take her to physical therapy for awhile and it was corrected. She is now a very normal, extrememly active 2 yr old. Nothing to worry about because it was caught early and it is more common than we think. Good luck!

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M.B.

answers from Minneapolis on

Hi S.-

My son (and his cousin) both had this as infants, physical therapy takes care of it, really! : )

The scariest part of the whole episode was being told that our son might need to wear a helmet to correct flattening to his skull caused by the torticollis. When the baby keeps their head tilted to one side, the result can be some flattening of the skull, if it's extreme, a helmet might be discussed to correct the flattening.

A side note re: Helmets- Our experience with specialists in regards to the helmet was very negative. The "specialist" we were referred to used out of date medical statistics to demonstrate the need for a helmet and turned out to be the helmet salesperson, as well as the person determining whether our son might need a helmet. The helmets are very expensive and tend to be considered "experimental" by insurance companies, i.e. aren't covered by insurance. We did not end up with a helmet.

Our son did the physical therapy and we made a concerted effort to keep him off of his back at all times other than while sleeping at night (the housecleaning suffered, as he spent naptime sleeping on his tummy on one of our chests for a few months) and everything was fine. This was the case with his cousin as well. From what I understand, this is very regularly the case.

The physical therapy wasn't difficult and wasn't even incredibly lengthy in duration. Well, well worth it and honestly, nothing to stress about. It's hard to hear that there's something "wrong" with your baby, but this is really fix-able.

Good luck!!

M.

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L.O.

answers from Minneapolis on

Yes S., my son had torticollis due to "big baby/small mama." I looked at his last ultrasound pictures a few days ago and, there he was, smashed in there in the same position he favored for those first months when he came out. We did the PT with him, the exercises are very gentle and easy. What really helped with him was chiropractic. We went to Caron Chiropractic in St. Paul to Dr. Matt and he was just great. The chiro was also extremely gentle and easy and he did it only a handful of times and he was much better. My guy is 15 months now and walking and turning his head just fine, just takes some time for that muscle to stretch.

Just a warning, I had a different chiropractor tell me it was "my fault" that my son had torticollis and, as you know, with the hormones being off etc. this REALLY upset me. It's baloney if anyone tells you this.

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C.K.

answers from Madison on

I think my nephew, who is now 3, had this and you can't tell at all anymore. I'm thinking it totally disappeared by the time he was 1. He is a twin and they think it developed because of how we was positioned in the womb with his brother.

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K.K.

answers from Minneapolis on

Hi S.,

I have twin boys who are just a year older than Anders, and the lower twin, Devin, had severe torticollis and plageocephaly (the mis-shaped head). He was diagnosed at 4 months (the usual age for diagnosis) and really, the earlier you go the better. He is still being treated for it at 14 months. You do an eval, and then we have therapy once every 2 weeks for a half hour. Every 3-4 months you go back to the specialist to see how things are going. Usual treatment lasts 6-9 months, I think. You also get a series of exercises that you have to do at home, usually 3 x's/day. I don't know if this will be the case with your son, but with Devin, the older he got, the more resistant he became to stretches and exercises. It was also very difficult for us to always do the stretches 3 x's/day and we have no idea if our home daycare lady was doing the stretches like we asked (she said she did, you just never know).

Torticollis is very common with babies who sat low - and almost guaranteed with multiples. You do have to do the work if you want it to go away. We expect Devin to be released from treatment next month, but it's been a long road with threats of surgery. Now he is finally shaking his head back and forth, and twisting his torso, something his twin brother was doing months ago. Plus his shoulders are even when you look at him now.

About the helmet. I disagree with the previous post. The doc who does the initial eval will let you know if he/she thinks your son needs a helmet. If it's recommended, I suggest getting it. With our initial eval, we were told the same thing about it being optional, how it won't effect the treatment for torticollis, how it's expensive and there are lots of appointments, so we decided not to do it.

Well, by the time Devin was 9 months old and going in for his recheck, his neck was getting better, but because his head was mis-shaped, it still rolled to the flat side and he would sleep with it on the flat side. Let me tell you, 9 months old is not the best time to get the helmet. The best time is early, when their heads grow rapidly and you don't need it very long. We finally did get the helmet for Devin last June, and thankfully his head is evening out and is also expected to be discontinued next month. His helmet appointments are right after his physical therapy appointments, so it's not like we are making extra trips to the doctor for it. For us, the helmet made a huge difference. Also, the cap and his appointments are covered with medical assistance, so I think it's something that insurance companies are willing to pay for if the state is willing to pay for it. The state doesn't pay for circumcisions anymore, so I think they must have seen the benefits of getting a helmet if they are going to cover it.

Good luck! I know it's scary at first but things should turn out smoothly. Your son is lucky to get a diagnosis so early.

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L.W.

answers from Minneapolis on

Hi! My best friends third daughter probably had torticollis (not diagnosed). She would always go to sleep with her head to one side and looking up. (It looked like she was having a seizure sort of!). It was the stangest thing. She grew out of it. Her Dr. wasn't worried at all and it did resolve itself no problem. I think there are alot of kids who have this-just not diagnosed. It is probably more common than we think. As long as it isn't causing breathing problems or anything, I am sure it will correct itself in time as your child gets stronger neck muscles.

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K.H.

answers from Minneapolis on

My one twin had a minor case of it when she about 3 months. Since getting to the physical therapist was a bit of a daunting task at the time (I had twin 3 month olds and a 18 month old) I decided to give it about 6 weeks to see if we could rectify it by ourselves before rushing off to the physical therapist. So I really concentrated on making sure I was engaging her from the side that she was not turning to (put toys on that side, breast fed more often from that side, talked to her from that side) and with in a couple of weeks it was fine. BUT I am certainly not knocking on physical therapy, I would have enjoyed being able to pick a therapists brain over this and other issues regarding my babies' physical developments but addition trips to the doctors office at the time were tough for me. I would recommend you go if you have the time/money just for the additional knowledge gained. But you are right, its probably not that serious now but it could be if left unattended. So do what you can at home in the meantime.
Best wishes K. H

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K.K.

answers from Minneapolis on

Torticollis is very common for young babies to have. Chiropractic care is very helpful in conjunction with some physical therapy to alleviate torticollis faster. To find a pediatric chiropractor in your area visit www.icpa4kids.org. They also have information about torticollis on their website. Good luck!

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J.C.

answers from Minneapolis on

Our little guy had torticollis too. We mentioned our concern at his 4 month check up - his head was always cocked to the right and his right ear looked bigger than the other - actually he had flattened the right side of his head a bit so the ear had come forward a little. We ended up using PT to fix the torticollis and our little guy wore a cranio cap for a couple of months. A cranio cap is a 'baby helmet' that reshapes the baby's head as he grows. Tough decision at the time but it didn't bother him at all and now his head is shaped perfectly and he has a full range of motion. We went through Children's West and they were fabulous. We enjoyed the PT appointments and learned to do a lot of the exercises at home. Good luck! Also -- our insurance covered 100% of the entire treatment - no copays.

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A.V.

answers from Minneapolis on

My daughter had the same thing. One day she just looked at me and her head was tilited to the right. When I noticed this I switched everything I was doing with her to the other side. We started her in physical therapy when she was about 2 mths old and she just had her last appt in September which made her just about 6 mth old. She is now 8 mth old and doing great. We went to PT once a week - she hated it at 1st and cried most of the time. Try to make your appts doing his best time of day. They will give you exercises to do at home w/your child.

It's a very common thing - please don't think of it as something wrong w/your baby. You're being proactive which is great. It beats having him wear one of those helmets. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

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H.

answers from Minneapolis on

my daughter had this, it wasn't very bad (apparently) since she could move her head still each direction, so our doc just gave us some at home exercises to do. it cleared up really fast once we started working on it =) feel free to pm me if you like

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J.B.

answers from Minneapolis on

I'm a soon to be mom (Due date Jan 20). I'm a nurse and my husband is a chiropractor. He's seen great results using chiropractic to treat torticollis. They didn't teach us much about chiropractic going through nursing school, but after helping him out at his office every once in a while I'm so surprised the positive changes that occur in babies using chiropractic. Constipation, Ear Infections, Colic, and yes Torticollis.

So that would be my advise,

J., 25 soon to be mom

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T.S.

answers from Minneapolis on

My son had a mild case of it, we didn't really catch it. He was our first and looking back it makes sense. He always turned his head one way when sleeping, laying on the floor. Sometimes it happens. My second had a slight case too, but we noticed right away and did therapy with him and he's just fine.

The thing about torticollis, is it's nothing serious and it is fixable. But in the case of our son, it contributed to him getting a flat head on one side. In my son's case we had to get a helmet that helped round out his hear. It was a relatively simple proceedure and he's perfectly fine now. Not hat that's going to happen to your child. You seem to have caught it early, so it's probably not an issue for your son.

If you take him to therapy now, it probably will only take a very short time to correct the torticollis.

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K.S.

answers from Minneapolis on

It sounds like this is a mild case, which is quite common. It can easily be corrected by Physical Therapy, as they see it all the time. Good luck and don't worry! If there is going to be something "wrong" with your baby, this would be one of my choices!

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A.B.

answers from Minneapolis on

I've never heard of Torticollis, but at 7 months my son kept looking to one side, and I took him to our Chiropractor. It was his first time, and he was fixed after one visit.

I don't know where you live, but Hopkins Health and Wellness Center has a doctor who specializes in women and children--
Dr. Lelwica.
15 8th Avenue N.
Hopkins, MN 55343
###-###-####
http://www.minnesotachiropractic.com/
I see Dr. Pete, so I really am not doing an advertisement for them. I've tried another clinic, but these guys are the only ones I really trust. Hope this helps.

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J.B.

answers from Minneapolis on

I have a little girl that has torticollis and was diagnosed at 2 months. We have been doing physical therapy since and she is just fine! Our therapist said to attach a mirror or crib soother on her crib and rotated the position you put her to bed each night. The lights/mirror on the crib will make her want to turn her head. Also, tummy time is critical for torticollis. My little girl hated it at first but everyday got better. Also, try tummy time on an exercise ball with you holding her shoulders! It works great!
My little girl is wearing a helmet because she has plagiocephaly and brachocephaly but it doesn't seem to bother her. We have had it on for two months now and her head has changed so much! She hasn't had any trouble at all with the helmet!

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J.R.

answers from Minneapolis on

Sorry, a system glitch posted my response twice so I deleted one.
J.

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J.X.

answers from Minneapolis on

This IS serious, and you should start to take action immediately. My son had this from birth and ended up wearing a cranio cap because it disfigured his head. A friend's daughter had to wear one for over six months because her ears, jaw and other facial features were not in line due to torticollis. When that happens it is called plagiocephaly. My son's specialist at Gillette Children's said that he wore his cap for such an abnormally short period of time (5 weeks) because we had done PT exercises with him starting at birth. We also tried to put interesting things on the side that he had trouble turning to. This forced him to try to use that side of his neck. The PT sessions at Children's were great!

FYI, if you get to the point where you want to do a cranio cap, it takes 4-6 weeks to get the appointments necessary. Ideally, the cap should go on around 6 months old.

A.B.

answers from Minneapolis on

My daughter had the same thing and it even got to the point of a deciding if we should get a helmet to round out her head, which she would have had to wear 23 hours a day for a few months! We decided against the helmet and now she is 3. I notice a slight flatness in her head, but being a girl with lot's of curly hair, no one would ever know. I would keep up with the physical therapy and be thankful that they noticed at this young of an age. At home, have lot's of tummy time and force him to look the other way. Try to hold or feel him the opposite way too. I felt I always nursed her on her "easy side" because it was more comfortable for me to hold her that way and I got more milk on that side too. The physical therapist will have lot's of exercises for you do do at home. Keep up with it, so you don't have to get to the point of a helmet. If she was a boy, we probably would have done the helmet, thinking about short hair or shaved heads. To this day, she loves a neck rub and to be streched in that area, he may like some of that now on a gentler scale. We never did a chiropractor, but sometimes I wonder if that would have helped loosen things up too. It may be something to look into.

I hope this helps and is not too rambling!

A.
[email protected]____.com

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J.

answers from Minneapolis on

Our doctor noticed at 2 weeks that our son had torticollis. We got treatment (physical therapy) right away. It wasn't very hard to correct at all.

I know that it can get more serious, but as long as you're taking care of it - it will be fine.

-J.

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K.D.

answers from Minneapolis on

Hi S.,

My first daughter had this condition as well. We did take her to physical therapy two or three times. Basically, the therapist just shows you certain positions and stretches to do with your baby. There wasn't any spine manipulation, or anything like that. Tummy time seemed to be the best help for her neck.

Hope this helps!

K. D.

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