The literal meaning of torticollis is tilting of neck on one side. It is often referred as ‘wryneck’. Many infants suffer from torticollis due to their improper position in the uterus or due to difficulty during their birth. The condition is also called congenital torticollis.
Wryneck is rarely a hereditary condition and it is invariably unilateral and affects both the sexes equally. Even though parents are anxious to find their child having twisted neck, they should be reassured as in most instances torticollis disappears with simple stretching exercise or no treatment. It can be managed at home.
What Causes Torticollis In Infants?
A transient torticollis is common in many newborn infants. Both male and female infants are equally affected. The head tilt may develop soon after birth or it may occur within few months. The exact reason for torticollis is not clear in infants but probably medical practitioners believe it to be due to breech presentation. It is an abnormal position of the fetus inside the uterus, where instead of head; the feet or buttocks are present near the birth canal.
Torticollis may also develop after vacuum or forceps delivery.
Torticollis happens when infant’s sternocledomastoid muscle is compressed due these reasons.It is muscle which plays an important role in movement of neck. The muscle is present in both the sides of neck. Pressure put on the muscle tightens it and produces contracture. Thus the movement of neck is restricted.
Torticollis In Infants Symptoms
Torticollis in infants may be present soon after birth, but it may not be very obvious. As several weeks pass, parents will notice the infant is not able to move his neck on both the sides. The most prominent symptoms of infant torticollis are:
- The head is tilted to the affected side.
- The chin may turn slightly away.
- A small mass is palpable on the affected sternocledomastoid muscle.
The condition must be distinguished with other defects such as Sprengel’s or Klippel –feil deformity. Cervical myelodysplasia, cervical adenitis, ocular head tilt etc.
Torticollis Treatment In Infants
With torticollis the infant is not able to move his head from one side to another. If the condition is neglected, it may result in permanent tightening of muscle.
Torticollis in infant can be treated at home. All that is needed is to encourage the infant to stretch his neck muscles from one side to another. It can be done in following ways:
- Encourage the baby to breastfeed in such a way that he has to stretch his neck on the tilted side.
- Draw the infant’s attention by using sound to turn his head from one side to another.
Most babies get better by stretching exercise and change of position. It may take some time, but eventually the condition improves. If the baby is not improving after exercise, surgical intervention in rare cases, may be necessary.