Infants’ Twisted Neck Torticollis Condition Can Be Treated With Physical Therapy

Published on: 2020/08/05


Torticollis, a condition that causes a baby’s head to turn to the side, is relatively common and can often be treated with physical therapy. At Comprehensive Rehab, our therapists are experts at working with children who have torticollis.


Sometimes called “wryneck,” torticollis is Latin for “twisted neck.” Studies have shown that as many as 3 in every 100 newborns have torticollis.

The 'twisted neck' condition is relatively common

According to experts at Johns Hopkins, “No one knows why some babies get torticollis and others don't. Most doctors believe it could be related to the cramping of a fetus inside the uterus or abnormal positioning (such as being in the breech position, where the baby's buttocks face the birth canal). The use of forceps or vacuum devices to deliver a baby during childbirth also makes a baby more likely to develop torticollis.”

As a result, pressure is put on a baby’s sternocleidomastoid muscle, which is the large, rope-like muscle that runs on both sides of the neck. If extra pressure is applied to one side, the sternocleidomastoid muscle can tighten, making it difficult for the baby to turn his or her neck.

The condition affects both boys and girls alike and is most often observed within the first 3 months of life.

Common signs of torticollis may include:

  • A head tilt in one direction
  • Trouble moving the head side to side or up and down
  • Fussy reaction when the head is moved
  • Difficulty feeding from both breasts
  • A muscle “knot” in the neck

For children with torticollis, early treatment is important

If left untreated, torticollis could cause:

  • Delayed gross motor development due to favoring one side of the body
  • Development of hip dysplasia
  • Limited ability to turn their head or interact with surroundings
  • Difficulty with balance

Physical therapy is a key part of treating torticollis. At Comprehensive Rehab, our physical therapists work to increase a child’s range of motion. 

Stretching exercises can help loosen tense neck muscles, while other movements and activities will help strengthen your baby’s neck.

To learn more about Comprehensive Rehab’s physical therapy services, contact us today

Comprehensive Rehab has Iowa locations in ClintonMuscatine, and Maquoketa