It is common for new parents to worry but when they notice the baby’s head tilting, they may not realize they are looking at infant Torticollis. Also known as Congenital Torticollis, this condition is most often seen at birth. Most medical experts believe that infant Torticollis is the result of positioning within the womb although it could also be the result of some kind of trauma experienced during birth.
Although many questions still exist regarding infant Torticollis, another group of medical professionals believes that this occurs while in the womb and that rather than birth being the cause it is caused by a challenging birth. A perfect example and one that supports this theory is that babies born in a breech position have a greater incidence of Torticollis.
Sometimes infant Torticollis is connected to another condition called Plagiocephaly. In this case, the baby’s head is flat, which is the result of being pushed against something for a long period such as a crib mattress. This position is not because the parents have done something wrong but because the baby has short neck muscles that make it impossible to reposition the head to the other side.
Approximately 20% of all births involving infant Torticollis also involve hip dysplasia. For this reason, if a doctor suspects and confirms that congenital Torticollis is in fact the problem, tests would be performed to rule in or rule out the hip problem. Obviously, to a parent that sees this little baby with his or her head leaning to one side it is very scary but there are non-invasive treatment options that have proven to be effective.
Typically, infant Torticollis is seen in newborns to those around two or three months of age. Again, because neck muscles are shorter than they should be, the first sign is the head being turned to one side and the child not being able to turn it. In addition to the shortened neck muscles, doctors often find a fibrous tissue mass, which also makes it impossible for the child to turn the neck.
If you have a baby and you suspect infant Torticollis, you might be able to feel a mass beneath the skin. As mentioned, there are good treatment options for this condition but it is important to note that if it were not treated, several things could happen. For one thing, the baby could end up with asymmetry and facial deformity that worsens as the child grows older.
Because early treatment can completely fix the problem, if you notice your child’s head turned to one side or you have any suspicion of infant Torticollis, have your child checked. Typically, the doctor would conduct a physical and possible a sonogram, CAT scan, or MRI to detect any mass. Since muscle is usually involved, it would be easy to determine. On rare occasions, a boney deformity involving the spine can be associated with infant Torticollis.
Treatment for infant Torticollis typically begins with physical therapy. The therapist would spend time stretching the muscles with the goal of getting them to stretch. It is essential that parents be taught exercises they can do on the baby at home, which would quicken change and provide the desired results. In about 90% of cases, when infant Torticollis is diagnosed and treated early, the child would go on to live a perfectly normal life.
In most cases, conservative treatment works amazingly well but if the infant Torticollis is not responding as expected, surgery might be required. For this, the fibrous band would be clipped to release the sternocleidomastoid muscles. From there, the shortened neck muscle would be clipped and then reattached, giving the baby the ability to move the head properly. Now, if the spine were involved, surgery is common but for treating infant Torticollis, it is successful and safe.