Congenital muscular torticollis (CMT) is a shortening of the sternocleidomastoid muscle on one side of your baby’s neck. Torticollis actually means ‘twisted neck’ in Latin! This tightness of the muscle will result in a rotation of the head to the opposite side and a tilt to the same side as the tight muscle. There is occasionally a presence of a palpable mass – typically a fibrotic tumor, which seems to disappear gradually of its own accord and is not harmful to your baby. The exact cause of this palpable mass it unknown.

The cause of this tightness can be related to a few factors, particularly reduced space in the womb. There are other possible causes for torticollis such as soft tissue or bony abnormalities, visual problems or trauma. These occur in few incidences and your child’s Paediatrician and BAH Physiotherapist will assess to exclude these conditions.

Torticollis can be associated with a secondary flattening of the back or side of your child’s head, known as plagiocephaly. This is due your baby’s preference of turning their head to a particular side resulting in large amounts of time spent with one side of their head resting against a firm surface. Torticollis can also be associated with other ‘womb packaging issues’ such as hip dysplasia and foot deformities. It is essential that these other conditions are excluded through a full assessment.

Physiotherapy is the first line treatment for this condition and includes gentle stretching as well as utilizing positions for play to encourage strengthening of the muscles in your baby’s neck. Surgery may only be recommended in severe presentations.

Torticollis is typically noticed within the first 2 to 3 weeks after birth. The earlier this condition is recognized, the better the outcomes. Recovery is also dependent on the severity of the condition, where mild symptoms will resolve more quickly than severe. It is recommended you discuss your child’s prognosis directly with your Paediatrician or BAH Physiotherapist.

The Physiotherapists at Ballarat Allied Health are able to complete a comprehensive assessment of your infant to best help you manage your child’s torticollis as well as exclude these other commonly occurring orthopaedic conditions.

Come in to Ballarat Allied Health for a consultation with our Physiotherapist, Emily Izard, if you are concerned with your child's neck positioning or the presence of any other orthopaedic condition. You can book online or phone the clinic on 5334 1113.

Note: Emily is registered as a provider to see NDIS clients above the age of 6 or self managed NDIS funds for children below the age of 6

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice and is used for educational purposes only. If you are having pain or health related complaints, please seek out a licensed healthcare professional.