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Health Information For Parents
A bad night’s sleep can mean waking up with a stiff neck, which makes it hard or painful to turn your head. This is called torticollis (Latin for “twisted neck”).
In newborns, torticollis can happen due to the baby’s position in the womb or after a difficult childbirth. This is called infant torticollis or congenital muscular torticollis.
It can be upsetting to see that your baby has a tilted head or trouble turning his or her neck. But most with babies don’t feel any pain from torticollis. And the problem usually gets better with simple position changes or stretching exercises done at home.
Torticollis is fairly common in newborns. Boys and girls are equally likely to develop the head tilt. It can be present at birth or take up to 3 months to happen.
Doctors aren’t sure why some babies get torticollis and others don’t. It might happen if a fetus is cramped inside the uterus or in an unusual position (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 it.
These things put pressure on a baby’s sternocleidomastoid (stir-noe-kly-doe-MAS-toyd) muscle (SCM). This large, rope-like muscle runs on both sides of the neck from the back of the ears to the collarbone. Extra pressure on one side of the SCM can make it tighten, which makes it hard for a baby to turn his or her neck.
Some babies with torticollis also have developmental dysplasia of the hip, another condition caused by an unusual position in the womb or a tough childbirth.
Babies with torticollis will act like most other babies except when it comes to activities that involve turning. A baby with torticollis might:
Some babies with torticollis develop a flat head (positional plagiocephaly) on one or both sides from lying in one direction all the time. Some might develop a small neck lump or bump, which is similar to a “knot” in a tense muscle. Both of these conditions tend to go away as the torticollis gets better.
Your doctor will do an exam to see how far your baby can turn their head.
If your baby does have torticollis, the doctor might teach you neck stretching exercises to practice at home. These help loosen the tight SCM and strengthen the weaker one on the opposite side (which is weaker due to underuse). This will help to straighten out your baby’s neck.
Sometimes, doctors suggest taking a baby to a physical therapist for more treatment.
After treatment starts, the doctor may check your baby every 2 to 4 weeks to see if the torticollis is getting better.
Encourage your baby to turn the head in both directions. This helps loosen tense neck muscles and tighten the loose ones. Babies cannot hurt themselves by turning their heads on their own.
Here are some exercises to try:
Laying your baby on the stomach for brief periods while awake (known as “tummy time“) is an important exercise. It helps strengthen neck and shoulder muscles and prepares your baby for crawling.
This exercise is especially useful for a baby with torticollis and a flat head, and can help treat both problems at once. Here’s how to do it:
Most babies with torticollis get better through position changes and stretching exercises. It might take up to 6 months to go away completely, and in some cases can take a year or longer.
Stretching exercises to treat torticollis work best if started when a baby is 3–6 months old. If you find that your baby’s torticollis is not improving with stretching, talk to your doctor. Your baby may be a candidate for muscle-release surgery, a procedure that cures most cases of torticollis that don’t improve.
Torticollis is a common condition that causes a stiff neck or neck pain that makes it difficult for kids to turn their heads.
Babies can develop a flat spot on the back of their heads, usually from sleeping in the same position too long. Alternating your baby’s sleep position and providing lots of “tummy time” can help.
Babies can be born with this hip problem or develop it soon after birth. Early treatment can help the hip joint grow normally.
When you first meet your newborn, you may be surprised by what you see. Here’s what to expect.
Newborn babies donât yet have a sense of day and night. They wake often to eat â no matter what time it is.
Doctors often recommend physical therapy for kids who have been injured or have movement problems from an illness, disease, or disability. Learn more about PT.
Tummy time helps babies strengthen their neck and shoulder muscles and prepare them for crawling. Here’s how to do it.
Your infant will learn to sit during this time, and in the next few months will begin exploring by reaching out for objects, grasping and inspecting them.
The reflexes they had just after birth start to disappear as babies this age gain more control over movements and interact more with their environment.
It may seem like all babies do is sleep, eat, and cry, but their little bodies are making many movements, some of which are reflexes.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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