Torticollis is the tightness of a newborns neck muscle, called the sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM). This is a muscle that runs on both sides of the neck from the back of the ears to the collarbone. Tightness of the SCM on one side will make it difficult for a baby to turn their neck.
Torticollis can be caused by restricted uterine environment, abnormal positioning (such as being in the breech position) or the use of forceps or vacuum devices during delivery. Torticollis is relatively 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 develop.
If detected early torticollis is treated effectively with stretches and strengthening.
Your child may require an intervention for torticollis if:
- their head is tilted in one direction (this can be difficult to see in very young infants)
- they prefer looking at you over one shoulder instead of turning to follow you with his or her eyes
- when breastfeeding they will only feed on one side (or prefers one breast only)
- when turning to look at you they become frustrated or are unable turn his or her head completely
If not detected early infants with Torticollis will also develop a flat head (positional plagiocephaly) on one or both sides, due to laying in one direction all the time. Or they might develop a small neck lump or bump, due to the tense neck muscle.