How do you deal with torticollis in your infant? As scary as it sounds, this condition responds pretty well to physical therapy. Read on to learn more about torticollis and how to cope.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: you are careful to alternate ends of the crib, having read the research that babies naturally turn their heads to look at their parents. Soon, though, you realize that your baby is not turning her head to look at you when her head is at one end. When you do tummy time, she has a hard time lifting her head, and when she does, her head is cocked to one side. As she starts sitting, you notice that she has a difficult time holding her head straight.
Coping with Torticollis in Your Infant
If any of this sounds familiar, I encourage you to talk with your pediatrician. It is possible that your baby has torticollis, literally “twisted neck” in Latin. If you’re concerned your baby has torticollis or it has already been diagnosed, here are some things to keep in mind as you work toward treatment.
- Congenital versus acquired. Most torticollis is congenital (present from birth) but parents don’t realize there is a problem until their baby starts gaining a bit of head control. Acquired torticollis may develop later in infancy or childhood and is less common.
- Torticollis is usually caused by weak muscles. Fortunately, muscles can often be easily strengthened by a regimen of physical therapy. Talk with your pediatrician about early intervention services in your state, as you may have access to physical therapy done in your home versus going to a clinic.
- You can do mild stretches with your infant. Don’t perform any stretches without first discussing with your pediatrician, but if you’re given the go-ahead, you can work to relax and stretch the neck muscles yourself. Put one hand on your baby’s shoulder and the other on the side of his head. Gently tip the head away from the shoulder (bringing the opposite ear to the shoulder) while singing or making silly noises. Stretch both sides, not just the one with torticollis. Back at rest, put one hand on the shoulder and the other on the chin. Gently ease the chin over so your baby is looking over his shoulder. Switch sides. Perform several reps on each side, several times a day.
- Keep up with tummy time. Put an interesting toy (music or noise is always good) just out of your little one’s line of vision on one side to encourage your baby to look that way. Switch sides after a couple of reps. It will be hard for her at first, so keep at it.
With focused effort, your baby’s torticollis will likely resolve before you know it. Stay positive and cherish the extra bonding time you get with your baby. You both will get through this just fine!