Torticollis

What is torticollis?

Torticollis is a condition in which the head is tilted to one side and there is difficulty turning the head. This is because a muscle called the Sternocleiodomastoid (aka SCM) excessively contracts and is shortened on one side. If left uncorrected, torticollis may lead to developmental issues, behavioral issues, cognitive delays, and/or plagiocephaly (aka flat head syndrome).

Signs and Symptoms

  • holds head to only one side

  • limited neck movement

  • small bump on side of neck may be visible or felt

  • preference for breastfeeding on one side

  • uneven hairloss on back of skull

  • frequent crying or signs of discomfort

  • older children may verbalize pain, stiffness, or headaches

Causes

When a baby is born with this condition it is called congenital torticollis. Congenital torticollis is most commonly caused by subluxation in the upper neck, and is most often due to the baby's position in utero or due to birth trauma. A less common cause is by a serious congenital condition called Klippel-Feil syndrome (fusion of the cervical vertebrae).

When torticollis occurs later in life it is called acquired torticollis. Acquired torticollis is also caused by subluxation is the upper neck, but is due to injuries from sports, sleep, playtime, falls, accidents, or general daily activities. 

The Medical Approach

When torticollis is due to birth trauma, frequent passive SCM stretching is indicated. In some cases botulinum toxin is injected into the SCM.

The Chiropractic Approach 

Chiropractors are highly trained to identify and correct subluxations. The nerves in the occipital and cervical regions supply the neck muscles. When subluxations are present in these regions, the body can respond adversely by excessively contracting muscles. By reducing the stress on the nerves in this area, muscle tone can normalize. There is significant evidence that gentle chiropractic adjustments are an effective and non-invasive strategy to help correct torticollis. By seeking chiropractic care for torticollis, invasive surgical procedures could also potentially be avoided.

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