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Congenital Muscular Torticollis Part 1: What Is That?

Congenital muscular torticollis occurs in infants, and is the shortening of muscles on one side of the neck that results in the head tilting and/or turning towards one side. The sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM) is typically the primary muscle involved.


The SCM tilts the head towards 1 side and rotates it towards the opposite side. For example, the right SCM will tilt your child’s neck towards their right side while also turning their head towards their left side. Some infants exhibit a stronger tilt component compared to the turning preference component and vice-versa. Less commonly, an infant w/torticollis will prefer to tilt and turn their head towards the same side.

Torticollis is either apparent from birth or develops within the first few months of life. Here at Leaps & Bounds, we frequently begin PT treatment with infants at as early as age 2 months for torticollis.

Torticollis is associated with many conditions and factors, including but not limited to:

  • Position in the womb
  • Acid reflux
  • Vision problems
  • Neck muscle weakness
  • Spending too much time lying on their back and/or in “baby containers”
  • Plagiocephaly (flattening on 1 side of the head)

**For more info on the negative effects of excessive use of “baby containers”, read our earlier post

Torticollis results in decreased neck range of motion and asymmetrical posture. Untreated, it can also lead to flattening on 1 side of the back of the head, facial asymmetries, preference for using 1 side of their body more so than the other, and gross motor development delays.

Talk to your pediatrician if you suspect your infant has torticollis, so that they can begin PT as soon as possible!

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we will explain what to expect during PT treatment for torticollis.


Picture Reference:

Tortora, G. J., & Nielsen, M. T. (2009). Principles of Human Anatomy (11th ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Exhibit 11.6, p. 333

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