If your child has been diagnosed with torticollis or neck tightness, their pediatrician will likely refer them to a pediatric physical therapist for treatment. In general, PT treatment for torticollis consists of a frequency of 1 time per week, lasting 3-6 months. Infants who start therapy at a younger age tend to progress faster and finish therapy sooner compared to older infant. So what exactly does therapy involve?
Here are common components of PT treatment for torticollis:
- Stretches: typically opposite the direction that your infant prefers to tilt and/or turn their head
- Encouraging active neck movement in the direction opposite the preferred direction
- Neck and core strengthening through movements and positions appropriate for your infant’s age
- Promoting proper gross motor skill development with symmetrical arm and leg movements. Your infant’s gross motor skills will be assessed using a standardized test to determine where they are functioning compared to peers. Here at Leaps and Bounds, we use typically use either the Alberta Infant Motor Scale (AIMS) or Peabody Developmental Motor Scales -2
- Suggestions for positioning your infant, to improve their posture and reduce the head tilt/turn preference
- Suggestions for environmental adaptations to encourage active neck movement in the non-preferred direction, such as switching sides when feeding your infant.
- Improving tummy time tolerance, providing suggestions for modifications as needed
- Kinesiotape applied to your infant’s neck and/or trunk, in order to assist the weak muscles and/or relax the tight ones
- Soft tissue massage or myofascial release to relax your infant’s tight neck muscles.
But the most important aspect of torticollis treatment is the home exercise program! Performing exercises and stretches once per week at therapy is NOT enough to make significant progress. Your infant’s therapist will guide you throughout duration of therapy on exactly what to do at home to best help your infant
If you think your infant has torticollis, see your pediatrician and ask if they recommend a referral to physical therapy for your infant!