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Torticollis: Overview

What is torticollis?

When a baby is born, one of the exams that the doctor may perform in the hospital is to check for torticollis (which means “twisted neck” in Latin). Congenital torticollis is a muscular problem that is present in an infant at birth. The muscle on one side of the neck is tight and causes the head to tilt to that side. You may also feel a lump on the tight muscle as well.

Who gets torticollis?

It is not clear why this problem occurs in some infants. Some people think infant torticollis occurs during delivery, while others think it occurs while the child is developing in the womb. Simple stretching exercises can help make the problem go away.

Torticollis is more common in first-born children. One in five children with torticollis also has developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH), which is why infants with torticollis should have their hips examined as well.

Torticollis in older kids

Torticollis, or a “twisted neck,” isn’t only seen in babies – it can also happen to kids and adults after a bad night’s sleep or an uncomfortable position (like sleeping on the couch or floor). When we sleep in a new or awkward position, the muscles and ligaments of the neck or spine can shift, causing painful pulled muscles or loosened ligaments. Although it’s uncomfortable, torticollis is usually nothing to worry about. Most kids feel better in a couple days with rest and relaxation.

Helpful resources for torticollis:

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