Torticollis | Frequently Asked Questions

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How common is congenital muscular torticollis?

It is fairly common, occurring in about 1 in 300 births.

Lately I’ve noticed that my infant daughter does not hold her head straight and allows it lean to one side. What should I do?

It is important to bring your daughter to the doctor for a physical exam.

My child has congenital muscular torticollis. What can I do help stretch the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle?

Your child’s physical therapist will teach you certain exercises to do at home that will manually and passively stretch the SCM muscle. These exercises are usually very effective, especially when started as soon as possible. 

How long will it take before we see an improvement in our son’s congenital muscular torticollis?

In general, the majority of children with congenital muscular torticollis show improvement after a few months of physical therapy, especially when it is started early. Every child is different, so be sure to discuss any concerns you may have with your son’s doctor and physical therapist. Your son may need a referral to a specialist if he has no or limited improvement after physical therapy.

Does congenital muscular torticollis affect some infants more than others?

It may affect firstborn children and twins more often, because there is a greater chance of too little space, or “crowding,” in the uterus and birth canal. This can cause damage or constriction to the SCM muscle. It may also happen after a difficult birth, especially when babies are very large or have a breech delivery.

My son has been diagnosed with benign paroxysmal torticollis. Is this the same as congenital muscular torticollis?

No, they are separate conditions. Be sure to talk to your son’s neurologist to discuss the differences. In general, benign paroxysmal torticollis is noted by periodic bouts, or “attacks,” of torticollis, typically lasting for hours or days. Some children who are affected by this type of torticollis go on to develop migraine headaches later in life.

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