Conditions + Treatments

Treatments for Torticollis in Children

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Contact the Department of Neurology

Boston Children's Hospital is a national leader in diagnosing and treating children with all types and degrees of torticollis. 

Like the patients themselves, the treatment options for torticollis are specific to the individual child. Your child's doctor will give you detailed recommendations for treating your child. In the meantime, here are some of the basics:

Treatment options for congenital muscular torticollis

Once your doctor has determined that your child has congenital muscular torticollis, you and your child will begin a program of physical therapy designed to lengthen the shortened SCM muscle. 

Physical therapy programs will include specific exercises you can do at home on a set schedule, such as during diaper changes. In addition, you will learn how to hold your baby and tailor his environment to encourage him to turn his head and stretch the SCM muscle. 

Your child's physical therapist may recommend using a simple device called a “TOT collar.” TOT stands for Tubular Orthosis for Torticollis, which is really just a small piece of plastic tubing that fits around your baby's neck. The TOT collar is designed to help babies straighten their heads and strengthen their neck muscles. Your physical therapist will teach you the proper way to use a TOT collar.

At Boston Children's, we're also dedicated to the needs of children who have torticollis with asymmetry of the face and head, known as plagiocephaly. We have found that these kids usually respond very well to non-surgical, minimally invasive interventions like:

  • customized, corrective helmets and molding cups
  • sleep position changes
  • special exercises

Sometimes other measures, such as surgery, are required to correct the shortened SCM muscle in torticollis and any asymmetry that may happen with plagiocephaly. Boston Children's offers a range of treatment options in our Orthopedics and Plastic Surgery programs to address your child's specific treatment needs. 

Treatment options for acquired torticollis

Your child's treatment plan will vary based on the cause of the torticollis. Some common therapies include: 

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve pain and discomfort related to musculoskeletal injury
  • antibiotic therapy for children whose torticollis is caused by infection
  • medications to stop gastroesophageal reflux for children whose primary cause of torticollis is reflux

Coping and support 

When your child has a chronic medical condition, your family is grappling with many concerns and questions. Not only are you focused on meeting all of your child's medical needs; you are also facing a significant emotional and psychological toll that can affect every member of the family.

In addition to the clinical information offered on this page, Children's has several other resources designed to give your family comfort, support and guidance:

Patient and family resources at  Boston Children's

Boston Children's Developmental Medicine Center helps children who are being treated on an outpatient basis at the hospital—as well as their families—understand and cope with their feelings about:

  • being sick
  • facing uncomfortable procedures
  • handling pain
  • taking medication
  • preparing for surgery
  • changes in friendships and family relationships
  • managing school while dealing with an illness
  • grief and loss 

Boston Children's Psychiatry Consultation Service is comprised of expert and compassionate pediatric psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and other mental health professionals who understand the unique circumstances of hospitalized children and their families. The team provides several services, including:

  • short-term therapy for children admitted to one of our inpatient units
  • parent and sibling consultations
  • teaching healthy coping skills for the whole family
  • educating members of the medical treatment team about the relationship between physical illness and psychological distress 

The Experience Journal was designed by Boston Children's psychiatrist-in-chief David DeMaso, MD, and members of his team. This online collection features thoughts, reflections and advice from kids and caregivers about living with medical conditions and going through treatment. 

Boston Children's Center for Families is dedicated to helping families locate the information and resources they need to better understand their child's particular condition and take part in their care. All patients, families and health professionals are welcome to use the Center's services at no extra cost. The center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Please call 617-355-6279 for more information.
 
The Children's chaplaincy is a source of spiritual support for parents and family members. Our program includes nearly a dozen clergy members—representing Episcopal, Jewish, Lutheran, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Unitarian and United Church of Christ traditions—who will listen to you, pray with you and help you observe your own faith practices during your child's treatment. 

International Center is a dedicated resource for patients and families from countries outside the United States. The center can provide assistance with everything from reviewing medical records to setting up appointments and locating lodging. Contact the center by phone at +1-617-355-5209 or via e-mail at international.center@childrens.harvard.edu.

Helpful links

 Please note that neither Boston Children's Hospital nor the Department of Neurology at Boston Children's  unreservedly endorses all of the information found at the sites listed below. These links are provided as a resource.

  • You may also want to join a torticollis support group on the Internet. 
  • If your child has a form of torticollis caused by a rare disease, you can reach out to other parents at www.Inspire.com. This support network is sponsored by the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD).
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944

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