Does your baby always look to the same side? Torticollis and when to ask for help.

By Joanna Stuck, PT, CIMI  Easterseals Central Illinois

A concern that many parents of new babies share is that their baby seems to have a preference for the position of their head. This preference may be torticollis (tor-ti-col-lis). The word comes from two Latin root words, “tortus” and “collum,” that together mean “twisted neck.” This condition is relatively common in babies and often can be noted very soon after birth. There are several different reasons this may occur and so it is important to determine why this is happening so that it can be quickly understood and getting help to resolve it can begin. The earlier it is noticed and intervention begins, the faster it can be resolved! This is great news!

Here are things you might notice and want to bring to your pediatrician’s attention:

  • Your baby’s head tilts or rotates to one side
  • Limited range of motion in head and neck
  • Asymmetry in your baby’s head and face (flattening on one side of the head)
  • Breastfed babies may prefer one side over the other
  • A small, soft lump in your infant’s neck
  • The most commonly noticed symptom is a flat spot appearing behind one ear and on the side the baby likes to look toward

There are very effective solutions to these concerns and they include tummy time, positioning strategies, and often physical therapy. Physical therapy will include measuring how much your baby is turning their head, tracking head shape, designing a plan for improving motion, and supporting you by answering questions and being a partner in the care of your baby.

When strategies to correct the side preference begin by 2-4 months of age, resolution of concerns generally occurs quite quickly. Very few children require surgery to correct this condition and this is generally not considered until other attempts have been made to resolve the concerns.

Your physical therapist can offer fantastic support to you in providing what your baby needs to grow and develop and will help you know if further help, such as for head shape, is needed. We love to partner with families and support them in the growth and development of their children! If you and your pediatrician determine it is time to get the support of a physical therapist for your baby’s development, then please come and see us at Easterseals Central Illinois at (309)686-1177


Clinical Application of the Congenital Muscular Torticollis Clinical Practice Guideline by Micah Huegel PT, DPT,, ContinuED course date 11.9.2018

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