The following article was featured in NEPA Family Magazine, written by Tina Gallagher
Torticollis literally means “twisted neck” in Latin, and a baby with this condition will have her chin pointed toward one shoulder and the top of her head tilting in the opposite direction. Although many people have never heard of it, torticollis is the third most common congenital impairment to affect infants, after clubbed feet and dislocated hips.
“Torticollis occurs when the neck muscle is tighter on one side than the other,” says Jean Fredmund, Assistant Director of Pediatric Physical Therapy at the Allied Services John Heinz Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in Wilkes-Barre. “It appears equally in both genders and in all races.”
If not treated, torticollis can lead to other issues, including but not limited to, a flat or misshapen skull, asymmetrical facial features, scoliosis, muscular imbalances and impaired vision.
“Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to treating this condition,” Fredmund says. “If left untreated, the muscle becomes very tight and resistant to stretching. Other serious issues may also result from torticcollis.”
Angel and James Noone of Pittston noticed that their daughter Lexi’s face was tilted to the left when she was just a couple months old.
“I didn’t notice anything the first four weeks, but my father-in-law kept saying her head was tilted,” Angel said. “Then it just got really noticeable and her head stayed in the same position all the time. At one point, she couldn’t turn her head at all.”
The Noones did some research online and discussed with Lexi’s physician they believed she suffered from torticollis. He recommended therapy at Heinz Rehab to correct the condition.
Therapy is generally the preferred course of treatment, and includes a series of stretching exercise and massage.
“In-between therapy sessions, we were always stretching Lexi,” says Angel. “We also made sure to turn her head when she was lying down, made sure she got a lot of time on her belly, and fed her from the right side so she had to look that way.”
Now an energetic 15-month-old, Lexi looks and acts like every other girl her age. According to Angel, “She climbs on everything and she’s very strong.”
Fredmund says much of Lexi’s success is due to the fact that her parents and physician detected the condition and got her into therapy immediately. “Most people have heard of clubbed feet and dislocated hips, but most don’t know what torticollis is and it’s so prevalent. Getting kids in and giving them the best treatment possible is so important,” she says.
The Noones, who also have a 5-year-old son named Jimmy, are happy they noticed the signs and took action early. “I’m sure already having Jimmy helped us notice the issue sooner than we would have if Lexi was our first baby. I know things would have gotten much worse if we let it go and it would have taken longer to correct,” Angel says. “Parents shouldn’t be afraid to get their baby checked if they believe there may be something wrong.”
Signs of torticollis in infants:
- The baby’s head is always tilted to one side
- There’s a flat spot on the back of the baby’s head
- The baby only puts one hand in her mouth
- If breastfed, the baby has difficulty feeding on one side
- The baby prefers looking at you over one shoulder instead of turning her head to follow you with her eyes
- The baby has difficulty lifting her head when laying on her belly