What Is Torticollis?

a baby with torticollis

A baby born with what is popularly known as a “wry neck” has some unique challenges which can be addressed by the application of tailored chiropractic care.  But babies can develop torticollis after birth, also, which can be indicative of another medical issue.  Reasonably common, torticollis affects one in every 250 babies.

Congenital torticollis (a condition of birth) is occasioned by a muscular issue, which causes the baby’s head to tilt downwards.  The top of the baby’s head will point one way and the chin in the opposite direction (not unlike Forrest Gump).

The cause

Running from your ear to your collarbone are two large muscles called the sternocleidomastoid, or SCM.  When torticollis is present, one of the SCM muscles will be longer than the other.

This muscular imbalance can be caused by several factors.  Cramping in the womb is one, positioning is another.  Some torticollis babies are born breech (backwards).  Vacuum-assisted and forceps delivery methods can also be responsible for wry neck.


When babies are first born, their necks can’t support the weight of their heads.  After the first six weeks of infancy, they need less support as they grow stronger.  At this point, the symptoms of torticollis will become evident.

The head tilt mentioned above is the most obvious symptom of the condition.  Most babies with torticollis manifest symptoms on the right side (about 75%).  The baby will also have some difficulty turning the head to the side and looking up or down.  You may notice that the baby cries out of frustration due to this symptom.

A flatness on one side of the head may also develop, as the baby chooses the comfortable side to sleep on.  Infant heads are soft, so this can lead to a flat spot, known as positional plagiocephaly.

While these symptoms aren’t painful, they should be addressed to eliminate dysfunction, which can cause problems in the cervical vertebrae in later life.

Your chiropractor can help

While some parents may cringe at the thought of taking their baby to a chiropractor, many of us either specialize in infant care, or regularly care for babies with conditions like torticollis.

Torticollis can cause subluxations in the cervical spine, which in turn cause blockages in the body.  So, if your baby is exhibiting any of the symptoms discussed above, a visit to your chiropractor to correct the muscular dysfunction causing it is entirely in order.

With soft tissue therapy, manipulation and cranial alignment, torticollis can be managed with chiropractic care.

Back & Body Medical

At Back & Body Medical, my chiropractic expertise is married to three other distinct medical disciplines.  Here, patients can take advantage of acupuncture, physical therapy and sports medicine treatments, all under one roof.

Torticollis is not a life-threatening illness, but it can impact the lives of babies who have it when it’s not therapeutically addressed.

If you recognize the symptoms of torticollis and believe your baby may have it, please don’t hesitate to contact me to arrange a consultation.  Torticollis can be managed with a little help from your chiropractor.

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