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Torticollis in infants is common —some studies report that it affects 3 in every babies. Fortunately, in most cases infant torticollis is easily treatable. When your baby has torticollis, they were probably born with it congenital torticollis. In some cases, infants develop torticollis after birth acquired torticollis, which is normally caused by some kind of trauma or infection , but most cases can be traced back to birth. Understanding the symptoms of torticollis , congenital or acquired, will help you understand how to help your baby.
Around this age most infants begin to gain more control over their head and neck. At this point you may begin to notice the following symptoms:. Infant torticollis happens when the muscles that connect the breastbone and collarbone to the skull sternocleidomastoid muscle are shortened. Often this muscle is shortened or tightened by abnormal fetal positions, injury during birth, abnormalities or bone problems in the neck portion of the spine, and in rare cases by inherited diseases that can cause damage to the nervous system or muscles.
The best way to treat torticollis is to encourage your baby to turn his or her head in both directions. This helps loosen tense neck muscles and tighten the loose ones. Laying your baby on the stomach for brief periods while awake known as " tummy time " is an important exercise because it helps strengthen neck and shoulder muscles and prepares your baby for crawling.
This exercise is especially useful for a baby with torticollis and a flat head — and can actually help treat both problems at once. Here's how to do it:. Stretching exercises to treat torticollis are most likely to work well if they start when a baby is between 2 to 6 months of age. In addition to tummy time, do what you can to encourage your baby to move to their affected side. Do the same when you place him in his crib. In certain cases, the doctor may suggest taking a baby to a physical therapist for more intensive treatment. After treatment has started, the therapist may examine your baby every 2 to 4 weeks to see how treatment is going.
At these follow-up visits, the physical therapist will measure how many degrees the baby can turn their head, then help strengthen the muscles in their neck so they can increase range of motion. They will also track any head shape issues and make recommendations about how to decrease any flatness that may be present.
Some children will require a helmet, but most will not. Very few children with congenital torticollis will require surgery. The surgery lengthens the sternocleidomastoid muscle and corrects the torticollis. Typically, your doctor will wait until your child reaches preschool years before recommending surgery.
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Symptoms of Infant Torticollis When your baby has torticollis, they were probably born with it congenital torticollis. During these episodes, your child may also experience drowsiness, irritability, or vomiting Causes of Torticollis Infant torticollis happens when the muscles that connect the breastbone and collarbone to the skull sternocleidomastoid muscle are shortened.
Treatment for Infant Torticollis The best way to treat torticollis is to encourage your baby to turn his or her head in both directions. Torticollis exercises Laying your baby on the stomach for brief periods while awake known as " tummy time " is an important exercise because it helps strengthen neck and shoulder muscles and prepares your baby for crawling. Here are some other exercises to try: When your baby wants to eat, offer the bottle or your breast in a way that encourages your baby to turn away from the favored side.
Use your child's desire to eat to encourage him or her along! When putting your baby down to sleep, position him or her to face the wall while facing the direction they like to look. Since babies prefer to look out into the room, your baby will actively turn away from the wall, which will stretch the tightened muscles of the neck.
Remember to always put your baby to sleep on his or her back, which reduces the risk of SIDS During play, draw your baby's attention with toys and sounds to make him or her turn in both directions Physical therapy for infant torticollis In certain cases, the doctor may suggest taking a baby to a physical therapist for more intensive treatment.
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