What does torticollis look like?
I know when my son was diagnosed with torticollis, it was something I was concerned about but in hindsight didn’t take nearly seriously enough. If I had really paid attention to it and addressed it in his first few months of life, I believe that would have made the biggest difference in his head shape, particularly with the plagiocephaly. My son had a combination of plagiocephaly and brachycephaly, but the plagio was really caused by the torticollis. The reality is that once your baby’s head starts flattening, the more likely it is that he or she will continue to put pressure on the flattened part, because that’s the way the head will naturally rest.
This photo is very typical of the way my son would turn his neck when he was very young, in fact it was taken on his one month birthday. It is pretty much a classic case of left torticollis, he would tilt his head to the left (left ear towards his left shoulder), and turn his chin to the right. It was his left sternocleidomastoid muscle that was very tight.
Once we started working on the physical therapy exercises (links to exercises for left and right torticollis can be found here), and I was also careful to position him in ways that would stretch the tight left side of his neck as often as possible during his daily routine, he made progress very quickly with the torticollis. I found that feeding him (I was mostly pumping and feeding him with a bottle) in a position where he was laying sideways with the left side of his head resting on the boppy pillow would stretch out that tight side of his neck, and that worked really well. He didn’t give me nearly as much resistance as he would give me when I would try to stretch his neck with my hands. Let’s be honest, the physical therapy exercises for the most part are not that fun for the baby!
Another thing I did which helped a lot was to take little walks down our street, carrying him on my right shoulder (which didn’t feel all that natural to me!). This would make him turn his head to the left in order to look around and see everything. This seemed to strengthen his neck and made it his choice to turn his head in the stiff direction, whereas he would resist much more if I tried to force his head that way.
To the right is another photo of him when he still had the torticollis. In fact, when I look back at his baby pictures now, it makes me so sad to see him almost always resting in that same position. We started actual physical therapy when he was around 5 months old, although I had been doing some of the exercises as directed by my pediatrician for a couple of months prior to that.
Complete information about torticollis including its relationship to positional plagiocephaly and how to deal with it can be found in our ebook, “The Complete Guide to Flat Head Syndrome in Infants”.
If you have a baby with torticollis, please share your experiences with others here in the comments. We would particularly like to know what worked well for you and how long it took to see a difference. Thank you!
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