Congenital Muscular Torticollis
What is congenital muscular torticollis?
Congenital torticollis means that a baby is born with an odd position of the neck.
The odd position is because of a tight, short neck muscle. It affects the right side
more often than the left side. It may range from mild to severe. The condition is
sometimes called wryneck or twisted neck.
What causes congenital muscular torticollis?
Healthcare providers don't know what causes the condition. It may be from an abnormal
position in the womb. Or it may be from an injury to the neck muscle before birth.
This causes scar tissue to form and tighten the neck muscle.
What are the symptoms of congenital muscular torticollis?
Congenital muscular torticollis may be seen at birth. Or you may not notice it until
your baby is at least a few weeks old. Each child may have slightly different symptoms.
Symptoms may include:
Tilting of the baby’s head to one side
Turning of the baby’s chin toward the opposite side of the head
Trouble moving the head
Firm, small, lump in the middle of the neck muscle
In severe muscular torticollis, a baby may also have:
Flattening of the side of the head
Differences between the sides of the face
Oddly positioned ear
Other abnormalities of muscles, bones, and joints
The symptoms of congenital muscular torticollis may look like other conditions. Make
sure your child sees their healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is congenital muscular torticollis diagnosed?
Your baby’s healthcare provider will usually find the abnormality when examining your
baby. Your child may need these tests for diagnosis:
How is congenital muscular torticollis treated?
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also
depend on how severe the condition is.
Treatment may include:
Gentle stretching. This will help ease tightness and lengthen the neck muscle.
Environmental adaptation. The home environment can be adapted to encourage your baby to turn their head in
the direction that stretches the neck muscle. This will help your baby learn to move
and stretch the muscle.
Physical therapy. Your baby may be referred to an outpatient physical therapist for treatment.
Surgery. Rarely, surgery is needed to correct the shortened muscle.
What are possible complications of congenital muscular torticollis?
If the problem is not fixed, the baby will be unable to move their head normally.
It will lead to permanent muscle tightening. It will cause the neck and face to develop
How is congenital muscular torticollis managed?
You can help your baby loosen and stretch the muscle by:
Doing stretching exercises that your baby's healthcare provider shows you
Putting toys where your baby has to turn their head to look at them
Holding your baby so that the baby has to turn their head
Putting your baby in the crib so that the baby has to turn their head to look at you
Talk with your baby’s healthcare provider about seeing a physical therapist. They
can help you with exercises and positioning. And your baby may also receive therapy.
Your baby’s healthcare provider will recheck your baby regularly to make sure the
torticollis is getting better.
When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?
Call your baby’s healthcare provider if you notice symptoms of muscular torticollis.
And if your baby has the condition, call the healthcare provider if it is not getting
Key points about congenital muscular torticollis
Congenital muscular torticollis is a condition in which a baby’s neck muscle is tight
and short. This causes the neck to twist.
Healthcare providers don't know what causes the condition.
Congenital muscular torticollis may be seen at birth. Or it may not be found until
a baby is at least a few weeks old.
Usually gentle stretching exercises and positioning are all that is needed to treat
the shortened muscle.
If the problem is not fixed, the baby will not be able to move their head normally.
It can lead to permanent muscle tightening and uneven development of the neck and
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis and any new medicines, treatments,
or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child.
Also know what the side effects are.
Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose
for that visit.
Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important
if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.