As parents, we want what’s best for our children.
So, when our children experience developmental delays, you might feel the panic set in.
If your child is experiencing developmental delays, you may be feeling overwhelmed with questions.
You may be wondering what you can do to help your child catch up to their developmental milestones.
But there is help available.
Here at Little Feet Therapy, we offer a number of pediatric therapy specialties, including treatment for torticollis.
Torticollis is a common cause of developmental delays in infants, but pediatric occupational therapy and pediatric physical therapy treatments can help.
Keep reading to learn more about torticollis and how physical and occupational therapy can help.
What Is Torticollis?
Commonly diagnosed in infants, torticollis is a condition which causes abnormal positioning of the head and neck.
In infants with torticollis, the sternocleidomastoid (SCM), a muscle which runs from the back of the ear to the collarbone, is shortened on one side. It’s also frequently indicative of other muscle imbalances in the trunk. This can result in gross motor skills delays as your child grows.
There are five types of torticollis: congenital muscular, postural, ocular, spasmodic (wryneck), and acute.
Congenital muscular torticollis and postural torticollis are the types most commonly seen in infants.
Congenital muscular torticollis is present at or shortly after birth and is often caused by birth trauma,
such as a breech delivery.
Postural torticollis is commonly diagnosed within the first five months of the infant’s lifeand is often the result of restricted movement for long, consistent periods of time.
What Are The Symptoms Of Torticollis?
If your child is suffering from torticollis, you will typically notice symptoms within the first two months postnatal, as your child begins to gain more strength and control of their head and neck.
In congenital muscular torticollis, it is common for the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle in the neck to become tight.
Some other symptoms that may be observed include:
- Only being able to look to one side or strong preference to one side
- Tilting head to one side, with one ear closer to shoulder than the other
- Struggling to turn head all the way, become frustrated when they can’t
- Inability to follow you with eyes due to limited movement
- Difficulty breast or bottle feeding
- “Positional plagiocephaly”, a flat spot on the infant’s head due to laying on only one side
- Facial asymmetries, such as one ear higher than the other
- A soft bump on the neck muscle, which usually resolves on its own
- Difficulty holding head up during tummy time or decreased tolerance for tummy time
What Causes Torticollis?
Different types of torticollis have different causes.
Congenital muscular torticollis is often caused by abnormal womb positioning or an injury that is acquired during birth, such as during a breech delivery.
It may also be caused by abnormal development of the SCM muscle.
In other cases, the cause remains unknown.
By contrast, torticollis that is acquired after birth may be indicative or a more serious condition, such as a viral infection or vision problems.
Other types of acquired torticollis may be caused due to prolonged sitting in a restricted position.
Postural torticollis, for instance, is commonly seen in infants who are consistently placed in car seats for long periods of time.
If you suspect that your child is suffering with torticollis, it’s a good idea to book an appointment with a pediatric therapist for an evaluation.
If torticollis is suspected, your pediatric therapist will examine your child’s head and neck range of motion to try to identify a cause.
While most infants with torticollis are otherwise healthy, some conditions have been linked to the
development of torticollis, such as infections, broken bones, and certain genetic conditions.
Therefore, it is important to tell your pediatric therapist about any recent or chronic health issues that your child is experiencing.
If necessary, your pediatric therapist may call for x rays or ultrasounds to confirm a diagnosis.
How Can Physical Therapy For Torticollis Help?
Physical therapy is a great option for the treatment of torticollis.
Benefits of physical therapy for the treatment of torticollis include:
- Strengthening of neck muscles
- Correction of muscle imbalances
- Improvement of pain free range of motion
- Improvement of postural control and symmetry
- Improvement of the body’s alignment through the easing of muscle tension
Your child’s physical therapist can also help with developing a stretching and strengthening program to address your child’s SCM imbalances.
If your child is experiencing delays in their gross motor development, a physical therapist can help get them back on track.
In infants with misshapen heads (plagiocephaly), your physical therapist can help with developing a positioning program to help correct their head shape.
If your child has severe to moderate plagiocephaly, your pediatric physical therapist may recommend the use of a cranial molding helmet to further help correct their head shape.
Finally, your child’s success in physical therapy is highly dependent upon practice of stretches and exercises.
Your pediatric physical therapist can help you come up with an at home exercise program to practice with your child during daily routines, such as with each diaper change.
How Can Occupational Therapy For Torticollis Help?
Similarly, an occupational therapist focuses on restoring full neck movement as early as possible to help reverse or stop the complications associated with torticollis, such as skull deformity and cranial face asymmetry.
Your pediatric occupational therapist can also help with the development of stretching programs which focus on strategies for positioning and playing to help encourage movement on your infant’s non preferred side.
Infants with torticollis may show aversion to tummy time, and subsequently may experience delays in their gross motor skills.
An occupational therapist can teach you the correct ways to hold, play with, position, and stretch your baby to minimize these delays.
When identified and treated early, most children with torticollis make a full recovery.
Therefore, early intervention is extremely important.
If your child has been diagnosed with torticollis, reach out to us at Little Feet Therapy.
Contact us today to book an appointment.