Torticollis treatment

Children's Hospital of Wisconsin offers evaluation and treatment of infants with torticollis and positional plagiocephaly. Torticollis is a tightening of the neck muscles resulting in a head tilt and/or head turn preference. It is most often caused by the position of a baby in the uterus before birth or due to mild injury to the neck muscles during delivery.

Newborns and young infants also may develop torticollis if their head always tips or turns to the same side before they develop better head control.

In addition, torticollis may result in flattening of the skull on one side as the baby keeps his or her head turned to one side more than the other. This is called positional plagiocephaly and is due to a prolonged pressure on one area of the skull.

Torticollis therapy

Children's Hospital of Wisconsin New Berlin Clinic specializes in the treatment of torticollis. Outpatient physical therapy and regular visits to a pediatric physical therapist may be required based on the severity of the torticollis. Infants may need to be treated several times a week in severe cases, or may only need to be treated monthly if their case is mild.

The best outcomes are achieved when physical therapy is started before three months of age. Physical therapy treatment for torticollis usually lasts until the child is walking independently without a head tilt/turn preference or other abnormal motor pattern.

Our physical therapists design treatment to meet each baby’s needs, often including:

  • Exercises to stretch and strengthen a baby’s muscles
  • Education on positioning, carrying, and holding the baby
  • Ways for parents to help their babies learn age-appropriate movement
  • Instruction on how to help your baby tolerate tummy time; while supervised, babies should play on their tummies for one hour daily

Our torticollis program

Infants may be referred to our program to be seen by a craniofacial specialist/plastic surgeon and a pediatric physical therapist. This especially may occur if there are concerns with head shape and facial asymmetries. A visit may include:

  • Head shape assessment with craniometry
  • Head circumference measurement
  • Photographs, with consent, of the infant to monitor the head shape and torticollis
  • Physical therapy assessment of range of motion, muscle strength, and motor skills
  • Instruction in head shape repositioning techniques
  • Instruction in home exercises and activities for improving range of motion, strength, motor skills, and increasing tummy time
  • A referral for outpatient physical therapy evaluation and treatment
  • A referral for a cranial orthosis consultation (a helmet to help prevent further flattening of the skull)
  • A referral for X-rays or other imaging
  • A recommendation for a follow-up visit for torticollis care

Learn more about our craniofacial program

Appointments

To make a first-time torticollis appointment, call us at (414) 266-2825.

Locations

Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee 
Children's Hospital of Wisconsin New Berlin Clinic

Helpful links

www.torticolliskids.org
www.plagiocephaly.org