Torticollis, sometimes called “twisted neck”, “wry neck”, or “loxia” can be caused by many things, including muscular fibrosis, brain injury, or spine abnormalities. The head and neck can be rotated or tilted in a few different ways. Retrocollis is when the neck and head are hyperextended backwards, while anterocollis is forward flexion. Rotational torticollis refers to the head rotating on the longitudinal axis, while laterocollis is when the head is tilted towards the shoulder. Congenital torticollis is thought to happen from the baby’s position in utero, or it may be from birth trauma. The “sternocleidomastoid muscle” of the neck is contracted too much, and that limits its range of motion, leading to a lateral head tilt in the infant. Some infants can acquire torticollis based on their positioning. They can have flat heads from being constantly on their backs. This kind of torticollis is “almost always preventable” by repositioning the baby every 2-3 waking hours, before the age of 18 months. If this is not done, there can be “facial asymmetry”. Sometimes torticollis can be spasmodic or intermittent. Other types of acquired torticollis can happen from a stiff neck, tumors, infections, and certain medications.

Symptoms and Traditional Treatments

Torticollis can be acquired, idiopathic (unknown), or inherited. Congenital torticollis is from birth, but it can develop in childhood or adulthood as well. Symptoms of torticollis include neck pain, higher shoulder on one side, stiff neck, muscle swelling, head tremor, headache, and range of motion limitations. In severe cases, the head pulls completely to one side. Doctors may perform CT, EMG, or MRI scans. For infants, it is important to stretch the neck muscle. As stated before, starting early to reposition the baby is the most successful option. For torticollis that results from injury to the muscles, spine, or nervous system, stretching is also helpful. Doctors may use medications and injections, such as baclofen or botulinum toxin. Heat, cervical traction, and massage can provide relief. In some cases, surgery may be indicated. Torticollis is much easier to treat in children. Left untreated, torticollis can lead to muscle swelling and nervous system symptoms.

Chiropractic for Torticollis

Birth trauma is likely the cause of torticollis in infants, leading to a misalignment of the neck bones or neck muscle injury. This can happen when vacuum extraction or forceps are used, and it can result from a breech delivery (or abnormal positioning during development). Chiropractors can safely treat infants. They can also help with the diagnosis of torticollis. It is important to treat this condition as early as possible, no matter what age the patient is, to prevent later complications and pain.