Does My Baby Have Torticollis?

posted by Melissa Horkey on Monday, January 15, 2018

When you leave the hospital with your brand new baby you leave with information on all kinds of topics including how to give them a bath, how to feed them, how to track wet and dirty diapers, car seat safety, vaccinations, proper sleep habits, etc. It can feel very overwhelming at times with all of this new information but there is another topic to keep on your radar when it comes to infants. It’s called torticollis.

What is Infant Torticollis?

Torticollis is an abnormal position of the head and neck. There are different causes of torticollis including soft tissue or bony abnormalities, visual problems or trauma. Many times it is caused by tightness in a muscle on the side of the neck.  It is relatively common in newborns and boys and girls are equally likely to develop it. It can be present at birth or occur a few months later.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Difficulty turning their head from side to side
  • Will keep their head turned only to one preferred side
  • May tilt their head in one direction
  • Prefer only certain positions
  • Some babies with torticollis will develop a flat head (positional plagiocephaly) due to laying in one direction all the time


Some babies develop torticollis in the womb but there are some ways to prevent torticollis.

  • Tummy time is a very important activity for all babies!
    • It helps strengthen the neck and back muscles which aide in typical motor development.
    • Reduces pressure that is placed on the baby’s head when they are in their preferred position which will lead to head flattening.
    • Babies should be placed on their tummy a few times throughout the day for short periods of time (5-10 minutes or as tolerated).
    • It should be done when the baby is awake and comfortable.
    • Remember-babies should always sleep on their backs.
  • Alternate positions:
    • Alternate the arm in which you hold the baby during feeding.
    • Switch which side their head is facing during diaper changes and in his/her crib.
    • During play use toys to draw their attention to look in each direction.

Physical Therapy Treatment

If you think your child may have torticollis, you should talk to your child’s physician at their well-baby check. Torticollis usually starts to be noticed at 2 months old and is then more apparent at 4 months. Their physician will then likely refer you to see a pediatric physical therapist. The physical therapist will perform a thorough evaluation and based on their findings will provide treatment. Treatment will likely consist of education on positioning throughout the baby’s day to facilitate improved range of motion and reduce the risk of head flattening. They will also provide gentle stretches and play activities to increase motion and reduce the muscle tightness.

Most babies with torticollis improve with stretching and position changes but it is important to see your physician and physical therapist right away to address these concerns. Contact the Spencer Hospital Physical Therapy Department with any questions regarding infant torticollis: 712-264-6189 

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About The Author

Melissa Horkey

Melissa is a Physical Therapist at the Spencer Hospital. She has worked here since 2010. She received her Bachelor degree from Buena Vista University and Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at the University of South Dakota. Melissa treats patients of all ages but specializes in pediatrics. ... read more