This is a common term our mamas ask us about all of the time. Essentially, torticollis is a stiff neck in your little one. In newborns, it can be caused by positioning in the womb or birth canal and is not directly related to how “normal” or “traumatic” your birth was. It can be present right at birth or take up to 3 months to develop. This stiffness can range from mild to more severe and can present itself in many ways.
Signs and Symptoms
A baby with torticollis might:
- Tilt their head in one direction
- Prefer looking at you over one shoulder instead of following you with their eyes
- If breastfed, have trouble feeding on one side, or strongly preferring one over the other
- When lying flat, consistently prefer to lay their head to one side
- Develop a flat head on one side from lying in one direction all the time
How is it diagnosed?
Torticollis can be diagnosed by your Pediatric Chiropractor who is specially trained in the musculoskeletal system of your little one. Through a brief history of your pregnancy, their delivery and several range of motion tests, we can determine the level of severity. In addition, we will examine your little one’s entire body and address other misalignments that may be causing discomfort.
Treatment involves gentle stretching and lightly applied pressure to the misaligned areas of your baby’s spine. Removing any misalignments will allow the stretching to be more productive and reduce the risk of further aggravating the area. The length of treatment will depend on the severity of the torticollis and how long it has been present. Getting treatment early is important in avoiding longer term issues like problems feeding, poor head control, flat head (positional plagiocephaly), delays in sitting and/or walking, rolling only to one side, crooked crawling, poor balance.
Beckett was born following a long, but complication free un-medicated birth. We began breastfeeding almost immediately as instructed by our birth team. Though he latched fine on the right side, he couldn’t seem to latch on the left and seemed much more uncomfortable. Once our postpartum clean-up was complete, Dr. Libby took the time to assess Beckett’s spine. Sure enough, he found extreme tightness or torticollis in the right side of his neck. This was causing the inability to latch and the discomfort. He then applied Beckett’s first adjustment, he was just 2 hours old! With this information, we were able to receive assistance from the in-hospital lactation consultant on various nursing holds that would work best until Beckett had more flexibility in his right side. Once home, we noticed that he not only had issues with breastfeeding, but also constantly had his head turned to the right. Beckett continued to receive bi-weekly adjustments for the first 6 weeks and now receives them weekly. I am happy to report that he is breastfeeding successfully on both sides and sleeps comfortably on both sides too (no flat head)! As the initial postpartum period has passed, I look back on the pictures of our first few weeks home and without a doubt notice that he constantly had his head tilted towards the right, something I am not sure that I would have put together without help. I am grateful to have had a pediatric chiropractor close by to assist with these problems early on to ensure Beckett and I had the best chance at success.