Congenital Torticollis (Twisted Neck)
An infant who keeps his or her head tilted to one side may have a condition called congenital muscular torticollis. Congenital means that the condition is present at birth. Torticollis means twisted or bent neck. It is caused by a tight muscle on one side of the head that pulls the head (ear) down toward one shoulder as the chin tilts to the opposite side.
Within the first month after birth, a lump or pseudotumor may be felt on the tight muscle, but this gradually disappears. As many as one in five babies born with congenital muscular torticollis also has developmental dysplasia of the hip. Early diagnosis and treatment is required to avoid permanent deformities.
If you notice that your child consistently holds the head tilted to one side, consult your physician. Conditions other than congenital muscular torticollis may result in this head position, and the physician must eliminate them as possible causes. The physician will also want to check the child’s hips to ensure that no dysplasia is present. He or she may request X-rays or an ultrasound of the hips.
Congenital muscular torticollis generally is painless and can be treated with a consistent program of exercises and stretching.