How To Help Your Baby with Torticollis or Wry Neck

Wry neck is the common term for congenital muscular torticollis (CMT). Some infants are born with this condition that is characterized by shortened sternocleidomastoid muscle. This shortening causes the infant’s neck to twist. When the neck muscles are either stretched or torn during a difficult or complicated birth, scar tissues can cause the neck muscles to tighten resulting in wry neck.

The good news is torticollis can be reversed if treated at a very young age, before the baby turns one. There are home remedies that can lessen the risk of facial deformity and spinal issues. Surgery may also be avoided in some cases.

There are baby neck exercises designed to strengthen weak neck muscles. These exercises develop in babies with torticollis the ability to straighten their necks so they can hold their heads up straight. Performing these exercises can retard any damage to the neck muscles.

  1. Perform the exercises for torticollis. Your pediatrician should refer you to a pediatric physical therapist with experience in treating wry neck. You should work with the therapist so he can teach you how to properly do the exercises for this condition. Carry out the recommended exercises according to the directions of the physical therapist.
  2. Ask the physical therapist for other suggestions in handling your baby. He can recommend the proper way to feed your baby that promotes stretching. The physical therapist should also let you know the different positions that your baby can benefit from.
  3. Allow your baby some tummy time. A baby naturally raises her head when she is on her tummy. When your baby is awake, let her lie down on her stomach. Encourage her to lift her head. You can do this by placing toys and other attractive objects in front of the baby to reach for. You can also lie down on you back and place your baby (tummy side down) on you. Another way to give her some tummy time is to put her face-down on your lap. Make sure to hold her well so she doesn’t fall. You can also carry your baby face down once in awhile.
  4. Use play to exercise your baby’s muscles. Hold your baby’s toys in the opposite direction to her titled head. As the baby tries to reach for the toy, her affected muscles will get some stretch. Decorate your baby’s crib with pictures and toys at the opposite direction of her tilt. Again, this will allow her to stretch her own neck muscles as she tries to look at the other side of the crib.
  5. Massage your baby. Apply a gentle massage to the neck area. This helps relax the muscles and relieve pain.
  6. Avoid using the carrier often. When your baby is in her carrier, she is always in a semi-lying down position. You don’t want her in this position for a long time. Instead, she should be given opportunities to move her head in various directions.
  7. Reposition her head. When the baby is asleep, make sure that her head faces against the direction of tilt.

Developmental torticollis can still be prevented with exercises and therapy provided by a professional physical therapist. If you are asked to perform the exercises at home, make sure that the instructions are clear to you. If your baby is suffering from torticollis she should be encouraged to move her head in different directions in order to stretch their neck muscles. However, don’t overwork your baby. Consult your pediatrician immediately if you feel that there is something wrong or if the therapy is not working.


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