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Torticollis, also known as "wryneck," occurs when a
problem with the neck muscle makes the head turn to one side, lean to one side,
and/or be pulled forward or backward. There are two types,
congenital (at birth) and spasmodic.
Congenital torticollis occurs at or shortly after
birth. The neck muscle (sternocleidomastoid muscle) is shortened, bringing the
infant's head slightly down and to one side. Experts don't know exactly what causes the shortened neck muscle. The muscle may get injured before or during the baby's birth. The injured muscle may bleed and swell. And scar tissue may replace some of the muscle, making it shorter.
cases of congenital torticollis are caused by a bone abnormality in the neck
portion of the spine (cervical spine).
occurs when the neck muscle is tight but not short. It is a form of dystonia, which means involuntary
movements and prolonged muscle contraction. It is usually a symptom of another
medical problem. Infection, inflammation, medicine side effects, and tics are
known causes of torticollis muscle spasm.
In children, treatment
is needed to prevent the face from growing unevenly. The caregiver
is taught how and how often to stretch the child's neck
to help relieve torticollis. For severe cases, surgery may
In adults, treatment
includes using heat and massage to help relieve head and neck pain. Stretching
exercises and neck braces may help with muscle spasms.
Medicines and injections are also
Current as of:
November 14, 2014
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
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