Signs and Symptoms of Torticollis in babies

As torticollis mainly occur in-utero or during birth there isn’t much you can do to prevent it from occurring. But knowing what to look out for will allow you to start treatment as soon as possible to help make your baby comfortable.

Spotting the Symptoms of Simple Torticollis in Infants

It can be spotted easily by attracting the attention of the baby (assuming he or she is old enough) on each side.

It will be quickly noticed that the baby has a preferred side to which to rotate the head. It may also be noticed that the head rotates further on one side than the other.

The nursing mother may also notice that if her baby prefers to rotate the head to the right side then her baby would prefer to feed from the left breast.

It will also invariably be noted that when the baby is placed on his or her back on a flat surface the head will roll to the same side each time. This can lead to a flattening of that part of the skull closest to the flat surface resulting in flat head syndrome or plagiocephaly.

Signs of Long Term Torticollis in Babies

The effect of having a contracted muscle is simply to have the head rotated to the opposite side and the ear on the same side pulled down towards the shoulder.

If the right side is affected the baby’s head will be looking towards the left and tilted down to the right. The baby will not be able to perform the opposite movement.

It is for this reason that nursing mothers will often notice that their baby has a preferred side to which to feed.

Babies that have difficulty turning their head to the right side will find it more difficult to feed off the mother’s right breast.

This is often noticed shortly after birth and is almost always associated with a positional plagiocephaly or flat head having the baby placed on their back to sleep.

List of key symptoms of Torticollis

- baby not holding their head and neck straight
- crying due to neck pain 
- a noticeable tendency to look in one direction
- may prefer to roll in one direction
- the babies head consistently tilts towards one shoulder or forwards
- the neck appears a little twisted, thickend or swollen on one side
- unequal shoulder heights
- a difficulty in rotating their head to one side (eg during feeding)
- Flat spots appearing on babys skull (Plagiocephaly)  See below.

Torticollis & Positional Plagiocephally

A common symptom of babies with Torticollis is that they can develop 'flat spots' on their skulls.  This is a condition called Plagiocephally.
Plagiocephally can develop because the baby may not move it's head freely and will tend to rest on the same spot on the skull.  As baby's skulls are soft the weight of the head can make the skull deform.  This can be treated using positional therapy, tummy time and using specialist products such as the SleepCurve mattress

Find out about the Treatments of Infant Torticollis (and Plagiocephally)