To start off this Month for Moms we are going to discuss an issue that is very common in infants but can cause quite a scare if the parents don’t know what’s going on. The condition in question is infant torticollis.
Despite the fancy name, it is a very simple condition. Infant torticollis can otherwise be known as “infant crooked neck syndrome”. What is happening in infant torticollis is severe contraction, or spasm, of the muscles on one side of the infant’s neck. The same thing can happen to adults as well. If you’ve ever woken up with severe neck stiffness and the inability to turn one way, you’ve experienced torticollis.
There are two common ways that this happens in infants:
- Baby positioning while in-utero.
- During delivery. In modern childbirth, a baby entering the world can be put through a lot of trauma. The trauma typically occurs while the doctor is assisting the baby after his or her head is visible. A baby’s head and neck are very fragile and not particularly strong so it doesn’t take much force for an injury to occur. If an instrument such as forceps or suction is used, the risk of injury to the baby’s neck is even higher.
Both incidences will most likely cause the upper bones of the baby’s neck to go out of alignment, causing even more muscle spasm in the neck.
Infant torticollis may be present right after birth or it could develop over the course of a few months. The baby’s head will always be tilted in the same direction. The baby will also avoid moving his or her head because of pain and discomfort. You may also notice the baby having difficulty with breastfeeding on one side (or prefers only one breast).
Now that we know the condition, how do we help it?
The first thing you should do is try these 3 simple exercises to help the baby stretch out the contracted muscle and regain his or her motion.
- Lay the baby on his or her back, the baby will naturally keep his or her head tilted to one direction. With one hand on the chest, gently turn the baby’s head away from the side he or she is favoring ONLY to the point of tension. Hold for 10 seconds and then release. Do this in both directions.
- Next, with the baby on your lap and you sitting against a wall with your knees bent, hold down one shoulder and gently tilt the baby’s head in the opposite direction. Once again, only go until you feel resistance. Do this in both directions.
Repeat both exercises 10-15 times, 5 times per day.
Next you will want the baby to perform these movement on his or her own. A good way to encourage this is to lay the baby on his or her stomach and put the baby’s toys on the side the he or she doesn’t want to turn. You can also encourage the baby to turn his or head with a mirror, kisses on the cheek, or even blowing bubbles in the direction you want the baby to look.
Consistent stretching for a week or so should resolve the issue, if not completely then very close.
If you try these exercises and don’t see improvement, then the cause of the problem may not be the tight muscles. If there is a misalignment of the bones at the top of the baby’s neck it could be causing the muscles to spasm. As noted before, it is very easy for those bone segments to be knocked out of alignment while in-utero or during the delivery process.
If this is the case, you will need to have a doctor check the baby. Chiropractors have a lot of success with infant torticollis and are experts at ensuring a baby’s spine is in alignment. Think your child or a baby you know is suffering from infant torticollis? After reading about torticollis do YOU feel you may be experiencing the symptoms? Please contact us or check out our website for answers to even more questions.