Getting Treated for Torticollis (Twisted Neck)
Torticollis is a term used to describe a handful of conditions affecting the neck. They look similar but have different causes. Torticollis typically involves a tilt of the head, reduced range of motion and sharp pain in the back of the neck. Often the patient can turn their head one way, with limitation and have restricted lateral flexion as well.
What Is Torticollis?
Torticollis is a form of dystonia (prolonged muscle contractions) in which the neck muscles contract involuntarily causing the head to turn. Torticollis may occur without known cause (idiopathic), be genetic (inherited), or be acquired secondary to damage to the nervous system or muscles. It may develop in childhood or adulthood.
Congenital torticollis (present at birth) may be caused by malpositioning of the head in the uterus, or be prenatal injury of the muscles or blood supply in the neck. Torticollis is a condition that may cause mild neck discomfort in infants and affects approximately 2% of newborns. There is no way to prevent this condition, it is a result of the position of the baby in-utero, too little amniotic fluid, trauma at birth or lack of space while in-utero. An infant will exhibit symptoms that include the head and neck tilted to one side. Although it looks uncomfortable, torticollis produces no severe pain. Generally, torticollis will not be noticed immediately as a newborn will have a typically wobbly head. Within the first week to the first few months, however, the condition will become more noticeable and may be diagnosed by a pediatrician.
What Causes Congenital Torticollis?
Torticollis is not a diagnosis but rather a sign of some other underlying disorder. Leading obstetric and pediatric medical journals states that most torticollis seen in new babies is due to birth trauma. Torticollis following birth stress will typically appear at birth or within the first several weeks following birth. Congenital torticollis is usually due to misalignment (subluxation) of the first few bones in the neck and/or injury to neck muscles resulting in a “knot or spasm” in one of the neck muscles. Birthing trauma is the most common cause of torticollis. These traumas are commonly found in a breech delivery and the use of forceps and/or vacuum extraction aids in the delivery process. Additionally, a prolonged abnormal position in the womb during pregnancy (intra-uterine constraint) can cause injury resulting in torticollis at birth or shortly thereafter. According to recent medical research, misalignment of spinal bones in the neck, known as subluxation, is responsible for up to 50% of congenital torticollis. The subluxation irritates nearby nerve structures and causes the muscle spasm and postural changes characteristic of torticollis.
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