Congenital torticollis is a condition in which a baby is born with its head tilted and has a limited range of motion in the head and neck. Congenital torticollis occurs because the baby's neck muscles are shortened, pulling the head in one direction and limiting the ability to move it. This may be a result of "crowding" in the uterus, limiting the baby's ability to move and fully develop. It may also occur when they baby is coming through the birth canal, especially if in a breech position (i.e. pelvis first, instead of head first).
Signs that a child has congenital torticollis may include having his or her head tilted to one side and the chin tilted toward the opposite side. In most children with congenital torticollis, the head will be tilted toward the right, indicating that the muscles on the right side of the neck are affected. The baby will also have inability or difficulty to move the head. This condition may cause lumps on the baby’s neck, but this often goes away before the first year of life. Usually, the mother or guardian notices the condition first. The doctor will run a few tests including a physical exam and X-rays to rule out other conditions that may cause the head to tilt. The doctor will also likely ask about the birth, and examine the baby’s hips because children with congenital torticollis often have hip dysplasia as well (See: Hip dysplasia).
This condition is treatable and may or may not require surgery. Nonsurgical treatment involves neck exercises to stretch the muscles. If this treatment does not re-align the neck and head as desired, then surgery may be necessary. Approximately 10% of children with congenital torticollis require surgery to correct the condition. Talk to your child's doctor if you think your child may have congenital torticollis to discuss the most current treatment options.