1. What is torticollis?
  2. Prognosis of the disease
  3. Symptoms
  4. Medical tests
  5. What are its causes?
  6. How can torticollis be prevented?
  7. Treatments
  8. What expert treats it?

What is torticollis?

It is a prolonged muscle contraction, affecting the neck muscles, which generates pain and causes the head to roll or rotate to one side.

The muscle pain is localized in the neck area but may go up to the head or down to the shoulder or back.

Prognosis of the disease

In infants and children it is usually easy to treat. If it becomes chronic, numbness and tingling may occur, due to pressure on the nerve roots in the neck.

Symptoms of torticollis

The symptoms it presents are usually easy to detect, among others we can appreciate:

  • Limited movement in the neck area
  • Headache
  • Cervical pain
  • Head tremor
  • Stiffness of the sternocleidomastoid muscle
  • Abnormal head posture
  • Shoulder that is higher than the other shoulder
  • Swelling in the neck muscles

Medical tests for torticollis

Medical tests will consist of a physical examination to detect:

  • An incorrect head position, such as the head being rotated, cocked, or tilted forward or backward. In more severe cases, the head is displaced and bent to the side.
  • Stiffness and shortening or lengthening of the neck muscles.

These tests may include:

  • Neck x-ray
  • CT scan of the neck
  • Electromyography (EMG) to see which muscles are affected.
  • MRI of the brain
  • Blood tests to look for associated conditions

What are the causes of torticollis?

The main causes of torticollis are as follows:

  • Genetic reasons (inherited).
  • Problems in the nervous system, upper spine or muscles.
  • Poor posture or sudden movement causing muscle injury.
  • Other factors to be considered may be stress and fatigue.
  • The condition may appear without a specific cause.
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In the case of torticollis at birth, it may be due to an incorrect position of the baby’s head while growing in the womb or if the muscles or blood supply to the neck were injured.

Can it be prevented?

There is no definitive way to prevent it, but it is advisable to avoid bad posture, especially when sleeping or performing certain daily activities.

It is also worth mentioning some relaxation techniques or stretching in the cervical area, which can reduce the chances of suffering from torticollis.

Finally, early detection can prevent it from worsening.

Treatments for torticollis

Treatment may vary depending on the cause, whether it is damage to the nervous system, spine or neck muscles. Depending on the affectation, the following treatment may be performed:

  • Apply heat, massage or cervical traction. This can relieve head and neck pain.
  • Stretching exercises.
  • Botulinum injection or spot injections to relieve pain in a specific area.
  • Wearing a neck brace.
  • Spine surgery may be necessary in case torticollis occurs because of dislocated vertebrae.

In the case of torticollis at birth, the neck muscle should be striated. In this case, for young children and infants, passive stretching and positioning are performed. If these treatments, which are generally effective, do not work, there is the option of surgery to correct the muscle.

What specialist treats it?

Torticollis can be treated by a specialist in Osteopathy or a Physiotherapist.