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Understanding Torticollis: How Physical Therapy Can Help

April 2, 2024

Torticollis is a condition characterized by the involuntary contraction or spasm of neck muscles, leading to the head tilting to one side and/or turning to one direction. While torticollis can occur due to various reasons, congenital muscular torticollis (CMT) is one of the most common forms observed in infants. In this blog, we delve into the role of physical therapy in managing torticollis, particularly focusing on its application in infants with CMT.

Congenital muscular torticollis occurs when the sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM), a large muscle that runs from the mastoid bone behind the ear to the sternum and clavicle, becomes shortened or tightened on one side. This tightness results in the infant having difficulty turning their head in both directions, leading to a preference for one side.

Early identification and intervention are crucial in managing torticollis in infants. Failure to address torticollis promptly can lead to a range of complications, including plagiocephaly (flattening of the head), facial asymmetry, and delays in motor development.

Physical therapy plays a central role in the management of congenital muscular torticollis. A skilled physical therapist assesses the infant’s condition and develops a tailored treatment plan to address the specific needs of the child. The primary goals of physical therapy for torticollis in infants include:

Stretching Exercises

Gentle stretching exercises aim to lengthen the tight SCM muscle and improve range of motion in the neck. These exercises are typically performed multiple times a day and involve gentle manipulation of the infant’s head and neck.

Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening exercises focus on building strength in the neck muscles, particularly the weaker side affected by torticollis. These exercises may include gentle resistance training and positioning techniques to encourage the infant to use their neck muscles symmetrically.

Positioning and Handling Techniques

Physical therapists educate parents on proper positioning and handling techniques to encourage the infant to turn their head in both directions. This may involve positioning the infant during feeding, changing, and playtime to promote balanced muscle development.

Parent Education and Home Exercise Program

Empowering parents with the knowledge and skills to continue therapy at home is essential for the success of treatment. Physical therapists provide comprehensive education on exercises, positioning techniques, and strategies to promote optimal development.


Further benefits of Physical Therapy include:


– Improved range of motion allowing the infant to move their head more freely in all directions.

– Prevention of complications such as plagiocephaly and facial asymmetry.

– Promotion of symmetrical movement allowing the infant to achieve symmetrical movement patterns.

– Developmental support for optimal motor development and facilitates age-appropriate milestones.


Congenital muscular torticollis can significantly impact an infant’s development if left untreated. Physical therapy plays a vital role in the management of torticollis, offering interventions aimed at improving range of motion, strengthening muscles, and promoting symmetrical movement. Early identification and intervention, coupled with a comprehensive physical therapy program, can help infants with torticollis achieve optimal outcomes and reach their developmental milestones. If you suspect your child may have torticollis, consult a pediatrician or physical therapist for evaluation and guidance.

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