Physical Therapy for Torticollis

What is Torticollis?

Torticollis is a tightening of a child's neck muscles, which causes the head to tilt to one side and turn to the other side. This can make it difficult for the child to turn their head for visual tracking, hold their head in an upright position and perform appropriate upper extremity movements necessary for feeding and play. It can also affect flattening of the child's face, ear and head and appropriate cleaning of the neck and shoulder.

Physical Therapy Program For Torticollis Overview:

The Physical Therapist in the Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital Physical Therapy program will perform an evaluation to assess the child's passive range of motion, active range of motion, muscle tightness, muscle strength and gross motor skills. The physical therapist also checks for other conditions that can occur with children who present with torticollis such as plagiocephaly (abnormal head shape), hip dysplasia (misalignment of the hip joint), and spine problems. The therapist then discusses these results with the family and makes appropriate recommendations for physical therapy treatment if indicated. Treatment involves toys and activities to help make therapy fun. The physical therapist instructs the family in a stretching and positioning program designed specifically to the child's needs. The family then performs the home exercises daily with the child and follows-up as recommended by the physical therapist to ensure attainment of all physical therapy and family goals.

Goals of Physical Therapy when Treating Torticollis:

  • Improve child's ability to turn head between right and left sides
  • Improve child's ability to bring chin to chest
  • Improve child's ability to orient their head to midline against gravity
  • Encourage child to lift head against gravity while lying on stomach
  • Achieve normal weight bearing and shifting over upper extremities
  • Encourage symmetrical use of upper extremities
  • Allow child to experience proper weight shifting during developmental activities including sitting, rolling, creeping and walking

Why is it Important to have Torticollis treated?

  • Prevent a permanent shortening of the involved muscle
  • Avoid the need for surgery
  • Decrease headache and neck pain
  • Prevent secondary concerns such as delayed developmental motor skills and plagiocephaly
  • When discovered and stretches are implemented early, majority of children recover completely with no long term effects

How Do I Get Started?

Discuss your concerns with your pediatrician and obtain a prescription for "Physical Therapy Evaluation and Treatment". Once you have a prescription call 727 767-7272 to schedule an appointment.