Torticollis is a condition in which the neck muscles cause the head to turn or rotate to the side.
Spasmodic torticollis; Wry neck; Loxia; Cervical dystonia; Cock-robin deformity; Twisted neck
Torticollis may be:
The condition may also occur without a known cause.
With torticollis present at birth, it may occur if:
Symptoms of torticollis include:
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will perform a physical exam. The exam may show:
Tests that may be done include:
Treating torticollis that is present at birth involves stretching the shortened neck muscle. Passive stretching and positioning are used in infants and small children. In passive stretching, a device such as strap, a person, or something else is used to hold the body part in a certain position. These treatments are often successful, especially if they are started within 3 months of birth.
Surgery to correct the neck muscle may be done in the preschool years, if other treatment methods fail.
Torticollis that is caused by damage to the nervous system, spine, or muscles is treated by finding the cause of the disorder and treating it. Depending on the cause, treatment may include:
The condition may be easier to treat in infants and children. If torticollis becomes chronic, numbness and tingling may develop due to pressure on the nerve roots in the neck.
Complications in children may include:
Complications in adults may include:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call for an appointment with your provider if symptoms do not improve with treatment, or if new symptoms develop.
Torticollis that occurs after an injury or with illness may be serious. Seek medical help right away if this occurs.
While there is no known way to prevent this condition, early treatment may prevent it from getting worse.
Coplay LAB. Disorders of the neck. In: Herring JA, ed. Tachdjian's Pediatric Orthopaedics. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 11.
Graham JM, Sanchez-Lara PA. Congenital muscular torticollis. In: Graham JM, Sanchez-Lara PA, eds. Smith's Recognizable Patterns of Human Deformation. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 24.
Kaplan SL, Coulter C, Fetters L. Physical therapy management of congenital muscular torticollis: an evidence-based clinical practice guideline: from the Section on Pediatrics of the American Physical Therapy Association. Pediatr Phys Ther. 2013;25(4):348-394. PMID: 24076627. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24076627.
Review Date: 5/30/2016
Reviewed By: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, SUNY Stony Brook, School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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